Submission Date


Document Type



Media & Communication Studies


Tony Nadler

Committee Member

Lynne Edwards

Committee Member

Meredith Goldsmith

Committee Member

Alice Leppert

Department Chair

Louise Woodstock

Project Description

This collection of essays uses the mythic nature of superheroes to examine and discuss specific cultural anxieties as they’re navigated and alleviated in superhero television texts. First, I examine the way that anxiety over feminism and the women’s rights movement manifested itself in Wonder Woman, the 70s television series starring Lynda Carter. Next, I use Smallville and its depictions of a teenaged Superman to explore its handling of anxieties over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Finally, I performed a content analysis of six different series of Batman cartoons to examine the way they respond to national concerns over gun violence.

I found that though Wonder Woman speaks to concerns about the women’s movement in the 70s, it tells us that feminism is something that can be contained by celebrating feminine strength in a way that hyper-feminizes women and depicting that the struggle for women’s rights has been completed. Smallville navigates American anxiety following 9/11, but it does so in a way that avoids grappling with real-life issues. It allows us to instead engage with myths about America’s resilient strength, cultural superiority, and patriarchal subjugation of women. Batman cartoons too handle concerns over gun violence in a superficial way, as the physical depictions of guns become less and less realistic as the series progress.