We’ve been accustomed to cheering for the heroes and against the villains, but are the real events of superhero movies betraying this relationship?
We don’t know about you, but it feels like there have been a lot of superhero movies in the last few years.
Oh, you noticed too? Lovely.
It’s not stopping any time soon, either. Dark Phoenix is on the way, as is the fourth Avengers film, while there are loads of Spider-Man or Spider-Man-adjacent projects in the works.
There’s a generally accepted rule that heroes = good and villains = bad, which carries an inherent logic, but a new study has effectively said “wait, not so fast”.
Yes, the heroes are made to look like the good guys because that’s just how it works, but it turns out they are generally a lot more violent than those poor, misunderstood villains.
As CNN reports, a new study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition looked at the behaviour of heroes and villains in 10 superhero films from 2015 and 2016 and came to a surprising conclusion.
“We actually found the protagonists were performing a greater amount of violence per hour than the antagonists,” said researcher John Muller, a medical student at Penn State College of Medicine.
“Protagonists were performing 22.7 violent events per hour, while the antagonists, or bad guys, were performing 17.5 events per hour,”
That must be a mistake, right? Perhaps the researchers chose badly and ended up using films where the hero is an antihero and that swayed the results?
Well, Deadpool was one of the 10, which we suppose you could argue falls into that category, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
The other nine films were Suicide Squad, Batman: The Killing Joke, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Fantastic Four, Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
A fair few well-defined hero-villain dichotomies in there, I’m sure you can agree, and yet the ‘good guys’ were the more violent ones.
So, what’s the breakdown? Is there anything the good guys are doing less than the bad guys when it comes to on-screen violence?
Protagonists are involved in almost two thirds of fight scenes (more than 1,000 of the 1,620 total) and even used weapons more of the time (659 to 604).
However, the villains were responsible for almost twice as much of the bullying, intimidation and torture - makes sense, it’s a good way to get across the fact that they are ‘bad’ guys - with 237 to 144.
Overall, though, it might be time to rethink our priorities. Or, at the very least, stop copying superheroes in day-to-day life. And that includes shooting webs from your wrists or getting changed in phone boxes.
(Images: Marvel/20th Century Fox)