Angry University Adjunct Applies Critical Theory to Superhero Films

An excerpt from the College Fix:


Mich Ciurria, an adjunct in the University of Missouri philosophy department, decided to apply that little ‘ol thing called “critical theory” to superheroes, specifically superhero movies.


In a paper titled “Intersectional Feminist Moral Responsibility & Superhero Movies,” Ciurria hyper-analyzes some of the genre’s best offerings with regards to how they affect the nexus of oppression, otherwise known as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. etc.


Anyone familiar with Spider-Man’s background knows the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility.” But Ciurria says that, in reality, Peter Parker (Spidey’s real identity) “ain’t so responsible.”



Why? Although as “a cisgender white man, [Spidey] was less likely than the average police officer to racially profile suspects and use excessive force on Black, Hispanic, and trans people,” he nonetheless


[…] was handing over random suspects to the police force, an institution known to kill Black people at disproportionate rates, to use excessive force on Black people, and to harass and assault trans people. Was he waiting at the scene of the crime to make sure that his captives were being fairly treated by the police? Nope! He just spun them up in webs and left them hanging until the police showed up. Very responsible!


And that’s not all: Spidey looks the other way while his captives of color go through a racially discriminatory justice system! And, once in prison, these prisoners can be forced to do labor … without compensation!


Of course, in the early (Steve Ditko-drawn) “Spider-Man” comics there weren’t a lot of people of color in the title’s pages period. Which means that ‘ol Web Head wasn’t bagging many minority criminals. (That, or he did so “off-panel.”) That era’s paucity of minority characters was a sign of the times, but anyone who’s read about about Marvel’s creators, especially Stan Lee, knows they were ahead of the curve in terms of inclusivity.


In 1966, just four years after Spider-Man’s debut, Lee and pal Jack Kirby introduced the Black Panther — the first black superhero — in the pages of “Fantastic Four.” Just as in the films, the Panther’s intelligence rivaled that of the FF’s Reed Richards (in fact, in the comics, Richards at times relied on the Panther’s tech when in a pinch), and he presided over a technologically advanced (and hidden) nation in Africa.


But not even the Panther is safe from Ciurria’s wrath. It’s better than “Spider-Man,” she says, because “Black Panther” is based on a “colonialist context”; nevertheless,  Killmonger’s character (the Panther’s nemesis) suffers from racial stereotypes, but even worse: Disney produced the film. “[A] Disney movie can’t promote an anti-racist agenda because it’s a capitalist venture that promotes an industrialist-capitalist mindset,” Ciurria contends.



Ciurria also considers the Panther as a “Mary Sue” because the powers-that-be want him to represent “racial justice.”


Other wildly popular heroes like Iron Man and Batman are trashed because Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne (the heroes’ respective identities) built their industrial empires “on neoliberal economic processes that dis-proportionally harm People of Color.”


To name just one of Bruce Wayne’s many holdings, Wayne Oil is part of the global oil trade, which is a leading cause of war, climate change and ecosystem disruption, and which increasingly displaces Indigenous communities. Stark Industries presumably supplies weapons either to the U.S. military, to be used in war crimes and the illegal militarization of the police, or to foreign dictators and warlords, the other main market for military arsenal.


It’s unclear if Ciurria has ever seen “Iron Man” which clearly depicts Stark’s change of heart after witnessing first hand what his manufacture of weapons had wrought. His company takes a major financial hit as a result of ceasing weapons production, but Stark holds fast while his partner, Obadiah Stane, works to subvert his efforts.



You should really read the whole thing

Dave Huber

A ComicsGater long before the term ever existed, Dave is a retired teacher who now concentrates his efforts on exposing the insanity of college political correctness.