Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Final Project-Super Advertising

Posted by emilyfalicaa on May 11, 2017

Bidinger, Cory, Davis, Falica

While the superhero/comic market has always been a top dollar industry. But over the past few years, it has expanded into one of the largest in literature, toys, TV, and movies. When we examine who these products are marketed to, historically it has been directed towards the male fans. Recent research suggests that the industry could grow even more if the market was shifted towards a demographic that is widely ignored. Girls and Women. The Beat, a comic culture blog explains that in 2014 it was discovered that 46.67% of self-proclaimed comic fans are female. It also explains that they want the spotlight to be on heroes that are more like them. Yet the current model for selling these great protectors is entirely directed towards men. We can see this in the stereotypical model presented for superheroes.

There are drastic differences in how male and female heroes are advertised. Men are typically shown as:

  • Strong and tough
  • Able to do everything
  • The champion
  • Has amazing powers

While their female counterparts are shown as:

  • Powerful yet hopeless
  • Very beautiful and sexy
  • Delicate and naive
  • Needs help to get the job done
  • Object of a male hero’s affection

This model has been successful for two reasons. First; male consumers often view themselves as strong and cable so they relate and buy. And second; male consumers are having the female superheroes marketed to them. The current advertising mode of superheroes is made for males to relate or feel a part of the stories. This leaves a lot female consumers out of the industry.

But recent changes in some franchises offer a new model. One that markets superpowers to women instead of superbodies to men. And the results have been great. Recent sales increased in franchises like Ghostbusters with the new female cast, Star Wars with Rey, and CW programming with Supergirl show that marketing to girls works. Kate Wheeling explains in her research article “Female Superheroes Are Not Necessarily Feminist Superheroes” that sexualized modes don’t appeal to women because women want to kick butt versus Hollywood’s idea of women wanting to simpy be hot. She goes on to explain that if we shift the model to just cool people saving the world, that 46% more women plus some will consume superhero products. The recent success in this new model demonstrates that it’s time to fully transition into a time of superheroes where they are all fierce and super despite their gender.

But female superheroes aren’t the only ones facing their sensuality being the object of comics instead of their kickass powers. Wendi Tibbets, comic book fan extraordinaire answers on Quora that male superheroes have gone down the same path by putting sex instead of hero into their personality. A combination of perfect bodies and womanizer personalities like Superman’s instances of wife stealing and using mind control to force women into pornography, or James Bond’s history with women.  Tibbets elaborates that this is cutting back on how many men enjoy their favorite superheroes. Thus showing this model needs to be applied to male superheroes as well.

We originally planned to redraw our favorite superheroes as ourselves to test the new model. Since that particular part of the plan fell through, we took a combination of fan art, movie pictures, cosplay, and more to create a poll for test groups to choose from (the poll itself will not be posted on here due to copy write and permission issues. Feel free to message Emily Falica for a copy if you’re interested). We had six categories of side by side pictures. Our new average looking hero versus the sexualized and/or perfect versions in the old model including:

  • old model Superman/new model Superman
  • old model Batman/ new model Batman
  • old model Spiderman/new model Spiderman
  • old model Padme Amidala Geonosis “action” attire/new model Rey traditional attire
  • old model Black Canary/new model Black Canary
  • old model Ghostbusters cosplay/ new model Ghostbuster cosplay

Our test groups included females ages 4-49 and males 4-25 ( We didn’t have enough older men to get comprehensive results).

chart 1

General polling showed that on average, our random test group preferred our new model of average looking superheroes in every demographic. When demographics were grouped together, it turned even more in favor of our new model.

chart 2chart 3

Out of 90 votes, our new model of advertising proved to be the most super one there is. Knowing there is fan approval the new steps in spreading this new model is through the same means that comic and super products always spread; through media engagement and fan participation. It is our hope that this model spread to the people in charge of producing heroes and it can save the day, ultimately giving the people what they really want. A superhero just like them.


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