Superheroes on screen: real life lessons for security debates


Superhero films and episodic shows have existed since the early days of those media, but since 9/11, they have become one of the most popular and most lucrative forms of popular culture. These fantastic tales are not simple amusements but nuanced explorations of fundamental security questions. Their treatment of social issues of power, security and control are here interrogated using the Film Studies approach of close reading to showcase this relevance to the real-life considerations of the legitimacy of security approaches. By scrutinizing three specific pieces—Daredevil Season 2, Captain America: Civil War, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—superhero tales are framed (by the authors) as narratives which significantly influence the general public’s understanding of security, often encouraging them to view expansive power critically—to luxuriate within omnipotence while also recognizing the possibility as well as the need for limits, be they ethical or legal.

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Adams, A.A., Ben-Youssef, F., Schneier, B. et al. Superheroes on screen: real life lessons for security debates. Secur J 33, 565–582 (2020).

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  • Superheroes
  • Organized crime
  • Terrorism
  • Law
  • State Oversight