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Superheroes and Mental Illness: Possibilities and Responsibilities

Considering the relevance of mental instabilities for a noticeable number of famous superheroes, that are not only loved because of this part of their character, but who also integrate it into their appearance (e.g. Rorschach), it would be interesting to elaborate on the influence and the significance of highlighting such a topic for mainstream audiences. The apparent depression Batman appears to suffer from, as well as childhood trauma from his parents being killed, make for a lot of dramatic effects in the narration. How does this influence awareness of mental illness and how does it highlight this issue for a larger audience? There are several other examples like Captain America’s PTSD, Hulk’s anger management, basically all of the Watchmen’s personality disorders, etc. It would also be interesting to look into movie adaptions, which tend to reach a larger audience and expand on the reception of such characters, as well as discussing the responsibility of the production with clarifying misinformation about mental illness.

  • I think there is a responsibility of naming and presenting positive images of mental illness in the superhero genre. Many superheroes do exhibit symptoms and signs of mental illness, but the average reader might not make the connection because I think a lot of these mental illnesses are passed off as being "character flaws" to make heroes seem more tragic (Batman and his depressive symptoms being the result of his parents' deaths. Now tragedy can cause depression but its not the only factor). You also don't often see these heroes coping in healthy ways (cough cough batman sometimes). So there's a ton of issues to be explored between people even acknowledging officially that certain characters do have mental illness and whether these characters are supporting stereotypes of their mental illness, especially that the mentally ill are violent and dangerous (this applies to super villains as well). – LauraKincaid 2 months ago
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  • I think this is super important! I really wish they would show Steve Rogers dealing with his PTSD. I thought they did a pretty good job with Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, and I'd love to see more of it! Not only mental illness, but just disabilities in general. I was super disappointed when Hawkeye wasn't deaf, or at least not portrayed as such, in the Marvel movies. I really think they could do a lot with that! – Jenae 2 months ago
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  • MOON KNIGHT/CRAZY JANE Positive examples? Maybe?Also, 'Lazarus fever' may have some thematic relevance in Batman stories though I haven't really thought about it much.Maybe the entire 'hero complex' that necessitates superheroism is a mental illness, I mean, you have to be a little crazy to dress up as a bat. Is this what the surface-level illnesses represent? Maybe incorporate addiction (Roy Harper)?Love this topic! – m-cubed 2 months ago
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  • The Sentry is another character worth looking at in a piece like this. – Richard Marcil 2 months ago
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  • Maybe look to the new 52 Batman, he is more emotionally disturbed than any incarnation in my reading. – TheSwampThing 2 months ago
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  • Iron Man is an alcoholic, it's been portrayed many times in comics - I don't know if that's a good example, but it's def there. And, Hawkeye (which was mentioned) in the comics is deaf as well, and it is mentioned several times! Harley Quinn would be a good addition and Joker in some instances as well. – scole 2 months ago
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  • Jessica Jones has PTSD as a result of rape, which could also be addressed in this article. – vaidyadoc 1 month ago
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