By Jordan Wright
The Commerce Journal
Superheroes and comic books have been synonymous with childhood in the eyes of pop culture for decades. This made the leap of superheroes to big budget blockbuster action films a no-brainer, since films that children enjoy created a secondary demand for toys based on those movies.
Times have changed, however, and superhero films have grown away from the campy, live action cartoons that they once were and have moved toward legitimate filmmaking. Unfortunately, marketing for the entire genre has stayed firmly planted in previous decades, as toy companies work harder to market superhero toy lines.
It has become an unwritten law of commerce that almost anything from mainstream Marvel Comics is destined to do well, so it should be no surprise that “Iron Man” is a huge hit among children. However, a piece of me is still desperately trying to figure out how an alcoholic, womanizing superhero born out of terrorism with a focus on tearing down the negative effects of war time economy while combating domestic terrorism has become entertainment to take the whole family to see.
How children of today can even be “Batman” fans with such a grim mainstream film series is an utter anomaly. Themes of modern terrorism, psychopathic indulgences, and dark criminal brutality should easily push the entirety of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy into R rated territory ,but Warner Bros. needs that merchandising money, so PG-13 it is.
Yet anybody willing to browse the toy section of a local Wal-Mart can tell you that toy makers are willing to supply both franchises with play sets, alternative suits, and special equipment, most of which don’t even appear in the actual film.
The higher bar set by modern superhero films is undeniably admirable, but that also means that to continue to treat them as they once were is to endorse false advertising. Marketing “Spider-Man 2” to kids worked because most kids could be dazzled by Spidey being the good guy saving the day in the same vein of John Wayne protecting the people of the Wild West. Marketing Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker to children is likely to induce nightmares.