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Social Justice and Community Engagement


This study explores the construction of gender and manifestation of hegemonic masculinity in comic and superhero culture. It is an investigation into the marginalization and discrimination of “lesser” masculinities that do not conform to the ideals of hegemony as theorized by R.W. Connell. Employing a third-­‐wave feminist and masculinity theorist approach to gender and sexuality theory, this study considers the massive expansion of comic culture from the early 1940s through the early twenty-­‐first century, and the many ways in which gender and sexuality have been constructed in these narratives. The research illustrates the gross injustice of an idealized version of masculinity that rewards hierarchical structures and male superiority, embraces competition and aggression, and celebrates the domination of weaker individuals through power and violence. Evidence suggests that the continual exposure and consumption of popular culture has the potential to influence social and cultural thought. Through a qualitative film analysis of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (2012), this research project critiques the various ways in which certain masculinities are more socially privileged than others, and how those that do not fulfill expected gender norms are often relegated to villainy, or—like most women in comic culture—submissive or support roles. As such, this project demonstrates the possibilities of social justice interventions into pop culture masculinity by proposing alternative paths to healthy masculinities that are not marginalizing, discriminatory, or oppressive in nature, thereby disproving the myths of manhood that suggest there is only one way to be a “real” man.