The adventures of MetaMan: the superhero as a representation of modern Western masculinity (1940-2010)

Zaidan, Sarah Z (2011) The adventures of MetaMan: the superhero as a representation of modern Western masculinity (1940-2010). (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The Adventures ofMetaMan: The Superhero as a Representation ofModem Western Masculinity (1940-2010) is a practice-based research project. The aim of this research project is to develop interactive works of art that interrogate superhero narratives and representations of male identity, with the potential to relate to the experiences of relevant users in educational environments. At the current stage of the project, young men aged 11-14 in the English school system are a possible target audience. The work of art takes the form of interactive software written in Adobe Flash, with additional visuals created by myself in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe lllustrator and through traditional pen-and-ink drawings. The conceptualisation, development and execution of both software and content took place over a three-year period. While numerous literary and artistic references were employed in order to actualise this work, the software's visuals and words were entirely self-created. The work's original contribution to knowledge is found in the project's form. In combining the platform of digital media with the artistic styles and narrative themes of the superhero genre of comic books, the project explores the subjects of heroes and masculinity and has the potential to help its target audience to understand that the definition of masculinity is always in a state of flux. As evidenced by the historical texts, studies of visual culture, gender, and media representations of heroes and men that were referenced to develop the software, different types of men, ranging from the civil rights activist of the 1960s to the macho action movie star of the 1990s and significant representations of masculinity between these decades have been regarded as hero figures at different points in time. The conc~pt of masculinity is fluid and reliant upon a variety of factors such as current events, cultural trends, politics, economics and popular culture and this is reflected in the evolution of the superhero in Western mass media. The MetaMan project showcases the impact that heroes and role models have and the way that art can echo culture and society. It can provide a fully interactive experience that places modern masculinity into the context of the user's life and circumstances, adapting to each user. The software is accompanied by a written component detailing the reasons for its form and potential audience, the artistic process necessary to create it, an account of a pilot scheme conducted with 120 male students aged 11-14 in the English school system and the further applications and plans for the future stages of the MetaMan project.

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