The Normalization of Surveillance in Superhero Films
This study examines how surveillance and surveillance technology has evolved and become normalized in 21st century superhero films. It examines 51 live-action films released between 2000 and 2013. Superhero films have become immensely popular, with films planned for release well into the next decade. Understanding superheroes as filling the role of watchful guardians of civil society, how they are seen to be carrying out their roles takes on greater importance in an age where security concerns are clashing with privacy concerns. The theoretical backbone of the study is Michel Foucault’s panopticon and Zygmunt Bauman’s liquidity. While the former presents surveillance as an oppressive exercise of power that results in subjects self-regulating their behaviour, the latter focuses on how the flow of information an individual generates, from both ascribed physical data and consumer-driven data, seduces the individual to behave in a manner commiserate with apolitical capitalist ideals. The major contribution coming from this study is a new theoretical concept, the dissolved panopticon. The concept contains three categories: Liquid Technology, Solid Technology, and Non Technology. It was developed to synthesize the panopticon and liquidity, placing technological and non technological surveillance techniques under a one umbrella concept that allows future research to examine surveillance as an interaction between a subject and the technique of surveillance, rather than as separate parts. The study was conducted using a manifest content analysis, which allowed for a clear picture of how surveillance has evolved. This research indicates that surveillance in superhero films has increased over the course of the study period, with much of the growth occurring within the categories of Liquid Technology and Solid Technology.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteePoudriier, Jennifer; Brooks, Carolyn; Muri, Allison
Copyright DateApril 2016