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Inclusive Reads & Conversations with UWGB Libraries

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This Month's Speaker

Dr. Bryan J. Carr

11:30 AM-12:30 PM

Carr is Associate Professor in the Communication and Information Science programs at UW – Green Bay, and is also part of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies faculty. His research focuses on issues of representation in popular culture (particularly superhero media and video games) and our media economy. In April of this year, he published The Transmedia Construction of the Black Panther: Long Live the King with Lexington Books. In October, along with his colleague and mentor Dr. Meta Carstarphen, he also published Gendered Defenders: Marvel’s Heroines in Transmedia Spaces, a co-edited volume of essays exploring feminist theory and symbolism in Marvel’s superheroines. He is also the host of Serious Fun on the Phoenix Studios podcast network

This Month's Topic: Holding Out for a Hero: Comic Book Superheroes and Social Justice

There is no denying that comic book superheroes are a major part of our cultural moment, and lately stories of caped avengers and supervillains have aspired to greater social relevance, from The Batman’s meditations on systemic inequality to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s exploration of America’s painful history of racial injustice to The Boys’ satire of corporate America and its unending ability to profit off of these stories. But are superheroes truly a genre that can speak to lived experiences and challenge the status quo, or ultimately another platform through which such inequality is implicitly or explicitly reinforced? This discussion examines two recent essays on our relationship with superhero narratives in light of the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and seeks to explore the potential and pitfalls of mapping the fight for social justice onto these masked crusaders.

Discussion Prompts

  • What do you think of Newby’s argument that superheroes and their alignment with governmental and policing organizations represent a belief in these institutions as fundamentally good despite the systems of inequality he argues they uphold? 
  • What are the limitations of the superhero metaphor in issues of social equity and justice? What does Newby suggest has happened as a result of the mainstreaming of superhero stories, and what effect does it have? 
  • A fundamental aspect of Newby’s argument has to do with the nature of power – who has it, who does not, who is oppressed and who is not. How do you think the systems of power and inequity Newby discusses are manifested in our culture and media through this genre and others (think police procedurals on TV, etc.?)
  • Both Newby and Ewing comment on representation. Why does representation matter in these stories? What can these stories do when representation is authentic and in-mind?
  • Why does Coates suggest that Ewing’s stories represent a “threat” to fans? Should this be the goal, and why? 
  • Newby laments that superhero stories often do not speak to real-life concerns about equity and justice; Ewing comments on how they are a shared cultural mirror. Which do you agree with? 

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If you need an accommodation to attend this event, please contact Sarah Bakken at or 920-465-2666. All accommodation requests should be made no less than two weeks before the event. We will attempt to fulfill requests made after this date, but cannot guarantee they will be met