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Understanding superpowers in contemporary television fiction

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The presence of the supernatural is a recurrent component in contemporary television fiction series. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer (19972003), to Charmed (19982006), and Heroes (2006), audiences follow the narratives of otherwise ordinary characters that are attributed extraordinary abilities. Naturally, superheroes have been the focus of research within different fields, offering understandings within the framework of psychology and anthropology (Bettelheim 1976; Barrett 2004; Boyer 2002) or sociology, and as cultural myth (Partridge 2004 and 2005; Lawrence and Jewett 2002). The article argues that the salience of superpowers should not solely be understood through a sociological framework or as a common psychological feature in humans, but rather that both approaches are relevant when attempting to grasp the phenomenon. Thus, the article attempts to uncover questions of gratification and fascination for audiences on a mental, as well as on a societal level.
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Keywords: cognition; collective mourning; daydreams; popular culture; superpowers; television fiction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Copenhagen.

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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  • Northern Lights: Film and Media Studies Yearbook was first published in 2002 and places particular emphasis on film, television and new media. The yearbook, although carrying a theme each issue, welcomes a broad range of articles along with shorter review pieces.
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