elopment in ChildrenThe arguments in regards to the effects of media on thepsychology of children are endless. In the midst of this the stand of whateffect comic books have on child development is questioned. Comic bookspositively influences a child’s psychological development due to theirability to communicate important social issues, stimulate creativity, anddepict a truthful sense of reality.
It has been expressed by many that comic books focus primarily onviolence to captivate children. The popularity of comics has been attestedas to simply be derived from the aggression that appears to revolve themany titles that exist today.
Commenting on the effect of the violencedisplayed in comic books on children Dr. Frederick Wertham stated:The comic books concentrate on aggressions which are impossibleunder civilized restraints – with fists, guns, torture, killing,and blood. The internalized censorship of both artists and childmakes this attack respectable by directing it against somescapegoat criminal or wild animal, or even against some naturallaw like gravity, rather than against the parents, teachers, andpolicemen who are the real sources of the child’s frustrationand therefore the real objects of his aggression.
At the samelevel that the child identifies himself with the heroic avenger,he may also identify however has been frustrating him with thecorpse. (4)Dr. Wertham believes that comic books are so saturated with violencethat the child then begins substituting persons in his own life withcharacters featured in the comic books (4). It could then be rationalizedthat the child’s level of aggression is increased as he replaces “parents,teachers, and policemen” with the villains that the “heroic avenger” isviolently punishing for their crimes, all making it seem that the childhimself is experiencing these fantastical displays of violence in his ownmind.
Yet, rather than simply glorify and focus on the element ofaggression, comic books deliver present-day social issues to children whowould otherwise not be interested nor aware of what was happening aroundthem. Many times, the storylines in comic books mirror the occurrences ofeveryday life, emphasizing them through spectacular events.
In a 2002 issue of Uncanny X-Men, a character with an outstandingphysical mutation dealt with extreme low self-esteem and even begancontemplating suicide, due to the ill treatment he was receiving fromschoolmates. The boy, though, was soon convinced by the series’ superheroesthat though his outward appearance was very different from other people hewas no less of a human being. It was also brought to his attention that hedid not have to feel alienated or completely alone because of his feelings.
There was help. Surely, this was a powerful message brought across throughthe medium of comic art. If children are as impressionable as Dr. Werthambelieves and place themselves into the storylines, a child or even anadolescent with similar problems could be helped if experiencing similarcircumstances.
Dr. Wertham further insists that the majority of comic books todayglorify crime. Then again, can this truly be said of the most popular andmore widely circulated titles? Following the September 11 attacks, thecompany of Marvel Comics responded to the tragedies by means of theircharacters. Popular titles such as Amazing Spider-man and X-Men wereportrayed to experience the attacks and subsequent events. In light of theattacks Marvel presented their characters as completely powerless in themidst of the chaos. Undoubtedly, this brought to the reader therealization that even super-heroes can fail to be “super.” Hence, thisallows the child to understand not only the severity and heinousness ofterrorism, but it also quells the thought that they are all-powerful orpossessing of a god-complex, which would instill within them the notionthat they are exempt from punishment. Though the circumstances involvedwere indeed violent, the focus was not on the aggression (the characterswere shown experiencing the aftermath of the attacks) but on the sufferingmany were experiencing because of violence. This association of real lifeto comic book universe impacts upon the child the reasoning that just ascomic book characters are portrayed to undergo vulnerabilities and painwhile dealing with such a real life event, people in the real world doalso.
In continuing to research media influence, comic books have also beendeemed as eliciting violent reactions from their readers. During the 1950s,concern that violent comic books might increase aggression in children ledto the development of a comics code authority, which enforced thecensorship of comic book content. It is then argued that exposure to comicbook violence is especially detrimental. In his study Violent Comic Booksand Perceptions Steven J. Kirsh surmises:Comic books, unlike television and video games, do not provide acontinuous story in which all of the action relevant to thestory line is displayed. In comic books the story is told mainlyin frames. Thus, continuity must be inferred by the reader …disconnected presentation of information forces the readers toengage their imagination … when reading violent comic booksindividuals are not simply witnessing depictions of aggressivebehavior, they are in fact becoming active participants in thecreation of the aggression-laden storyline. (16)However, Kirsh continues by saying that, to date, there are very fewstudies that have assessed either the benefits or the drawbacks of comicbooks (16). Thus, the possibility or theory that the format of comic booksattributing to the increasing aggression in children could ultimately beseen as inconclusive.
Nevertheless, it can be concluded that comic books may indeed engagethe imaginations of children. Speaking from personal experience, Iattribute my desire to become an artist because of reading comic books. AsKirsh stated, the fragmented storyline comic books present allow forcountless possibilities in which the mind may wander. Yet, my aspirationswere drawn rather from the imagination contained in the storylinesthemselves. Violence is an element that is seemingly inescapable insociety, and no less can be said for comic books. Still, recognizing thisas a child I sought to involve my imagination in those many possibilitiesin the universe of comic books.
In the Marvel universe, where super-powered beings abound, humans withcertain genetic traits evolve from ordinary Homo sapiens into “Homosuperior” – mutants. This gives way to a slew of super heroes and villains,each with an uncanny and unique talent that surpasses all human ability.
Seeing them learning and coming to terms with their newfound talents droveme to create. Since then, I have been cultivating my own talent in order tocreate whatever my imagination can conceive.
As researches continually concern themselves with the origins fromwhich violence stems, case studies are conducted to procure answers. Instudying the “psychological dimensions” in young children Sandra Grahamnotes, “Behaviors like aggression are social stigmas-that is, deviationsfrom normatively acceptable ways of behaving” (1143). This no doubtreinforces Arnold M. Ludwig’s comments in Comments on Frederick Wertham…
when he assesses that rejection of this socially dependent normalcy incomic books leads to a distorted sense of reality (16). Ludwig furtherasserts this due to the persistence and the mass appeal of comic bookswithin media of live expression. This compounds when violence is added, andhence, produces an acceptance of real-life aggressive behaviors (Hirsch17).
However, do comic books present a distorted sense of reality? Truescenarios established in the world of comic characters are obviously do notexist in our present world. There is no such city as Metropolis where capedsuper-powered aliens fly faster than speeding bullets. Still, asfantastical as comic book storylines may be, there is an abounding sense oftruth in their most notable ones.
During the revolutionary period of the 1960s in the United States,Stan Lee’s X-Men dawned a new age for comic book history. The seriesclosely mirrored the turbulence of the American culture. In particular, theX-Men are allegorical embodiments of the attitudes exuded from mainly thecivil rights movement and the youth movement. In their quest to unite Homosapiens and Homo superior the group (mostly comprised of adolescents)rebelled against the segregation and oppression that was pushed to suchextremes that it resembled- and did indeed constitute as Nazism. The X-Mencontinue to do so today, fighting the current enemy of terrorism. Yet, willthe child be able to differentiate the fictional from the factual?Recognizing the influence that media holds over children (televisionin particular) John C. Wright derived one hypothesis contrasting how achild judges reality in two principal concepts: (1) factuality- where thecontent represents events in the world, or is it fictional, make-believe?(2) social realism- is the content realistic or useful as a guide to thereal world? (1707) He then surmised the ability of children to correlatefactuality and with what they viewed.
… a child watching a cartoon or a situation comedy wouldform reasoning that are specific to the class, “fictionaltelevision” and would, therefore, have different representationsand expectations for television than for real life. (1707)Since comic books constitute a form of media, the association betweentelevision and comic book-verse is closely related. So surely, seeing thata child does have the developed ability to distinguish the realitypresented in television, or comic books, to the reality they live inattests to the plausibility that they are cognizant of the factual or fairy-tale aspects of comic books.
Amidst the saturation of violence, encouraging of aggressive behavior,and skewed view of reality the true themes of comic book thrive. Everchanging social issues, engaging creative stimuli, and symbolic, yettruthful reality exists within comic book storylines. All these factors-embellished and sometimes simplified in hero vs. villain battles- relay tothe child the perseverance of human spirit.
Comic Books Positively Influence Psychological Development in ChildrenENC1101
Cite this Comic Books Positively Influence Psychological Dev
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