Engendered Superhero Body

Engendered Superhero Body - ‘‘He’s Gotta Be Strong...

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Unformatted text preview: ‘‘He’s Gotta Be Strong, and He’s Gotta Be Fast, and He’s Gotta Be Larger Than Life’’: Investigating the Engendered Superhero Body A A R O N TAY L O R W ITHIN THE PAST DECADE, THERE HAS BEEN A GENERAL INCREASED theoretical interest surrounding the lived body and pop- ular representations of the body. Examples include em- bodied phenomenology (developed from the writings of Marcel Merleau-Ponty), Foucault’s work on sexuality and institutions, and a renewed investment in cognitive studies. Adopting Spinoza’s rejection of the Cartesian cogito (which implicitly divides the subject into mind and body), contemporary theorists are beginning to embrace a much more corporeal worldview. The shift of critical foci away from dichot- omous conceptualizations of the human subject is not a return to biological determinism. It is a recognition that the subject and his/her corporeality are not mutually exclusive. One’s somatic existence is not distinct from one’s psychic existence. Body is no longer that which is not mind—a mere vessel that houses the brain. Furthermore, the latter is no longer privileged over the former. Physicality is not base un- ruliness in need of discipline from a transcendent intelligence; the two are integral to lived experience and work in tandem. The relocation of critical attention to issues of corporeality is a major shift for Grand Theory and signifies an abandonment of archaic epistemologies that do not credit the inescapable fleshiness of the human subject. In particular, cultural studies have invested in the corporeal approach to examining popular representations of the body. A consideration of The Journal of Popular Culture , Vol. 40, No. 2, 2007 r 2007, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation r 2007, Blackwell Publishing, Inc. 344 popular body politics means investigating the myths, ideologies, and pathologies of the represented body. Proponents of said ‘‘body theory’’ maintain that, ‘‘in the face of social constructionism, the body’s tan- gibility . . . may be invoked; but in opposition to essentialism, biol- ogism, and naturalism, it is the body as cultural product that must be stressed’’ (Grosz 23–24, italics mine). I am obviously more than an animated mass of cells; I am historically, culturally, and socio-polit- ically specific. My body is contextual. Moreover, citing the Spinozist account of the body, it is not a stable, definitively knowable physicality, but a process . According to Moira Gatens, ‘‘its meaning and capacities will vary according to its context. We do not know the limits of this body or the powers that it is capable of attaining. These limits and capacities can only be revealed in the ongoing interactions of the body and its environment’’ (69). It is from the position of conceiving of the body as a cultural product and self-constituting process that I would like to examine the popular representation of a very peculiar physi- cality: the comic book superhero. Here is a culturally produced bodycality: the comic book superhero....
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Engendered Superhero Body - ‘‘He’s Gotta Be Strong...

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