Superhero movies can not only spark children’s imagination with ideas and emotions, but also instil bravery in children, according to experts.
In the run up to the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) that will be held next month, parents are urged to discover their children’s talents and help them get inspired through the powers of superheroes to become their true future heroes.
With the increased hype over Marvel Cinematic Universe entries like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, and Pixar’s long-awaited sequel Incredibles 2 that grossed over $1 billion worldwide just this year, superhero movies are the most dominant in Hollywood, and there is never a shortage of them in theatres.
Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, director of the SICFF, stressed that such movies should be used to educate children on the true meaning of heroism by deconstructing the definition and linking it to reality.
“(It is about) nurturing children in a manner that allows them to understand the message behind superhero films and translate them into real life. Real heroic acts can include helping the poor, feeding hungry animals, or simply watering plants when the weather is excruciatingly hot. A hero can be found in all walks of life, from a creative artisan, devoted parent, or humble worker,” said Sheikha Jawaher.
She noted that superhero films nurture children’s intellectuality and creativity, fostering a love for good and justice in them. Parents, therefore, play a vital role in emphasising on good habits and behaviour through which children can be heroes too.
“For example, linking children’s love for a superhero who can fly with studying hard to become a pilot will reinforce their determination and resoluteness,” she said.
Another important factor, Sheikha Jawaher noted, is focusing on films based on true events that feature true heroes such as the 2015 animated feature film Bilal that depicts the life of Bilal bin Rabah who rose to prominence in early Arabian Peninsula after he was freed from slavery. “The critical reception of this film was good not only in the Arab region but all around the world,” she added.
“Successive frames and audio-visual effects of the motion picture dazzle and captivate kids, engaging them with what they are watching as if they live in the same world of their superheroes.”
Superheroes depicted in movies are usually normal people who, for some supernatural reason, become extraordinary and strong, or creatures that come from a different reality.
While these elements can help children of ages six or seven to differentiate between the good and the bad, Dr Valeria Risoli, clinical psychologist at the Dubai Physiotherapy and Family Medicine Clinic, said young viewers have to understand the strength of superheroes doesn’t lie in fighting against monsters or aliens.
“They should be taught that heroes can be human beings that use their mental strengths to fight against injustice and evil in everyday life. So a hero doesn’t have to be green or transform into a supernatural creature to save the world, he can be a normal person who does good things and protect the innocents from injustice,” said Risoli.
Risoli said since superhero movies nowadays are also directed to appeal adult audience, often these idols are portrayed as violent towards evil. “We see heroes are good, patient, strong, confident, compassionate towards the innocent, but they can also be violent towards those who are not innocent,” said Risoli. “They can also be arrogant, aggressive, and vindictive. They often are portrayed almost as ‘bullies’.”
She noted that such manner can mislead children into expressing their frustration with aggression, showing them that it is somehow tolerated or even promoted if the reason is good.
Superhero films generally serve the imitation side of children in a good sense since it allows them to use their imagination feel empowered and stronger. “Superheroes can fight and go through many difficulties to complete their mission, which is a great point of reflection for children who have to put efforts and patience to achieve their big and small daily goals,” noted Risoli.
The key is to teach them that being a hero requires no superpower, but human mental strength more than anything else.