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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

Edited By Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that is constantly changing. What this book tries to do, in part, is blur the lines between the differences between today’s college students – the millennial generation – and their professors, many of whom hail from the Boom Generation and Generation X.
In the following chapters, contributors build upon what both parties already know. Writing in a highly accessible yet compelling style, contributors explain communication theories by applying them to «artifacts» of popular culture. These «artifacts» include Lady Gaga, Pixar films, The Hunger Games, hip hop, Breaking Bad, and zombies, among others. Using this book, students will become familiar with key theories in communication while developing creative and critical thinking. By experiencing familiar popular culture artifacts through the lens of critical and interpretive theories, a new generation of communication professionals and scholars will hone their skills of observation and interpretation – pointing not just toward better communication production, but better social understanding.
Professors will especially enjoy the opportunities for discussion this book provides, both through the essays and the «dialogue boxes» where college students provide responses to authors’ ideas.
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13. Media and Technology—Metal and Mutation in the X-Men Films

Extract

CHAPTER 13

Media and Technology—Metal and Mutation in the X-Men Films

Paul A. Lucas

There was a point in time, years ago, when superhero fiction exploded on the scene, ushering in an era of interest in comic books, and in the idea of heroes who could save the day. According to Darowski (2014), “The superhero genre has two clear antecedents: classical mythology and American adventure stories” (p. 4). Decades later, superhero fictions have exploded again, this time drawing mainstream audience interest to an array of films that feature the comic book characters, in familiar, and sometimes new, storylines.

Cartoons, television shows, and even increasingly present comic conventions have furthered attention and curiosity, from a very diverse fan base. Despite the decline in print media, comic books are as popular as ever, with millennials now being among the heavy consumers. In order to re-create their fan bases continually, “the superhero genre … doesn’t seem to be going away in the foreseeable future, but it will inevitably change and alter, along with the society that consumes these stories” (Darowski, 2014, p. 15). In line with that effort, “comic book creators have long acknowledged that they were teaching and motivating in addition to entertaining youth” (Gerde & Foster, 2008, p. 247), so there are enjoyment and commentary aspects of the comic book stories to consider.

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