21st SERCIA Conference (Société d’Etudes et de Recherche sur le Cinéma Anglophone)

  • Eve M A Benhamou (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Paper title: Constructing and Gendering Superheroes' Playful Identities in Disney’s Big Hero 6
Introduction: From the original X-Men in 2000, which generated several sequels and prequels, to Ant-Man, which was released this July, the past fifteen years have been marked by a significant rise in superhero narratives. Following the acquisition of Marvel Studios in December 2009, Disney released its own take on the genre in 2014, with its very first animated superhero film based on Marvel comic-book characters: Big Hero 6. With excellent box office results and an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, it has become a popular and critical success. This paper will explore the way this Disney animated feature fits within the superhero genre and contemporary trends in comic-book films by focusing on its gender constructions. Indeed, with its multiracial cast including two superheroines, some reviewers welcomed the presence of “strong female characters” who “are not oversexualized”. These comments reveal some recurring tropes regarding the depiction of super femininity – and by contrast super masculinity – in live-action superhero films, including the generic imperatives of “sex appeal” on one hand, and excessive muscularity on the other. My research question will be the following: to what extent does Big Hero 6 – a Disney/Marvel animated feature – provide some challenging alternatives to mainstream gendered constructions of live-action superheroes? Building on Lisa Purse’s concept of “playful knowingness” and Tasker’s observations on contemporary postfeminist constructions of femininity, I will analyse the way the film text reworks and adapts contemporary superhero tropes, and how this impacts on its gender constructions. This paper will start with a brief overview of earlier animated superhero films in order to contextualize Big Hero 6. Then, part 2 will focus on the characterization of the teen male superhero through the figure of Hiro. I will pay attention to the superheroines’ portrayal in part 3, before concluding with the robot Baymax, whose depiction seems particularly interesting in the light of superheroes’ gendered identities.
Period3 Sept 20155 Sept 2015
Event typeConference
LocationArras, FranceShow on map