The JokerThe year 2000 didn't just usher in a brand new millennium, with bursting Dot Com bubbles, trucks like dumps, and fears of Y2K, it also marked the beginning of a wave of superhero films that has only been growing in recent years. But why? Why are we seeing so many of these types of films being made? Is it because Hollywood has just run out of ideas, or is there something else going on? Well, PBS' Idea Channel aims to answer that in this enlightening video that explores the history of comic book heroes; how superheroes have changed from unstoppable rebels to law enforcing authority figures, as well as the historical trends in superhero cinema and how they correlate with society and culture.

After X-Men hit theaters in 2000 and caused this insane influx of superhero film production, it's kind of difficult to imagine our cinematic lives without them. And, for now at least, we may not have to. Indiewire recently wrote a post saying that 23 superhero films are planned to hit theaters over the next 4 years. That's -- a lot.

Why are studios making so many of them? Yeah, because they're profitable (most of the time), but why are they profitable? Why does so much of the filmgoing population go to the theater and slam down a small fortune to see Wolverine seethe and Spiderman swing between NYC skyscrapers? Well, if you're thinking that the answer is as simple as, "Because explosions and muscle-bound dudes fighting are awesome," you might be surprised by what this episode of PBS' Idea Channel has to say about the matter:

Here is the infographic that host Mike Rugnetta mentions in the video, courtesy of


A year ago we wrote about the possible reasons why we're so obsessed with zombies (inspired by another Idea Channel video). These two sub-genres go well together when analyzing their widespread appeal, because the periods in our history when zombie and superhero films became particularly popular were marked with certain specific world events -- for zombie films: technological advances and the Civil Rights Movement; for Superhero films: the onslaught of war.

Superhero films are perfect vehicles for spreading messages of patriotism, which I'm sure Americans were looking to explore and express after 9/11 in 2001. Not only that, but in times of violence, when citizens begin to feel as though the status quo (or even their lives) are threatened, moviegoers flock to films where there are good guys kicking some major villainous ass. So, in the same way that zombie films reveal to us the dangers of too much technology or consumerism run amok, superhero films give us that feeling of safety knowing that there is a semi-altruistic authority figure out there putting bad guys in their place and setting things right again.


It goes without saying that this isn't a conscious thing. When I hear a mysterious noise in the middle of the night, which is most likely a homicidal maniac with a bazooka, I don't just run into my living room to watch The Avengers so I can feel safe enough to fall asleep (that's what The Simpsons are for). Furthermore, superhero films are just cool and fun to watch, but it is important to be aware of the other reasons (some of them unconscious) why people buy the movie tickets that they do -- the Studios certainly spend a pretty penny to dig deep into this stuff, so there's certainly something there.

What do you think are the reasons why audiences see superhero films in such great numbers? Let us know in the comments below.

[via PBS Idea Channel & Filmmaker IQ]