So why is Phantom of the Opera considered important entertainment achievement while the X-Men are a niche sci-fi production? Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with all the components of the genre. It’s all about perception.
The other day, I was talking to a friend, and he was saying how he was going to be seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” on Friday. Now, this friend isn’t a comic fan, but he is looking forward to the movie. He said that one of the things he liked about Nolan’s Batman films is that they are dark, and that before Nolan’s trilogy, Batman had never been portrayed seriously. I thought his viewpoint was interesting because Batman was originally portrayed as a somber character, and has been portrayed as a serious character for a long time. My friend thought that Nolan was responsible for the interpretation. Adam West’s name came up real fast, and the very idea that Batman might have been dark before Nolan was impossible. But Batman was not the campy character that he was turned into in the 1960’s television series. The producer of that show, William Dozier, was not familiar with the Batman character and decided that the character, and the concept, should be geared towards children. It’s interesting to note how the television show has influenced the perception of Batman to a much greater extent than the original comic stories.
Comic fans know that superheroes have been portrayed more seriously since the 1960s, but even now, general audiences think of their stories as light and campy. When is that misconception going to change? When will some of the more sophisticated stories in the superhero and sci-fi genre get the respect they deserve?
I think we’re still a long way from this deserved respect for the genre. Despite box office successes, superheroes are still considered “kid’s stuff “and mindless action. The idea that superhero stories are anything more than cheap escapism is still met with skepticism by moviegoers who think that a Meryl Streep situational dramady is some sort of earth shaking event (even though no one can shake the world like Hulk!). Perceptions may change in time, but for now, revel in the fact that this escapism includes the biggest box office successes of all time.
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