Superman : the man and the myth - a theological exploration of the influence of popular culture on masculinity

Hendriks, Nathania (2017-03)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study explores the influence of popular culture on male adolescents’ construction of masculinity. A theoretical engagement with the concepts of culture and ideology is linked to the concept of popular culture. The notion of culture and ideology, connected to popular culture, is unpacked, and the various definitions of the concept reflected upon in an attempt to arrive at a more holistic understanding of the term. Using the terms of culture, ideology and popular culture as a foundation, the study explores Superman as an example of popular culture, taking into account the history of the creators of Superman, the evolution of the character as well as a fictional biography of Superman as a mythical hero. This also includes a deliberation on the Christological aspect of Superman, and a discussion of Superman situated in the sphere of culture and more specifically, popular culture. This study also encompasses a reflection on the history of masculinity development. Specific attention is devoted to the impact of feminist theory on masculinity studies. A brief discussion of gender – the overarching notion that includes masculinity and femininity – is integrated in this consideration, as it establishes the foundation for the discussion of masculinities. The connection is made between masculinities and popular culture in South Africa, functioning as a theoretical basis to discusses and reflects upon the type of masculinity that Superman presents and the influence this character has on male adolescents. To comprehend the construction of the current concept of adolescence, the literature review considers the historical context of the concept of adolescence and the changes in social reality over the centuries. Different viewpoints exist on the development of adolescence, which necessitates an overview of physiological, psychological and sociological factors. This, in turn, offers the groundwork for a discussion of male adolescence and the influence of these factors on the developmental process of male adolescence. The influence of popular culture, referring to Superman as an example, demonstrates the impact this character has on male adolescents’ construction of masculinity. Following the discussions on popular culture, masculinities, adolescent development and Superman, the normative approach of practical theological interpretation is applied, thereby contemplating on popular culture as the context, masculinities as the situation and male adolescent development as the episode. Included in this discussion are the circumstances of South Africans and the influence of these circumstances on male adolescent development. Furthermore, the study reflects on the religious comparisons between Superman and Jesus Christ, deliberating between the distinctions of the sacred and profane and how these concepts intertwine in the context of popular culture. This introduces the theological exploration that includes a discussion of practical theological interpretation, feminist theory, feminist theology and the feminist theology of praxis. This study also considers alternative, transformative and redemptive masculinities as a means to combat the hegemonic and hypermasculine ideal perpetuated by popular culture, concluding with suggestions that can aid male adolescents that are divulged to the periphery of society.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek die invloed van populêre kultuur op die manlikheidskonstruksie van manlike adolessente. ’n Teoretiese betrokkenheid by die konspte van kultuur en ideologie word in verband gebring met die konsep van populêre kultuur. Die idee van kultuur en ideologie, gekoppel aan populêre kultuur, word ondersoek, en die verskillende definisies van die konsep oordenk in 'n poging om te kom tot 'n meer holistiese begrip van die term. Met behulp van die gebruik van die terme kultuur, ideologie en populêre kultuur as 'n basis, ondersoek die studie Superman as 'n voorbeeld van populêre kultuur, met inagneming van die geskiedenis van die skeppers van Superman, die evolusie van die karakter Superman sowel as 'n fiktiewe biografie van Superman as 'n mitiese held. Dit sluit ook 'n oorweging van die Christologiese aspek van Superman, en 'n bespreking van Superman binne die gebied van kultuur en meer spesifiek, van populêre kultuur in. Hierdie studie sluit ook 'n besinning oor die geskiedenis van die ontwikkeling van die konsep manlikheid in. Spesifieke aandag word ook gewy aan die impak van feministiese teorie op manlikheidstudies. 'n Kort bespreking van geslag - die oorkoepelende idee wat manlikheid en vroulikheid insluit - is geïntegreer in hierdie oorweging, aangesien dit die grondslag vir die bespreking van die konsepte van manlikheid vorm. Die verband tussen manlikheid en populêre kultuur in Suid-Afrika word aangedui. Dit funksioneer as 'n teoretiese basis waaruit die tipe manlikheid wat Superman verteenwoordig en die invloed wat hierdie karakter het op manlike adolessente bespreek word. Ten einde die bou van die huidige konsep van adolessensie te verstaan, word die historiese konteks van die konsep van adolessensie en die veranderinge in die sosiale werklikheid deur die eeue heen oorweeg. Verskillende standpunte bestaan ten opsigte van die ontwikkeling van adolessensie, wat 'n oorsig van fisiologiese, sielkundige en sosiologiese faktore noodsaak. Dit op sy beurt, bied die grondslag vir 'n bespreking van manlike adolessensie en die invloed van hierdie faktore op die ontwikkelingsproses van manlike adolessensie. Die invloed van populêre kultuur, met verwysing na Superman dien as 'n voorbeeld van die impak wat hierdie karakter het op die manlikheiskonstruksie van manlike adolessente. Aan die hand van die bespreking oor populêre kultuur, manlikheid, adolessente ontwikkeling en Superman, word die normatiewe benadering van praktiese teologiese interpretasie gevolg en daardeur is populêre kultuur die konteks, manlikhede die situasie en manlike adolessente ontwikkeling die episode. Aandag word ook gegee aan die omstandighede van Suid-Afrikaners en hoe hierdie omstandighede manlike adolessente ontwikkeling beïnvloed. Daarbenewens besin die studie oor die godsdienstige vergelykings tussen Superman en Jesus Christus, en word ondersoek ingestel na die onderskeidings van die heilige en die onheilige, en hoe hierdie konsepte mekaar ontmoet in die konteks van populêre kultuur. Dit lei die teologiese verkenning in aan die hand van 'n bespreking wat praktiese teologiese interpretasie, feministiese teorie, feministiese teologie en die praktyk van feministiese teologie insluit. Hierdie studie oorweeg ook alternatiewe, transformerende en versoenende manlikhede as 'n manier om die hegemoniese en hiper-manlike ideale, voortgesit deur populêre kultuur, te bestry en sluit af met voorstelle wat manlike adolessente wat uitgeskuif is na die rand van die samelewing, kan help.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100840
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