Rotten, vile, and depraved! depictions of criminality in superhero cartoons

Lisa A. Kort-Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The literature argues that media depictions of crime present messages that conform to and promote the dominant ideology about the causes of crime and the nature of criminality. Most research focuses on television news and adult programs, but little research examines messages about criminality present in children's shows. To fill this gap, a content analysis of children's cartoons was conducted, using episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, and Justice League Unlimited. Three central themes emerged. First, much criminal activity centers on greed. Second, criminals are aware of right and wrong but pursue crime to meet their own self-interests. Third, criminals are different from law-abiding people. Even if they are flawed or evil, criminals are rational and therefore culpable actors. These shows provide messages about criminality consistent with the dominant ideology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-581
Number of pages16
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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