Award Date

May 2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Committee Member

Sara VanderHaagen

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Guthrie

Third Committee Member

Donovan Conley

Fourth Committee Member

Ed Nagelhout

Number of Pages

203

Abstract

This project investigates comic book discourse. Specifically, I investigate how comic narratives provide readers with an interpretation for how they should discern and assess “appropriate” behaviors for women. The artifact of analysis included in this project is DC Comics Gotham City Sirens (2009). This text features popular female superheroes, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy. Because comic books utilize both textual and visual means to disseminate a message, this project evaluates the visual rhetoric of these characters within the narrative. Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm is used to provide an understanding to how these visual means contribute to the meanings assigned in the narrative. Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm is used to provide an understanding to how these visual means contribute to the meanings assigned in the narrative. Using the narrative paradigm and visual rhetoric as organizing principles, I argue that Gotham City Sirens provides readers with an specific interpretation of gender expectations and gender related social issues like Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Specifically, I argue that Gotham City Sirens provides readers with an interpretation of women that upholds traditional gender expectations while also providing an interpretation to IPV that upholds prevalent socio-cultural domestic violence myths that denigrate the seriousness of the issue. In terms of gender, these characters experience a tension between their gender expectations and the expectations derived from their roles as superheroes. The way in which these characters resolve this tension influences the meanings they are assigned based on their experiences with IPV. Ultimately, Catwoman and Harley Quinn are assigned meanings of “non-victimhood” that diminish the significance of the issue and blames these women for their abuse. Superheroes have skyrocketed in popularity over the past fifteen years and their narratives are extending to individuals that are not necessarily comic readers. This cultural significance of superheroes suggests that comic books appeal to a wide audience who has the potential to be influenced, even implicitly, by these messages.

Keywords

Comic Books; DC Comics; Gender; Gotham City Sirens; Intimate Partner Violence; Rhetoric

Disciplines

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Mass Communication | Rhetoric

Language

English


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