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Examining the relationship between stereotyping, the media, and violence is a major focus of SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program (R+R). Our workshops examine how media stereotyping can legitimize and normalize inequality and treat generalizations about groups of people as social facts. In doing so, R+R workshops challenge students to critically analyze how media stereotyping can produce and sustain systems of power including racism, sexism and homophobia. Students are asked to think about how, when and why media represents particular groups and ignores others. In this setting, students often point out how super-heroes in comic book series are almost exclusively represented by white men. Countering this blatant stereotype, Marvel Universe has  recently unveiled a black-Latino Spider-Man comic book series that warrants attention.

Miles Morales, the new biracial Spider-Man character, is not the first minority super-hero, however, Marvel Universe is nevertheless making a positive step towards promoting media diversity.  In the words of Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief:

“What you have is a Spider-Man for the 21st century who’s reflective of our culture and diversity.”

This is important because comic books have and continue to play an important developmental role in many children’s lives.  As such, it is important for children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to see both themselves and others diversely represented in media, arts and culture.  So, as artist Sara Pichelli, who played an important role in designing the new Spider-Man, suggests:

“Maybe sooner or later a black or gay — or both — hero will be considered something absolutely normal.”

 By Nicola Temmel, Summer Student at SWOVA

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