Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War
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Credit: Marvel Studios

Superheroes are more violent than their movie nemeses, says study

Contributed by
Nov 5, 2018

We’re guessing these researchers have never seen the end of Avengers: Infinity War, where all it takes is one evil finger snap to eliminate half of all life in the universe. Otherwise, it’s hard to wrap your head around the results of a new study that finds movie superheroes actually tally up a greater number of violent acts than the bad guys they’re trying to defeat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics surveyed 10 superhero movies from 2015 and 2016 — though their study doesn’t say which 10 — and found that the good guys let loose with their abilities far more often than than the villains did, with superheroes averaging 23 violent deeds per hour, compared with “only” 18 violent acts per hour perpetrated by the enemy.

The study breaks down our heroes’ violent outbursts by type. Good, old-fashioned smack-and-pow leads the list, with fighting accounting for 1,021 violent acts from the good guys, followed by using “a lethal weapon” (659), destruction of property (199), murder (168), and “bullying/intimidation/torture” (144).

For the bad guys, fighting came in second (599), just behind use of a lethal weapon (604). From there, the numbers drop off dramatically: The bullying/intimidation/torture trio comes in third at 237 occurrences, followed by destruction of property (191) and murder (93).

Less clear is how the study does its case-by-case tabulation. Would Thor’s “Bring me Thanos!” axe-smash in Infinity War, for example, have counted as only one act of murder, or would the God of Thunder get a demerit for each alien invader who fell before Stormbreaker's mighty blast? And anyway, is it really murder if you’re trying to save Wakanda — and, indeed, the entire universe — from an army that’s suicidally bent on destroying everything?

We know, we know — Infinity War doesn’t count, since the study stops with movies released in 2016. And perhaps not helping the good guys’ cause in general is their overall ability to absorb tons and tons of punishment, allowing them to stay in the field long enough to dish out tons more damage to tons more enemies (Deadpool came out in 2016, and the mouthy merc is definitely one giant magnet for abuse). Plus, in the movies, the bad eggs usually outnumber the good by a wide margin – so you have to land more blows if you want to win the fight.

Still, with great power comes great responsibility, and the study cautions that young viewers might be getting mixed signals from all the beatdowns their heroes routinely administer. “[D]espite positive themes these films may offer, new research suggests superhero characters often idolized by young viewers may send a strongly negative message when it comes to violence,” it summarizes.

Just don’t share these findings with the Mad Titan. The last thing Thanos needs is one more reason to think he’s been doing the right thing all along.

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