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Rethinking superhero and weapon play

Rethinking superhero and weapon play

Popper, Steven

Rethinking Superhero and Weapon Playoffers a fresh and knowledgeable insight into children's fascination with superheroes and weapon play. It explores what lies at the heart of superhero and weapon play and why so many children are drawn to this contentious area of children's play. This innovative book offers: A detailed look at why many early years professionals and teachers are cautious about superhero and weapon play. Does weapon play make children more violent? Do 'goodies versus baddies' stories make children more confrontational? Do superheroes offer positive gender role-models? The book tackles these questions and suggests some alternative perspectives, as well as offering practical advice about keeping children's superhero and weapon play positive and productive. An exploration of how superhero and weapon play relates to the development of children's moral values, moral principles and moral reasoning; the building of children's co-operation, empathy and sense of community; and the development of children's sense of self and self-esteem. Discussion of the deep moral themes that lie within superhero narratives, and how superhero characters and narratives can be used to enhance and deepen children's understanding of good character, moral responsibility, attachment, prejudice and ill-treatment, and why it is important to be good in the first place. A wealth of learning opportunities and suggestions of ways to use superheroes to advance children's moral, philosophical and emotional thinkingThis book is an excellent resource for those studying or working in early years or primary education who wish to understand the phenomenon of children's superhero and weapon play and make the most of children's enthusiasm for it. "Warm, funny, smart, and honest, the argument made in Steven Popper's book astutely, and with a sharp eye for detail, teases out many subtle reflections on morality, childhood development and the paradoxes of human nature, through the lens of our much-loved Superhero narratives. He is able, through nuanced and well-supported argument, drawn from both theory and practice, and from pedagogy and real life, to present a compelling and detailed account of the ways in which these stories might interface with the moral development of children. The book offers a rich, and articulate narrative of its own, which 'aims at the good' in its desire to propose that immersion in such superhero 'narrative play' can teach children about ethics, social responsibility, and what it is to be 'human'. This is also a wonderful contribution to debates around the role of mass media in promoting critical thinking and enquiry among children." Dr. Sheena Calvert, Senior Lecturer, University of Westminster, UK "This book authoritatively assesses the virtues of engaging in superhero play with young children. It argues that far from damaging children and encouraging them to adopt unthinking, aggressive behaviours superhero play is an implicitly moral activity. It encourages children to explore profound moral and ethical thinking. This book is both a well-researched account of the appeal that superhero play has for children of both sexes and a practical guide to how such play can be used imaginatively in early years settings." Rob Abbott, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood and Education, University of Chichester, UK

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English.
All formats and editions (2)
Published Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press, 2013
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Statement of responsibility: Steven Popper
ISBN: 0335247075, 9780335247073
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Note: Formerly CIP.
Physical Description: xii, 167 pages ; 23 cm
Subject: Superheroes Social aspects.; Children Attitudes.; Weapons.; Play assessment (Child psychology); Children and violence.
Reproduction: Electronic reproduction. UK: Dawsonera.


  1. PrefaceAcknolwedgements
  2. Introduction
  3. Part One: Arguments held against war, weapon and superhero play - and some responses
  4. The argument that war and weapon play almost automatically leads to increased aggression and violenceThe argument that superheroes equate to the normalization or glorification of violenceThe argument that superheroes offer up negative, stereotypical and destructive role-models of masculinity and femininity
  5. Part Two: Rethinking superhero and conflict play
  6. Theoretical understandings of children's moral developmentFrom 'rough-and-tumble' play to superhero and conflict playSuperhero and conflict play and the development of co-operation, empathy and sense of communitySuperhero and conflict play and children's sense of self and self-worthThe moral themes that lie behind superhero and conflict play
  7. Part Three: Exploring superhero narratives
  8. Superman: the god-like beingBatman: darkness within the Dark KnightThe X-Men: The rejected groupConclusion: The merit of superheroes and superhero play
  9. ReferencesIndex

Author note

Steven Popper has worked in various roles in education for thirty years including as a teacher training route leader, a teacher in early years and primary education, and a senior school leader. He is currently working as an Ofsted inspector.