Heroes, control, and regulation

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapter


Heroes is about ordinary people discovering that they have extraordinary powers and coming to terms with what they can do. Thus three main concerns arise: individual control of the superpower; moral control that maintains some characters as heroes rather than villains; and social control of the (secret) knowledge that superheroes exist. Several different discourses feeding into these concerns will be explored. The inclusion of genre elements from action, science fiction, horror, and, of course, superhero stories present the body as spectacle (the superhero in action, the superhero as freak). Additionally, from the beginning, the series established a science fiction approach to the powers and, more significantly, draws on ways science has been used as a tool of social regulation. The mysterious Company offers a further representation of wider, if covert, social control: it seeks out those with powers and attempts to, at best, regulate, at worst, imprison them, reflecting fears about corporate or government conspiracies. The show thus engages with ideas about how society controls and regulates individuals, via various (often gendered) discourses about the body and morality. This chapter examines the complex view of power/lessness embodied in characters like Claire Bennet and Niki Sanders, both defined in different ways by physicality and excess, and therefore presented as in need of strict control, in comparison with selected male characters who are also primarily defined by physicality and the need for regulation
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInvestigating Heroes: Essays on Truth, Justice and Quality TV
Place of PublicationJefferson, North Carolina
Number of pages187
ISBN (Print)9780786459360
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2012


  • Heroes
  • television
  • superhero
  • female body
  • representation
  • power
  • powerlessness


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