Why watching superhero movies can be good for mental health

Superhero movies are not just about entertainment. Films on superheroes also offer mental health benefits. Read on to find out!
Benefits of superhero movies for mental health
Superhero movies can be good for your mental health, if you want! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 7 Nov 2023, 15:41 pm IST
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Superhero movies keep us on the edge, but look closer, and you will know that they aren’t just all about entertainment! While telling the story of a hero with superhuman powers to protect people against a villain, there are important life lessons that superhero films end up sharing with fans. As fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gear up to see Brie Larson return as Captain Marvel in The Marvels, releasing on November 10, let us look into the mental health benefits of superhero movies.

The Marvels is one of the many superhero films to have been made, with many of them inspired from the characters of Marvel and DC comic books. They take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride with deaths, friendships, love and fierce battles between superheroes and supervillains… well, it’s also superheroes vs superheroes sometimes! All these narratives and characters help us learn life lessons.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work showed that conversations about superhero films and comic book protagonists helped members of a peer support group. They helped them to not only to be the heroes of their stories, but also find strength, meaning and purpose in their difficulties.

What are the mental health benefits of watching superhero movies?

People mostly watch movies for their entertainment. The way a movie affects one’s mental health depends on the type of movie they are watching, says Dr Ashish Gambre, Consultant Psychiatrist, SRV Hospitals. They can serve as a source of entertainment, relaxation and inspiration, but they can also influence emotions and perceptions. For example, a comedy movie can uplift your mood and might act as a stress-buster. A sad movie might help to release your emotions. But how do superhero movies boost mental health? Let’s check out!

Woman watching tv
Watching superhero movies is good for mental health. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

1. Motivation

Watching superhero films can provide motivation and inspiration to the audience. It can encourage viewers to strive for their goals and to believe in their own abilities.

2. Spark imagination

Movies can help to spark imagination and creativity, especially when watching superhero movies, the expert tells Health Shots.

3. Help you be smarter

Superhero characters show smartness and are good at solving problems, encouraging viewers to find solutions to complex problems. Take Iron Man or the Hulk who always come up with unique ways to defeat the bad guy.

4. Strengthen family bonds

Since superhero movies cater to a broad spectrum of age groups, they contribute to strengthening family bonds as they can be enjoyed collectively. Besides that, even the film’s storylines have family as an integral part. For instance, it was Bruce Wayne’s parents who were killed in front him when he was a child. That tragedy was a major reason for him to become a vigilante, saving the people of his city Gotham.

Overall, superhero movies overall have the same impact on children as on adults. It helps to build their confidence and educate them about right and wrong, foster the importance and value of teamwork. The superhero characters act as role models for the children, notes Dr Gambre.

Watching tv
Superhero movies take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is superhero therapy?

The power of superheroes is so strong that even experts support the superhero therapy. It is a concept involving the use of stories or characters in famous books, TV serials, movies and video games and incorporating them into evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. It helps people with mild anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, says Dr Gambre. It moves towards their values by learning how to accept negative and unhelpful thoughts, feelings and help them relate to a fictional superhero who has overcome many of their own struggles and challenges. This helps a person to become own version of a superhero in real life.

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Side effects of watching superhero movies

Like with anything else, an excess of anything isn’t beneficial.

• Excessive viewing of superhero movies can lead to negative consequences such as unrealistic expectations and insensitive to violence.
• Watching movies the whole time may lead to a sedentary lifestyle and reduced physical activity.
• The violence and action in such films can increase aggression in some viewers.
• Children may imitate the stunts performed by the superheroes and suffer great injuries.

While you can watch superhero movies all day like Captain America can fight the baddies “all day”, it’s crucial to practice moderation when consuming films to maintain a healthy mental state.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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