Investigating Heroes

Essays on Truth, Justice and Quality TV


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About the Book

Premiering in September of 2006, the weekly NBC television series Heroes was an immediate commercial and critical hit, lasting four successful seasons. Heroes follows a group of interrelated characters who discover they have superhuman powers, with each successive episode exploring how these people react to and utilize their powers for good or for evil. This collection of essays explores a variety of issues surrounding Heroes, examining the series’ content, marketing and reception. Also investigated is the show’s fusion of “cult” and mainstream elements of television, analyzing its ability to combine so-called lowbrow elements (comic books and superheroes) with a high-quality television form prizing such factors as moral ambiguity and depth of characterization—and what this blending process suggests about the current hybrid state of genre television, and about the medium as a whole.

About the Author(s)

David Simmons has written and published extensively on popular entertainment, covering subjects ranging from animated TV series to sword-and-sandal movies. He is a lecturer in film and television studies at the University of Northhampton in the UK.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by David Simmons

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 187
Bibliographic Info: bibliographies, filmography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-5936-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8868-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction (David Simmons) 1

Part 1: Heroes and Villains
The Redemption of HRG (Lynnette Porter) 7
“I’m Different … Special”: The Body of the Superhero (Bronwen Calvert) 19
Elective Affinities: Heroes and the Contemporary Conception of the Family (Stan Beeler) 30
“Last in My Class, Last on the Sports Field, I’m Not a Loser Anymore”: Centralizing the “Geek” in Quality Television (David Simmons) 41

Part 2: Borrowings and Intertexts
Naturalizing the Fantastic: Comics Archetypes (Julia Round) 51
Superpowers and Super-Insight: How Back Story and Motivation Emerge through the Heroes Graphic Novels (Kristin M. Barton) 66
“Niki’s Not Here Right Now”: Fragmented Identity in NBC’s Heroes (Laura Hilton) 78
Science Fiction and the Uncanny Realism of Heroes (David Hipple) 90
Super Style: Notes for a Stylistic Analysis (Sérgio Dias Branco) 109

Part 3: Ideas and Concepts
Heroes, Control, and Regulation (Lorna Jowett) 119
“You’re Broken. I Can Fix You”: Negotiating Concepts of U.S. Ideology (Torsten Caeners) 130
Heroes’ Internationalism: Toward a Cosmopolitical Ethics in Mainstream American Television (Kenneth Chan) 144
“This Power, It’s Bigger Than Me”: Time Travel as Narrative Device and Catalyst for Character Exposition (Kevin Lee Robinson) 156

Filmography 169
About the Contributors 171
Index 175

Book Reviews & Awards

“David Simmons’ excellent collection of essays on the whole series takes all of it seriously, from inception to termination, and in it a variety of first-rank television scholars shed new light on all aspects of Heroes’ meteoric rise and fall.”—David Lavery, co-author of Saving the World: A Guide to Heroes; “David Simmons’ insightful anthology unlocks the mysteries behind the success and failure of this show by considering its place within the changing nature of television. Engaging, authoritative and rigorously researched, this book is a must-read for both the popular culture scholar and fan.”—Stacey Abbott, author of Celluloid Vampires and editor of The Cult TV Book.