In Marvel vs. DC superhero battle, only one is family-friendly, watchdog says

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Superhero movies remain as popular as ever among parents and children, but only one company – Marvel – is committed to making content for the entire family.

So says the Parents Television Council's Christopher Gildemeister, who argues in a new blog post that when comparing the two superhero companies – Marvel and DC – it is obvious which one does not care about catering to children.

"Marvel has done an excellent job in assuring that its most famous characters are both accessible to and acceptable for a young audience," Gildemeister, PTC's head of research operations, wrote.

"Marvel has a range of direct-to-video animation, available on DVD, which are acceptable fare for children. Similarly, its big-budget movies – while perhaps possessing action and language a bit too intense for very young children – are largely acceptable for the entire family, and are invariably rated PG-13 or even PG," he said.

By contrast, Gildemeister wrote that DC is "devoting itself almost exclusively to adult-themed content," with nearly every project being "dark, humorless, grim, and uniformly cast in shades of black or darkest grey." Even its cartoons, he added, are filled with explicit bloodshed and sexual dialogue.

Marvel is home to such characters as Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men and the Avengers (including Iron Man and Captain American), while DC is the company where Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are found.

There are exceptions to the rule, Gildemeister acknowledged. Marvel gave moviegoers the very graphic and R-rated Deadpool, while DC gave families the mostly kid-friendly Supergirl. But as a general rule, he said, DC has ignored the wishes of parents and children.

The DC "adult trend" began with the dark and edgy Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, and then continued with Superman Returns and Man of Steel, all of which jettisoned the "positive, optimistic, and upbeat characters" that families expect, he wrote.

Even in the companies' two films this year – Marvel's Civil War and DC's Batman vs. Superman -- there was a major contrast, Gildemeister wrote.

"Most of all, [in Civil War] there is an actual moral dilemma at stake in the heroes' battle, one which they discuss extensively before they come to blows: should the heroes be free to battle evil without restraint as they see fit, or should they be supervised – or controlled – by a governmental bureaucracy? By contrast," he wrote, "in Batman vs. Superman, the focus is not on heroism, characterization, or moral conflict. Rather, it is on the mass devastation caused by what are essentially two super-powered terrorists battling one another, endangering countless innocents and destroying a city in the process.

"This is a far darker, more cynical reading of the traditional superhero, one in which the vigilante Batman feels compelled to attack Superman simply because he might someday pose a threat to Earth."

(Batman vs. Superman nearly received an R rating, before the studio cut out enough material to garner a PG-13.)

Additionally, Marvel produces kid-friendly DVD cartoons, while DC makes DVD cartoons that are far from appropriate for kids, he wrote. DC also recently announced the first-ever R-rated superhero cartoon -- Batman: The Killing Joke.

To make matters worse, he asserted, DC still allows the production of toys based on its movie characters – even though the films are inappropriate for those same children.

"Superheroes are Big Business in today's media marketplace," he concluded. "And there is always a market for movies that families can watch together. One can only wonder: why won't DC make superhero movies that are safe for kids?"