Maybe in a future essay I'll enlarge on the reasons why I think why superhero films, like their cousins in the pure-fantasy and pure-SF genres, can tap and have often tapped that range--
And why said superdude films have often done much better in that range than Seitz' beloved zombie films.
This essay is a prelude to talking about what range of emotions superhero films have successfully tapped, since I find it incumbent to discuss first some of the potential abuses of "the call for standards" voiced by Seitz, Spurgeon and others too numerous to name.
In George L. Kline's essay "The Use and Abuse of Hegel," the author discusses the many ways that Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx-- though hardly fellow travelers in any other respect-- radically re-interpreted many of the "world-historical" concepts of their philosophical predecessor Georg Hegel. Kline concludes the essay thusly:
"It is in their instrumentalizing and devaluing of the present-- of present communities, cultures, practices, and, especially, persons-- that Nietzsche and Marx most unambiguously exhibit the abusive reversal and inversion of Hegel's doctrine which both of them have undertaken."-- Kline, "Use and Abuse of Hegel," HEGEL AND HIS CRITICS, 1989.
Now Tom Spurgeon is certainly not a philosopher re-interpreting anyone's doctrine, but certainly he's practicing his own breed of "instrumentalizing and devaluing" with the provocative if empty title, "If Superhero Movies Suck, And I Suspect They Do, Why Can't Folks Stop Seeing And Discussing Them?" I refuted his essay in my cited response above, pointing out that his assertion that "Many Superhero Films Also Fail To Meet Most Low Standards" comes down to utter nonsense. I'm sure current superhero films do fail to meet whatever Tom Spurgeon *imagines* to be "low standards" as seen through his eyes, but the datum that most superhero films violate what a Spurgeon *imagines* to be low standards demonstrates nothing about why a real audience of moviegoers bestowed financial success upon a respectable number of these cinematic travesties. The only way Spurgeon's statement could be made to yield sense would be if one posited that the moviegoers who made the first FANTASTIC FOUR film a minor box-office success had not merely "low standards," but "no standards." This conception of the hoi polloi viewing-audience may remind one of the standard Marxist/Adornite portrait of the consumer of "light culture," who is essentially little more than an automaton progammed to buy whatever the Culture Industry grinds out.
I suggest that anyone who still propounds this self-aggrandizing view of popular culture today is incompetent to talk about standards, be they high or low, be they indebted to Nietzsche's faux-aristocratic snobbery or to Marx's liberal obsession with leveling all of culture to a flat economic plane.
Devoted as I am to seeking a middle path between these timeworn extremes, my next essay in this series will explore a possible model that superhero films might seek to emulate to their genuine improvement, as opposed to Seitz' oddball model of "zombie movies" or Spurgeon's lack of any model beyond his laundry list of personal complaints.