This paper explores existential themes as presented in the 2014 film The Amazing Spider-Man 2. An initial argument is presented in support of the claim that contemporary audiences are drawn towards superheroes for the same reasons people have historically been compelled by traditional religious beliefs – a desire to transcend death. By presenting visual confirmation that the laws of the natural world (particularly gravity) can be exceeded, the superhero film in general and the Spider-Man character specifically offers hope that the most frightening of these laws (death) can also be overcome. However, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also offers a warning about the potential dangers of denying mortality. The film illustrates tensions between the needs for comforting narratives about unwavering cosmic heroism and challenging narratives about the quest for purpose in a turbulent and ephemeral world.
This paper offers an analysis of the FX television series Sons of Anarchy (SOA) through the lenses of Terror Management Theory (TMT) and Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). TMT asserts that, in order to mitigate death anxiety, people merge their identities with something larger and more powerful than their corporeal selves. The violent behaviors of the shows’ protagonists are presented as illustrative of the kind of death denying defense described in TMT. In addition to graphic violence and pervasive death imagery, another central element of the show is its complex and ambiguous portrayal of morality. The moral ambivalence created by SOA is explored from the perspective of MFT, which asserts that morality is influenced by the interaction of six distinct moral senses. The behaviors of various SOA characters and the reactions of viewers are presented as a function of the reciprocal influence of these central elements of mortality and morality.