Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Deviant Behavior, 33 (7), 566-581; doi: 10.1080/01639625.2011.636718


Copyright © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


The literature argues that media depictions of crime present messages that conform to and promote the dominant ideology about the causes of crime and the nature of criminality. Most research focuses on television news and adult programs, but little research examines messages about criminality present in children’s shows. To fill this gap, a content analysis of children’s cartoons was conducted, using episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, and Justice League Unlimited. Three central themes emerged. First, much criminal activity centers on greed. Second, criminals are aware of right and wrong but pursue crime to meet their own self-interests. Third, criminals are different from law-abiding people. Even if they are flawed or evil, criminals are rational and therefore culpable actors. These shows provide messages about criminality consistent with the dominant ideology.