Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Bosch, B. (2016). “Why So Serious?” Threat, Authoritarianism, and Depictions of Crime, Law, and Order in Batman Films. Criminology, Justice Justice, Law & Society, 17 (1), 37-54.


© 2016 Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society and The Western Society of Criminology


Drawing on research on authoritarianism, this study analyzes the relationship between levels of threat in society and representations of crime, law, and order in mass media, with a particular emphasis on the superhero genre. Although the superhero genre is viewed as an important site of mediated images of crime and law enforcement, cultural criminologists have been relatively quiet about this film genre. In addressing this omission, I analyze authoritarian themes (with an emphasis on crime, law, and order) in the Batman film franchise across different periods of threat. My qualitative content analysis finds that authoritarianism themes of fear and need for order and concern about aggressive action toward crime are more common in Batman films during high-threat periods. I also find that criticism of authority figures is more prevalent in Batman films during high-threat periods, which challenges previous research on authoritarianism as well as the alleged conservative media bias toward police.