Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy



Faculty Advisor(s)

Leonard Finkelman

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | American Film Studies | American Popular Culture | Applied Ethics | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Film and Media Studies | Philosophy


The theory of virtue ethics implies that filmmakers have a moral obligation to explore political themes within superhero films. My thesis is comprised of four main sections. I begin by discussing the general theory of virtue ethics and what moral obligations are placed upon someone who subscribes to this moral theory. From there, I establish my argument for why film can be used as a tool of moral education, and I outline a framework for how artists can work to cultivate virtue in themselves through the use of Arnold Berleant’s Artists and Morality: Toward an Ethics of Art as a guide. In the second section, I argue why superheroes have the capacity to serve as strong moral role models and why they are better suited to serving as strong role models above other fictional characters. I also discuss what kind of virtues superheroes should embody if they are supposed to be role models and how endeavoring to make superheroes good role models inevitably means that we need to show these characters interacting with political issues. Sections three and four attempt to define what makes propaganda art distinct from political commentary and how my larger argument is affected by whether we subscribe to the literary theory known as Death of the Author.