One of my favorite things in the world is superheroes. The capes, the powers, the fights, the motivational speeches, the tropes, and always standing for what you believe in. I love it all! As a kid, I loved Superman. Ok… I still love Superman. I would tie a red towel around my neck and run around the house with my fist stretched forward. Clark Kent was my best friend and represented everything I knew I wanted to be. Sure, he was an alien with superpowers that were out of this world, but deep down he was just a son of loving parents with more potential than anyone ever knew. Now, are you going to try and tell me that a farm boy with loving parents is less relatable than a billionaire orphan who dresses like his worst fear and goes out at night to fight bad guys?... No. That wasn't for me. I was all about truth, justice, and the American way.
As I have gotten older, I have come to truly see the influence of the Man of Steel in my life. In fact, it would be hard to ignore. Not only has my style been inspired by the mild-mannered reporter but I have realized that I have internalized his morals and values as well. Top that all off with the fact that my first job in the entertainment industry was literally working for DC Comics and it becomes impossible to ignore the guiding force that character has played in my life.
Crafting the Influence of Characters
My relationship with Superman is not all that unique. Millions of people have deep attachments with characters all around the world.
Most kids develop these kinds of relationships with characters they love. The chances are, that you or your kid currently have a character that truly speaks to you. My nephew is obsessed with Buzz Lightyear. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve seen the effect of these relationships. Anna and Else, Elmo, Batman, Cocomelon, Blippi, Scooby-Doo. In fact, Disney pays actors to become those characters at theme parks across the world because kids love seeing their favorite character come to life. Even the main character from the latest Pixar film, Turning Red, was shown having a parasocial relationship with members of a boy band. Many parents can fear the influence this kind of relationship with a character or celebrity might have in their child’s life – especially as those kids enter adolescence.
Let me tell you from first-hand experience, if a parent is involved, there is no need to fear. Stories and characters can be used as tools in a child’s life. A hammer in a kid’s hand without supervision can be dangerous, and so can the media they watch. But teach a child how to use a hammer and they can develop a skill that will benefit their lives forever. My exposure to Superman was nothing but positive because my parents used him to reinforce what they had already taught me. Superman was the hammer that was securing life lessons my parents were teaching me. It is my life’s mission to help kids and parents learn how to use the media they watch as a tool for good.
How I Want to be Super
I am now a content strategist for kids and family content at HBO Max. I have a direct influence over what kids watch. Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Harry Potter, Sesame Street, anime, and yes, even DC Comics. Realizing the power of character in a kid’s life is what made me go back to school to study media psychology. I felt it was only ethical for me to educate myself if parents around the world were going to trust me to curate the media their kids choose to watch. It is this passion that has led to me join the Cyber Civics team.
The ability to stream content has created more of a crossroads between entertainment and technology than ever. Libraries of seemingly endless amounts of content are in the palms of your hands and the tips of your fingers. Kids have more access to media than ever before. And with school, work, and play all being done through screens, how do you manage it all? It is my mission to educate about the power of stories and characters while creating a safe environment where parents can trust that their kids are being exposed to appropriate and positive content.
If we can’t control the quantity of media, then let’s ensure the quality.
Author: CJ Lindsey has worked with some of the biggest properties in entertainment and is an expert in content strategy, fan engagement, brand storytelling, and consumer behavior. He has led digital strategies for DC Comics, Cartoon Network, Sesame Street, Harry Potter, and others.
Alongside his work with existing properties, CJ also creates content, is a public speaker, a personal coach, an author, and an aspiring media psychologist.
CJ hopes to work with more brands, schools, and startups on building digital strategies that help individuals and businesses to optimize their use of media to accomplish both personal and professional goals.