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'Mr. Robot': Superheroes wear hoodies

Mr. Robot is easily one of the most engrossing, thought-provoking shows to air on television, especially during the summer season. The Rami Malek starrer has changed the game on how viewers and networks view summer television, the USA Network, and how to approach the oft discussed but never truly explored angst that technology brings to the 21st-century individual.

Another area in which Mr. Robot changes the game is in fashion and costuming. To be more specific, Elliot, who is the protagonist and “hero” of Mr. Robot, brings a different viewpoint to the role that clothing takes on when assuming a superheroic identity. If we go by Elliot’s example, the 21st-century hero doesn’t need any special garment to denote his superheroism. To be a superhero, all you need is a hoodie.

What’s interesting is that if you look at the attire of superheroes before and during World War II, the most important piece of clothing they have isn’t the costume. What truly defined the superheros of the past is how well they assimilated into regular civilian life. That assimilation often came in the form of a business suit or military dress uniform. If you wanted to be midcentury about it, a subtitle for Mr. Robot could very well be “The Man in the Dingy Black Hoodie,” since there are elements of 1950s assimilation anxiety in Elliot’s simple, nondescript gray outerwear.

That angst comes out of the 1940s feeling of superheroic can-do, when both fictional superheroes (like Superman) and real-life superheroes (like the soldiers in WWII) proudly wore suits or dress uniforms to distinguish themselves from the regular working Joe. Superman is most known for his large S, cape, and Spandex, but Superman’s real suit of armor is his standard gray or black suit with tie. Wearing his suit, he can be simply Clark Kent, unassuming newspaperman, and farmboy turned city dweller, saddled to a sophisticated Lois Lane, who doesn’t feel like babysitting the newbie reporter. But that unassuming suit is also Clark’s way of standing out amongst the crowd; to readers, wearing a suit like Clark’s probably feels like being one step closer to gaining access to a seemingly glamorous world of secret identities and double lives. Clark’s suit does grant him that special power of being within the system, yet apart from it.

Using suiting as a supehero cape began to wear thin, particularly when the military men came back from the war, disillusioned and confused as to what their identities would be now that they were once again regular civilians. This is when the ideals of the suit fall apart and give way to the ideas shown in 1950s entertainment like the book and film The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, whose main character, Tom Rath, puts on the suit of a businessman, but can’t reconcile his present office life with the life he had as a soldier. Between wartime memories and America’s pursuit of complete assimilation, many people began to question just who they were representing when they put on their uniforms. Mad Men is a great modern representation of that angst, with Don Draper portraying an even more extreme form of Tom Rath. In Draper’s case, his gray flannel suit acts as a costume to cover his inadequacies and inability to come to terms with himself as a person. The idea of the suit as the standard of superheroic ideals has given way to the democratization of clothing.

It could be said that two of the biggest turnabouts in superhero history come with the creations of Spider-Man and The X-Men. Up until that point, a superhero had to have some defining quality that made him or her qualify for the superhero title, such as an alien heritage or Amazonian strength. However, Peter Parker and the teenagers Professor X enlisted were like the kids who were reading about their lives, and like them, these superheroes wore what was popular; jeans, T-shirts, and hoodies. Once again, though, they were unique individuals wearing the clothes of the nondescript masses, but they were also distinctly more approachable than their mid-century counterparts. They could literally be anyone. It’s a provocative idea, since it gave the readers the sense that they could also be great just as their regular selves.

Mr. Robot‘s Elliot comes at a time in which both the angst of the 1950s and the casualness of a post-postmodernism have converged with the onset of advanced technology. His clothes reflect that conflict of ideas. He, like the men of the 1950s, has a uniform that we wear to work every day. It’s also black, showing how he wants to completely blend in and assimilate into the mindless world around him. Like Don Draper and Tom Rath, he wants to be what he believes society expects of him—a mindless drone whose only worry is Starbucks frappes and the latest smartphone update—but realizes he lacks the capacity (or will) to become something he feels is lesser than what he should be.

What some might consider his greatest weakness is also his greatest superpower. Like the superheroes of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, he can do more than assimilate—he can completely disappear, thanks to his uniform of choice being the unassuming hoodie and black jeans. No one would think that he, a techie at a cybersecurity firm, has blackmailed and sent countless people to jail in his off time—and is also behind one of the biggest hacking schemes of the century. No one would assume that he views himself as a superhero.

Elliot’s simple hoodie is something that turns the idea of a superhero completely on its head. Superhero costumes—and the superhero characters themselves—have always played with the idea of conformity versus individuality. But while before, a superhero’s civilian costume reveled in the feeling of assimilation, Elliot’s costume perverts the idea. In a world where people simultaneously want to stand out and be the same, Elliot uses the latter-day superhero tactic of subverting the indifference of the black hoodie, turning it into a shield against the mindless drones and a weapon against the powerful “one percent of the one percent”—those who wear suits.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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