Superheroes In American Culture

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Superheroes have remained some of the most popular figures throughout American culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. It seems we cannot go a year without a new Batman, X-Men, Superman, Iron man or Captain America movie coming out. But what is it about superheroes that hold America’s attention? Jeffrey Lang and Patrick Trimble argue in their article “What Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” that the reason superheroes have remained relevant is because of their connection to the American monomyth. Lang states that there is an overall monomyth, but also a distinctly American one that focuses on “a selfless hero emerging to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task” and that “his decisive victory restores the community” (Lang 158).…show more content…
By observing the things that popular superheroes stand for, it is possible to understand what the average American believes and values. This is also true because superheroes are a distinctly American phenomenon. Lang and Trimble say that “cultures choose heroes as an indication of their national character” and that earlier in history “America created monomythic heroes that best personified the way Americans wished to see themselves” (Lang 159). The superheroes of today are popular for the same reasons as the heroes of the past. They are popular because they are symbols for the things that America as a whole believes. For example, two of the most popular superheroes right now are Iron Man and Captain America. Both have appeared in multiple movies over the last five years. The man behind the Iron Man suit is Tony Stark, who is a wealthy celebrity that gained his money through weapon sales, but had a change of heart and now focuses on clean energy. He is very flashy and cocky, and is not afraid to show off his billions of dollars. This description has two major parallels in current American culture. The first is the obvious connection between the public’s obsession with Tony Stark and the public’s obsession with real celebrities like the Kardashian family. The public likes Tony Stark for the very same reasons they like any real life celebrity-…show more content…
Superheroes have mimicked the changes in values over time. However, the changes that the superheroes undergo are indicative of larger changes in the American monomyth. In their article, Lang and Trimble say that when Superman was created, he was “…the embodiment of all the values Americans cherished in the 1930s. For Superman, truth was not an abstract concept but the blueprint for action. Superman never lies. He represents individual dignity and moral integrity while believing in justice for all, rich and poor, strong and weak” (Lang 160). Superman was the ultimate symbol of what America valued at the time he was first published. This hero is in sharp contrast to another famous superhero, Spiderman, who was introduced in the 1960s in a time when America was in the midst of the Cold War and had a much bleaker outlook that directly following World War Two. Lang and Trimble argue that Spiderman is very different than Superman, in that “frequently Spiderman wishes that someone else would assume the role of being society’s protector, and talks about giving up the superhero role” (Lang 160). The article says that the reason for the difference in these two heroes has to do with the changes in the American monomyth between the 1930s and the 1960s. In the 30s in the midst of the depression, many people were suffering, but still believed in the future and their ability to make

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