Posts Tagged ‘Captain America’

I grew up in a household of cartoons. My father, a super hero fanatic, raised my sister and I on the greats. Even though I have grown up with Superman, Batman, Captain America, the Avengers and so many more, I never really knew the importance. Reading “What Makes Superman so Darned American” enlightened my mind. Now that I think about it the myth of Superman reminds me of my first taste of the social and cultural implications of superheros. My father is obsessed with Captain America. When I was younger I can remember my father searching for the original Captain America comic books. What was special about these comic books was that Captain America was black. I believed my father about the origins of the superhero. To this day, I tell everyone that Captain America was originally black, and honestly I don’t know how true that is. All I know is that my father has the comic books to prove it!

What struck me the most in Gary Engle’s piece, “What Makes Superman so Darned American” was the Popular Culture Formula. Engles states, “The Popular Culture Formula” leads us to examine an artifact for important meaning and significance which might otherwise have been taken at face value. The Formula guides the student of popular culture to question and ponder many of the very things which unenlightened critics dismiss as “mindless entertainment” or “low art.” While reading the article I was shocked that Superman, the quintessential American male was Jewish. Then it occurred to me, I had already known that. But it had not occurred to me, until this exact moment where I learned that. This summer I watched PBS’s documentary series Superheros: A Never Ending Battle. Thinking about both the documentary and Engle’s article it’s like it is finally crystal clear why studying America’s icons is so important. Media, whether it be books, films, comics, photos or tv, really does define the point in history in which it originated. Superman is the perfect example. Shuster and Siegel created a super – human identity that is considered to be Jewish. They made his story one of the conflicts of assmilation and immigration because of their own problems. It is a perfect example of representing a historical era because in a time when the Jewish people were being attacked and demonized all over the world, here was this figure that represented the imagination and dreams of the oppressed group.When one thinks about Superman in this way, he becomes quite beautiful.

Superman is not just about saving the day and being the good guy, but about two boys’, and as a whole, a group’s dream of being accepted. What is also fascinating about not only Superman but also other superheros and popular figures is this ability to comment on current social issues. During the Vietnam war, comic book artists used their character to try to bring the conversation about the war to the masses. It was political commentary at its best – commentary for the betterment of a nation. I believe people with direct communication to everyday people through media should be using their power to enlighten the masses. So in this light, just as the PBS documentary suggests, the battle never ends. Superheros will always be needed to start conversations about popular culture, social issues and the possible contradiction between our idealized identity and our real identity during a specific era.


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Children are first introduced to superman as children when they were given his toys, read his comics, wore t-shirts with him on them, or even slept in a bed with his covers on. Superman is not the only superhero that is popular; Captain America, Batman, Hulk, Spiderman or Ironman are equally as popular. They all share the same ideals; fighting for justice and against tyranny. However, Superman stands out ‘among the host of comic book characters (Batman is a good example) for whom the superhero role is like a mask assumed when needed, a costume worn over their real identities as normal Americans.’[1]

While there are changes made to his stories, the core remains the same: Superman is from the planet Krypton and was rocketed to earth when his planet exploded.  He landed near Smallville, where he was found and adopted by Jonathon and Martha Kent, becoming Clarke Kent. He goes on to become Superman saving not just America, but the world, from evil and harm. This is a story that many mid-20th century immigrants could have identified with as they too wanted to make their mark in their new home. For many Americans his immigrant roots are something that they could relate to as ‘all Americans have an immediate sense of their origins elsewhere. No nation on Earth has so deeply embedded in its social consciousness the imagery of passage from one social identity to another’.[2] Superman was a triumphant individual who succeeded when he arrived at the New World. In mid-20th century America, it was a man’s role to find a job and bring the money home for his family; that was the realistic, day-to-day struggle that the immigrants of America faced. However, the story of superman gave them a feeling of hope; as a fellow immigrant was able to succeed.

Another issued faced by men of med-20th century was to find a wife, and have a family. Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane gives another example of masculinity as he is able to get the woman of his dreams. Thus, encouraging other men to find their own girlfriend/wife. Superman screams masculine as he is tall, dark and handsome; let’s not forget strong. Strength is a classic masculine trait that many men strive for, often spending hours at the gym to gain muscles that equal those of superman. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman; ‘eventually, they carved out a character that embodied their adolescent frustrations, served as a mouthpiece for the oppressed, and became an American Icon.’[3] Thus superman was everything they wanted to be, and soon became who every man wanted to be.







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Captain America Burger Bar

I think this is a representation of some of the consumer culture in America, and how it reflects within the UK. I think it propagates the myth of America being associated with burgers, and implicitly obesity and fast food.

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Captain America?

ImageHi all, felt I should share this photo with you as I found it quite interesting. This photo attacks gender stereotypes head on and does a great job at defeating them. The image portrays a women in the captain America outfit against a background of destruction , this confronts gender stereotypes of female timidness or innocence in the face of dangerous, this is further by the cuts and bruises on her body, which we assume comes from combat.

The image is from this Tumblr account: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/female%20captain%20america

The account also has a large number of superheroes portray by females as alternatives.

Ii believe it is a very interesting topic especially as recently, the ban on women in combat roles was lifted in the US.

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This is a striking image from the Captain America comic, 1954. The title of the image is “Captain America… Commie Samasher”. This is particularly striking as this is such a renowned comic yet it uses the derogatory term ‘commie’ in it’s title and also shows the hero of the comic beating up a communist. It also contains a side caption which says “See Captain America Defy the communist hordes”. This shows just how strong anti-communist feeling was in America at the time as Captain America represents how ‘true Americans’ should feel about communism.

This image is also useful in relation to the freedom of speech aspect of our module. Foner describes how freedom of speech was not always a prominent factor in American society and the American feeling towards communism is another example of this. The image clearly shows how anti-communist Americans were and therefore communist ideas and views were looked down upon. 

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Captain America's In Norwich

For me, this American Diner seems to represent a unity of individuals. By this i mean, even in the United Kingdom, a restaurant depicting these values manages to work. Anyone can eat there, regardless of their race, religion, wealth etc. It is also really interesting that the restaurant is called Captain America, of whom we all know is seen as the American hero promoting American collectiveness and unity.
Therefore, to me this image represented America because as well as depicting fast food for which America are most famous for, it also presents a collectiveness and therefore a unity of culture. This is something that I believe us britons associate so well with americans.

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These two representations of America in Norwich particularly stuck out to me; they both tell of a similar kind of America, while having several differing undertones. The first, ‘Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven’ seems to represent a consumerist America, although not in the same way as places like McDonalds or Starbucks which are already established companies throughout the UK. ‘Hamburger Heaven’ is of a unique brand, which many British people may find as a positive change of pace in the face of the aforementioned sorts of brands we are accustomed to. The exterior is also striking in its use of neon lights and of course, Uncle Sam in the window; even if you don’t know what he specifically represents, you will immediately associate him with America. The neon lights in particular bring to mind American diners, the sort you would expect to find on the roadside, for example in certain portions of Route 66.

The second example, the superhero shirts (as well as the countless other pieces of merchandise sold at the Television and Movie Store) can also be seen to represent a consumerist America, but in addition, its love of superheroes. The logos of the superheroes, particularly ones such as Batman and Superman, make them instantly identifiable across generations. The last ten years or so have seen a revival of the superhero craze and this has most definitely been felt over the pond in the UK. The recent ‘Avengers: Assemble’ film has arguably marked the peak of said revival and this is well represented in the various merchandise. The fact that the t-shirts are displayed in the window goes to show how recognizable the superhero genre has become again over the last decade. It is also true that many of us grow up with these famous characters and icons firmly implanted into our heads, without really considering which country they originate from. It is easy to underestimate how much of our media is influenced by American creations and ideals. Of course, in the UK, we interpret the concept of heroes and what they stand for quite differently. Many of us don’t always consider how much they are portrayed as the living, breathing embodiment of the American way and the faces of justice.

Sam Coleman

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