Captain America's Empire


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Captain America's Empire

  1. 1. What is a geopolitical script? What are the Culture Wars? What is a territorial symbol? Define territorial differentiation. Define territorial bonding.
  2. 2. In “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” Louis Althusser defines the state apparatus as the method by which institutions such as religion, law, politics, education, the media, and the family propagate ideology. While individuals experience the world through their own consciousnesses, the full extent to which their views have been shaped by these institutions is often not fully acknowledged by the individual. In Regeneration Through Violence Richard Slotkin argues, “Myth describes a process, credible to its audience, by which knowledge is transformed into power; it provides a scenario or prescription for action, defining and limiting the possibilities for human response to the universe.” Myth making is simultaneously a psychological and social activity. It reconciles and units societies into a single national identity.
  3. 3. “Popular culture . . . is one of the ways in which people come to understand their position both within a larger collective identity and within an even broader geopolitical narrative, or script” (Dittmer 626). According to Paasi, territorial symbols are “abstract expressions of group solidarity embodying the actions of political, economic, and cultural institutions in the continual reproduction and legitimation of the system of practices that characterize the territorial unit concerned” (qtd. in Dittmer 627). “Captain America was created in 1940, prior to the entry of the United States into World War II, but after the war had been ongoing in Europe and East Asia for some time. Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) created the character in an attempt to tap into the patriotic consciousness that was awakening in America (stealing the concept and plagiarizing parts of the uniform from a rival company‟s character named „The Shield” (Dittmer 629). “Captain America‟s willingness to die for his country illustrates the essential centrality of the nation to him and, by extension, to every American reading the comic book. Support for the geopolitical objectives of American exceptionalism becomes an understood, tacit extension of citizenship” (Dittmer 630).
  4. 4. “In societies that are still in the process of achieving a sense of identity, the establishment of a normative, characteristic image of a group‟s character is a psychological necessity; and the simplest means of defining or expressing the sense of such a norm is by rejecting some other group whose character is deemed to be opposite” --Richard Slotkin Regeneration Through Violence •The Puritans divided mankind from God. The flesh was sinful. •The New World represented what could become a City on the Hill. •They projected their spiritual psyche onto the landscape and Native Americans. In their literature, both came to represent the darkness within a fallen and sinful man—temptations one must piously overcome through one‟s faith in God.
  5. 5. Genealogy of the American Hero: From God to the Pioneer to the Cowboy to the Superhero The “use of the Western metaphors can be summed up in the Truman Doctrine of containment, the idea that the frontier has to be defended against an alien culture bent upon the apocalyptic destruction of America.” --Peter Coogan Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre
  6. 6. Genealogy of the American Hero: From God to the Pioneer to the Cowboy to the Superhero “But now the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force has replaced the Truman Doctrine, and it seems more based on the superhero metaphor. In the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan the United States acted more in the line of a superhero than a Western sheriff. Saddam Hussein, Slobodon Milosovic, and Osama Bin Laden are portrayed in the media as power-mad, megolomanical supervillains who threaten the world and whom no one but America can stop” (Coogan 233).
  7. 7. Six Elements of the Captain America Complex (Common Among Christian and Jewish Zeal as well as Militant Jihad) • Each side views its anger as blessed by a deity. • Both sides depict the opposition as evil and considers any type of compromise an immoral form of appeasement. •Enemies are regarded as less than human, which rationalizes death tolls. • Each side believes their violence is redemptive while the opposing side‟s violence is senseless and unjust. Overcoming them is presented as a religious/political imperative. • This type of battle has a finite conclusion. As in the book of Revelations, its end will usher in a new era of peace. --Robert Jewett & John Shelton Lawrence Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism
  8. 8. “Popaganda: Superhero Comics and Propaganda in World War Two” Chris Murray FDR “[E]ncouraged official rhetoric in popular culture, thereby communicating political messages in a form that the American public were already predisposed to be receptive to. Advertisements, Hollywood films, animated cartoons, comics and so on all carried messages that supported the war effort. In this way the distinction between what was official discourse and what was popular entertainment became blurred during wartime.”
  9. 9. From Overt Propaganda to Covert Ideological State Apparatus A Visual Analysis of Action Comics # 101 Cover by Chris Murray • Atomic bomb symbolizes America‟s military strength, scientific ingenuity, and victory in WWII • Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American Way • Superman‟s agreeing to document this event implies that he approves of weapons of mass destruction • Therefore, nuclear weapons are presented as the American Way • However, his use of the camera likewise indicates his support for the freedom of the press
  10. 10. The Superhero as Social Critique, the Troubled and/or Anti-Establishment Superheroes Comic Book Nation Bradford Wright “[T]he very notion of a troubled and brooding superhero who could not always accomplish what he set out to do betrayed the limited scope of his superpowers--and suggested perhaps the limitations confronting the American superpower as well." "Superheroes like Spider-Man endorsed liberal solutions to social problems while rejecting the extreme and violent responses of both the left and the right . . . in an American society facing deepening political divisions, Marvel's superheroes worked to preserve what remained of the vital center."
  11. 11. The Superhero as Social Critique, the Troubled and/or Anti-Establishment Superheroes Comic Book Nation Bradford Wright According to a poll conducted by Esquire magazine in 1965, student radicals ranked Spider-Man and the Hulk alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons.
  12. 12. Superheroes at Ground Zero of the Culture Wars The Left The Right 9/11 as Blowback 9/11as a Clash of Civilizations
  13. 13. •Is the “War on Terror” an ideological “Clash of Civilizations” or a conflict over economic interests and exploitations? •Is America liberating or occupying the Middle East?