The Myth Of The American Superhero

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Overview

From the Superman of comic books to Hollywood's big-screen action stars, Americans have long enjoyed a love affair with the superhero. In this engaging volume John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett explore the historical and spiritual roots of the superhero myth and its deleterious effect on Americas democratic vision.

Arguing that the superhero is the antidemocratic counterpart of the classical monomyth described by Joseph Campbell, the authors show that the American version ...

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Overview

From the Superman of comic books to Hollywood's big-screen action stars, Americans have long enjoyed a love affair with the superhero. In this engaging volume John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett explore the historical and spiritual roots of the superhero myth and its deleterious effect on Americas democratic vision.

Arguing that the superhero is the antidemocratic counterpart of the classical monomyth described by Joseph Campbell, the authors show that the American version of the monomyth derives from tales of redemption. In settings where institutions and elected leaders always fail, the American monomyth offers heroes who combine elements of the selfless servant with the lone, zealous crusader who destroys evil. Taking the law into their own hands, these unelected figures assume total power to rid the community of its enemies, thus comprising a distinctively American form of pop fascism.

Drawing widely from books, films, TV programs, video games, and places of superhero worship on the World Wide Web, the authors trace the development of the American superhero during the twentieth century and expose the mythic patterns behind the most successful elements of pop culture. Lawrence and Jewett challenge readers to reconsider the relationship of this myth to traditional religious and social values, and they show how, ultimately, these antidemocratic narratives gain the spiritual loyalties of their audiences, in the process inviting them to join in crusades against evil.

Finally, the authors pose this provocative question: Can we take a holiday from democracy in our lives of fantasy and entertainment while preserving our commitment to democratic institutions and waysof life?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802825735
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.88 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2005

    Simply brilliant

    This is an amazing piece of work, possibly for more reasons than the authors intended. I read it as a writer looking to learn more about the concept of the American superhero and it's impact on popular literature and film, and instead learned why America could be fooled into voting for a loose-cannon, damn-the-consequences cowboy like George W. Bush. We want swagger and confidence, and never consider what happens after the credits roll. Fantastic piece of work that gives an amazing insight into the uniquely American psyche. A must-read for people interested in American pop-culture and politics -- and why our mythic structure differs so completely and destructively from the standard myths more commonly explored by Joseph Campbell. I only give it 4 stars because it does become a bit repetitious. Still incredibly worthy.

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