Superman; The Mythic Representation Of Cultural Reality Shifts In Truth, Justice And The American Way

2196 words - 9 pages

The mythology of Superman is a paradigm that embodies the cultural reality of the era; constructed around an archetype of ideology, fantasies of human spiritual ambiguity, a religious messiah, and a semiotic representation of modernity. In further study, Superman can be identified to have specifically changed to adhere to American culture in three distinctive periods; midst the Great Depression and WWII, post WWII and finally the socially progressive change of the Vietnam period. In each chapter Superman was re-imagined to meet the definition of the period, a tool of propaganda over that of entertainment. Currently, America is entering a new phase of cultural shift, and thus Superman will be redefined to represent the ideologies of truth, justice, and the American way of that required era. Yet, the mere surface mythology of Superman has applications to cultural ideologies, questions of human freedom, dreams in a Freudian nature, and the complex relation of fantasy and reality which required introduction before in-depth research.
Superman's representation of cultural ideology is that of 'the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas', the Marxist interpretation of material production and mental production (Karl Marx, 1932, pp. 7-8). Superman as title implies that he is "better" than just man; thus providing godlike qualities to a hero allows the edification of an icon that transcends above diversity. Subsequently, Superman embodies a civil religion of American ideals in which all can identity. Fostering qualities of a populist hero, Superman is a ideological symbol of the American ideology against the myth of aristocracy; the principle of moral quality being hereditary. Superman's identification with a lesser people is a metaphor for the ideals of the common man, yet also a fundamental form of control. In comparison to other popular vigilante heroes such as Batman, Superman does not seek truth and justice in an "un-American" way, he follows the rules, laws and orders of the American government as a model conforming citizen. Quickly, the ideals of common man being important, and greatest being achieved through work not birth are inverted; as Superman becomes an example that all yield to the power of the ruling class, even the most powerful being in the universe. This latent illusion of vigilante action being elitist, aristocratic and borderline fascist, is even further with the foes of Superman. Figures like Brainiac, Darkseid and Lex Luther are symbolic of an authoritarian and dominating form of power, Superman is literally fighting for the American ideal of freedom against the fascist regimes of arch-enemies obsessed with hierarchical power and aristocratic supremacy. Even to further analyse Superman with the constructs of Marxist cultural ideology, the hero is obsessed with preserving an American status quo, the ideals of truth and justice he stands for are not that of progressive action towards the social conditions that...

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