The Myth of the American Superhero


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From the Superman of comic books to Hollywood's big screen action stars, Americans have long enjoyed a love affair with the "superhero. Arguing that the superhero is simply a distinct From the Superman of comic books to Hollywood's big screen action stars, Americans have long enjoyed a love affair with the "superhero. Arguing that the superhero is simply a distinctive form of the classical "monomyth" described by Joseph Campbell, the authors show that the American version of the monomyth derives from tales of redemption.

It secularizes the Judeo-Christian drama, combining elements of the selfless servant with the lone, zealous crusader who destroys evil. Thus the supersaviors of pop culture are replacements for the Christ figure, whose credibility has been eroded by scientific rationalism. Drawing widely from books, film, and television, 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.

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Challenging readers to reconsider the relationship of this myth to traditional religious and social values, the authors show how, ultimately, these fantastic narratives both gain the spiritual loyalties of their audiences and, in the process, denigrate America's democratic institutions and ethos. Get A Copy.


  1. The Myth of the American Superhero : John Shelton Lawrence : !
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Published June 28th by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company first published June 1st More Details Original Title. Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews.

The Myth of the American Superhero

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Jan 22, Douglas Wilson rated it liked it Shelves: church-and-culture. Feb 03, Matt Starr rated it liked it.

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As informative and studied as the authors are in their analysis of their selected works of American westerns and cinema entertainment, I was frustrated by the partisanship on their part. Oct 31, Benedict rated it it was amazing Shelves: political-science , social-topics , sociology. This is a fantastic book. It is fearless in approaching some of the stories we've put on pedestals I'll admit to a moment of personal horror that they took Star Wars down a peg or two , and calmly points out the tension between the deep values of a democracy and the images in our stories and films of superheroic loners who save the day, often disobeying orders and ignoring bureaucracies portrayed as slobbish or incompetent.

They collect the superheroic ideals and tropes and call it an "American This is a fantastic book. They collect the superheroic ideals and tropes and call it an "American Monomyth.


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  • Still, they raise the question of what small parts of the monomyth we might internalize? Chapter by chapter, the studies are a bit clunky, but over the course of the book, the reader builds up a very clear awareness of the sort of things Lawrence and Jewett are noticing and describing.

    There are several very interesting conversations about the role of women in the monomyth particularly as "Heidi" or "Mary Poppins" style redeemers , and the renunciation of sexuality the exclusion of female world views of nurture, etc.

    The closing chapter lands very powerfully, briefly and simply describing that the actual heroism in the September 11th attack did not involve invincible caped supermen, nor disobeying orders, but rather citizens doing their jobs, volunteering, losing their lives, and even voting on whether to take back the cockpit of one hijacked plane. The simple message is that whatever our entertainments, we must recall that they lift up a truly fictional account of how we can save and serve our world.

    So what's their problem with John Wayne?

    The Monomyth and the American Monomyth

    The news for Buffalo Bill fans isn't good, either. So where does that leave John Wayne? Perhaps Ford was suggesting something crucial. Tags: american community cowboys culture individual john wayne monomyth rick bonn super hero violence west westerns.

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    The Myth Of The American Superhero by John Shelton Lawrence

    Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Book Reviews. Courtesy of amazon. Comment policy : ESA represents a wide variety of understandings and practices surrounding our shared Christian faith.

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    The Myth of the American Superhero The Myth of the American Superhero
    The Myth of the American Superhero The Myth of the American Superhero
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    The Myth of the American Superhero The Myth of the American Superhero
    The Myth of the American Superhero The Myth of the American Superhero
    The Myth of the American Superhero

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