I like this observation and it plays out across a lot of conversations. In that, because of the success in exporting US entertainment, the US ideals are known widely, much to the irritation of US politicians, who don’t want them used against them.
It is and it isn’t, I think. I take the point that these values are pretty universal, and meaningful for everyone. But at the same time the two characters are closely tied to America - Superman as the ultimate American immigrant story who stands up for ‘the American way’, and Cap who literally wears the flag and has the country in his name.
If you ignore that, you lose an aspect of the characters, I think.
To a degree but those standards of the country 250 odd years ago have been pretty universally adopted, at least by progressive thinkers, and we look at the ideals and not the specifics like civil rights issues or the fate of Native Americans.
So it was noted in one of the adaptations they cut out before 'the American way" comes into the mantra but I’m not sure that dilutes it much, we know what it means. It’s the ideals of democracy and meritocracy even if the reality does not match up to it. Truth be told it never has and never will.
If you match up to them, your ideals might be shooting too low.
I agree with most of this. The tribute shorts are fairly awful. People complained about Nick Spencer’s Cap—making him evil to supposedly mirror Trump’s America. But then Mark Waid came in and did the ultra-wholesome take that I found to be much worse (two issues in).
I do think Superman is more distinctly “American” in that he’s ingrained in the whole immigration, reinvention, assimilation narrative that is pretty much the America narrative, as David alludes to.
Captain America is really not America specific at all, although I like the idealistic read, that he was created and continues to serve as an ideal for what the country could be and not a barometer for what it is.
Both Superman and Cap are products of an era where America leaned a little more socialist, where people lifted each other up and cared about each other to an extent that people don’t anymore. That’s really the “American” part of them that is dated.
If you had to name 4 American icon characters you’d say Uncle Sam, Mickey Mouse, John Wayne and Superman. Before Batman, Spider-Man or Captain America. I can’t think of anyone else who’d go ahead of those 4. He is to the US what Sherlock Holmes is to the UK.
John Wayne seems to be the gold standard.
Which would shock the bejayzuz out of young Marion Morrison!
It’s become it’s own lazy meme. I really understand the idea and that idealistic characters are valuable but it hit me with that Action 1000 story where there’s a tribute to Superman and he’s too bashful and busy to accept it but in the end reluctantly does after saving everyone.
Initially that kind of tale was a reaction to the cynical times but now it just seems stuff you can churn out in your sleep. Hit emotional beat A and job done.
You can do that kind of story well but I don’t think they really are doing them well and are generally being applauded for just doing them.
Which is why I really hate what they did to Pa Kent in Man of Steel. For me, it broke part of the character’s core.
A Superman movie, every 2-3 years, can afford to keep the character idealistic and inspirational.
But what would probably happen is that we’d get that once, maybe twice, and then someone at Warners would say, “We need to do something different!”
And I really don’t think they’d have to. They would need good writers and directors to keep telling idealistic and inspirational stories well though.
Warner’s havent got movie Superman right in a generation. Yet someone understands him as cartoon Superman seems to be just fine.
I think Superman is the most recognized character in the world. Either Supes or Mickey Mouse, though I’d argue that Superman is more visible.
I am interested by John Wayne being on your list. He’s an interesting “icon” in that, while he was an actor, his entire career was essentially playing an idealized version of himself. I would, maybe, put Elvis above John Wayne.
I also wonder if, one hundred years from now, anyone will remember John Wayne or Elvis, or if they’ll just become historical footnotes. Same with Stephen King novels, Harry Potter, Star Wars, James Bond, Tolkien’s legendarium, and other things hat are well-known now. Superman and Mickey Mouse have crossed generations and continue to live on, as have Dracula and Frankenstein.
Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha would have words with you
I was going for fictional people, so cowboy John Wayne who’s as American as it gets. Real people would be a different list.
Elvis has already crossed over. Once people started reporting “sightings” of him it was a sign that he’d joined a different group, one that not even other celebrities like Marlene Dietrich or James Dean did. They became heritage brands eventually, but Elvis, despite being a period figure, remains part of mainstream pop culture, easily understood by anyone.
He’s not as famous as Mickey Mouse or Superman, but maybe only a little behind Sherlock Holmes.
I think this might be our age showing. I don’t get the sense that Wayne is as well known as he was in our youth. If anything Eastwood has probably surplanted him as the international iconic image of the cowboy.
Superman has to inspire. I think his aim is to help humanity a step up. Krypton’s destruction is a warning where the world will end up if we fail as a species and that is what he has to stop humanity from doing. Basically his alien self is a tragic reminder of the hubris of Krypton. He is a link between humanity and a higher, more godlike world of epic conflict and absolute morality. In that sense he is like spacejesus, as Jim said.
He is more human than Kryptonian I guess, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Kryptonians look like humans, they act like humans and most of the time they even speak English. Superman’s psychology is entirely human, but a bit more idealized than it would be for common people.
Oh I’d absolutely agree. I think internationally Wayne is better know because all his movies are on constant reruns, but Eastwood is near his equal as a substitute. Essentially the cowboy character is that icon that’s essentially American. And why I loved Brokeback Mountain in that it was still a cowboy but a 21st century modernized version.
Snyder’s Supes was fine… people are just too picky about it…