Captain America

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Captain America isn't just any hero, writes Steven Attewell. As he explains, "Steve Rogers is my favorite superhero:"

Why? Because unlike other patriotism-themed characters, Steve Rogers doesn't represent a genericized America but rather a very specific time and place - 1930's New York City. We know he was born July 4, 1920 (not kidding about the 4th of July) to a working-class family of Irish Catholic immigrants who lived in New York's Lower East Side. This biographical detail has political meaning: given the era he was born in and his class and religious/ethnic background, there is no way in hell Steve Rogers didn't grow up as a Democrat, and a New Deal Democrat at that, complete with a picture of FDR on the wall.

Also, he "came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing" [and] "Then he became a fine arts student:"

And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the "New York Intellectuals" were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.

And this Steve Rogers, who's been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn't an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.

"The larger point here," he writes, "is that unlike other patriotic superheroes (like Superman, for example), Captain America is meant to represent the America of the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter, and the Second Bill of Rights - a particular progressive ideal." Just for giggles, here's the Jack Kirby cover of Captain America Comics #1, from March 1941:

20131030-captainamerica.jpg

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 30, 2013 3:02 PM.

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