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Though at one time barely considered worthy of the appellation of literature, scholars of popular culture have today established the thesis that comic books and other forms of media expression derived from these illustrated periodicals serve as a snapshot of the perspectives and assumptions prevalent at particular points in American history.
Certain characters and series evoke more reflection on certain aspects of culture and ideas than others.
For example, the Fantastic Four evoke reflection upon the loving but some times contentious relationship inside a family. The plight of the X-Men have been compared to assorted struggles for civil rights and social acceptance.
Likewise, the two characters that most epitomize what it means to be an American are none other than Superman and Captain America.
Interestingly, in recent interpretations of these characters, creators have done nearly everything in their artistic power to disassociate these characters from the nation as a whole.
For example, as almost as iconic as his bright red cape and the oversized “S”-shaped insignia on his costume is the credo summarizing his never-ending struggle for truth, justice and the American way.
However, the film “Superman Returns” poopooed those noble sentiments when Perry White instead uttered “Truth, justice, and ALL THAT STUFF.”
Given that Superman is from another planet and suppose to be the epitome of humanity (hence the name SUPERMAN), one might at least understand that the renowned Kryptonian might want to remain somewhat aloof from taking sides in the common conflicts plaguing the world and instead focus on those threats far beyond powers and abilities of mortal men.
A character named “Captain America” doesn’t have such a luxury.
Even if Captain America disagrees with a policy of the United States government at any particular time such as in the case of the Marvel Civil War where a law was passed requiring costumed adventurers to publicly reveal their secret identities, the character must be identified with those values upon which the nation’s foundation rests and which true heroes must call institutions back to.
If one if going to rake in a fortune off of a character with a name like Captain America, the least you can do is not to view the word “America” in the same category as the vilest of profanities.
However, producers allowed the option of dropping the name Captain America from the title in overseas markets.
This is the equivalent of not wanting to call Superman “Superman” because part of the name offends feminists or because the prefix “super” offends hyper-egalitarians and fanatic pluralists denying the existence of gradations of value.
The countries that were listed as taking up distributors on the offer included Russia, Ukraine, and South Korea.
Russia and Ukraine might be understandable.
After all, both of these countries were once part of the Soviet Union and the totalitarian tendency at the heart of Communism in that part of the world is likely not as dead as Americans have been led to believe.
South Korea is a different story.
Since the 1950’s, Americans have died and put their lives on the line to protect the lower half of that disputed peninsula.
If anything, South Korea ought to be at the front of the line pledging its support for Captain America being called “Captain America”.
Sophisticates might sneer down their noses at concern being expressed over a mere comic book character and movie.
However, it won’t be a laughing matter should those responsible for these forms of cultural expression undermine the perception of this nation as a shining city on a hill that is our last best chance on earth.
by Frederick Meekins