From the Superman of comic books to Hollywood's big screen action stars, Americans have long enjoyed a love affair with the "superhero." In this engaging volume, Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence explore the psychological and spiritual roots of the superhero myth and its deleterious effect on America's democratic vision.
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. 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.