America is. . . .Mr Incredible?

I ran across a link to this article. Basically, the idea is that (1) the superhero is a uniquely American creation; and (2) Mr. Incredible (from the movie, The Incredibles), is a good metaphor for modern America.

Now, several people on a board discussing this are disagreeing with the first point. They point out that virtually every ancient culture had heroes with powers beyond those of normal peoples. These heroes often wore disguises, or could change shapes, and so had secret identities. They also (some of them, anyway), fought crime, changed the world, were faster than a speeding arrow, and got kittens out of trees. Although, to be fair, they wore furs, armor or other attire, instead of sensible Spandex.

I see their point, but I do not concede it. The difference between the superhero and the legendary heroes of old is that the modern hero risks their life not just for personal gain, nor for their family or tribe. They do it for total strangers, sometimes protecting a city, but just as often protecting their country or the world. Second, the mythic heroes were not "good" in the modern sense of the world - some killed wantonly, some were outright sadistic. Until the rise of the anti-hero, superheroes wore the white hats. They might cause harm to those around them, but indirectly, and felt compelled to make ammends after - so the moral tone is decidedly different.

I don't entirely agree with the "America is Mr. Incredible" metaphor, anyway. To my mind, Mr. Incredible is more characteristic of a silver or golden age hero - namely, that, if anything, he represents an ideal America. No, I think there might be a better heroic metaphor for modern America - I just haven't decided who it is yet.


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