Captain America in the news: Changing mediascapes and the appropriation of a superhero

  • Dittmer J
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Abstract

This paper considers the politics of superheroes, not through the representation of political issues in storylines but through the way in which those storylines are caught up by new audiences and thus rendered political. By considering three political 'events' of the last decade in which storylines from Captain America broke away from the page and became part of the larger public discourse, this paper examines the ways in which superhero narratives are caught up in broader media circuits constitutive of political discourse. Through these circuits superhero narratives are re-presented to much wider audiences, and in these circuits journalistic practices and media technologies produce new narratives of American politics. The media events analysed here are the 2002-2003 publication of Truth: Red, White, and Black, the 2007-2008 'Death of Captain America' storyline, and the 2010 narration of conservative Tea Party activists as racist. This paper concludes that the fragmenting mediascape makes it increasingly difficult for the producers of superhero tales to control the reception of their tales, with implications for the notion of the superhero as the symbol of social cohesion. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Author-supplied keywords

  • audience
  • consensus
  • fragmentation
  • media
  • nationalism

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Authors

  • Jason Dittmer

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