The age of the supermen : fascism, democracy and the perception of the heroic in the mass media, 1914-1945 / by Kevin Kreiner
Includes bibliographical references (p. 193-222)
- External Link
Electronic version from ProQuest
The middle years of the twentieth century saw the rise of a cult of heroic activity that was encouraged by political extremists of both the left and right. However, the strongman hero was not limited to fascist, communist, or totalitarian nations, at least in fiction. This dissertation examines the connections between heroes depicted in media in the across the democratic versus totalitarian divide that contemporaries saw the world divided into.Particular emphasis is given to the superhero. A new genre, invented during the 1930's, the superhero was immensely popular only in the United States. Superheroes were also accused of promoting totalitarianism, despite their poor reception in actual totalitarian states. Using methods drawn from folklore studies and audience reception studies, I argue that the superhero was neither a response to totalitarianism, nor a reflection of it, but rather reflected a political culture firmly committed to liberalism, capitalism and democracy; a culture relatively immunized against the rise of a dictatorship.This dissertation also includes sections on how cowboys, detectives, and aviators were portrayed across the western world. Variations in the portrayals of these types of heroes are linked to the nations they occur in. I examine the ideas of the frontier, reading and deduction, and flying to see how they were depicted in fiction aimed at audiences in states that became totalitarian, those that entertained significant totalitarian movements, and those that did not.This dissertation is written from the point of view that products of the mass media are compromises between two unequal sets of partners. The producers of mass media are a limited set of people who exercise power over what is produced, while the consumers can only accept or reject such material. Still, what large numbers of users accept or reject can be very important in re-creating the mindset of people in that first age of mass media.
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