San Diego Mesa College Captain Americans Sense of Responsibility and Duty Essay

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ASSIGNMENT: How do superheroes reflect the cultural values important to our society today? In our current superheroes in film and TV today, we see the importance of a variety of cultural values, such as: • justice • freedom / independence • responsibility and duty • team building • multiculturalism / diversity • feminism / female strength • leadership • honor • friendship / family • materialism For this investigation, select ONE film, TV show, or comic book based on a superhero. In your paper, explain how the superhero(es) in the text reflect and illustrate ONE cultural value that is important to American society today. You may choose from the list above, or identify a different cultural value. To be more specific, using Superheroes Decoded: American Rebels and our discussion of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as a model, construct your own essay in which you create a clear thesis statement that shows your understanding of how a superhero in a film, TV show, or comic book demonstrates the importance of ONE specific American cultural value or belief in today’s society. INSTRUCTIONS: Your investigation into superheroes should be a direct response to the prompt outlined above. You essay should be in MLA format and style, including a Works Cited page; a minimum of 4-6 pages in length (1,500 words); and it should include at least 4 sources. You are required to use ONE film, TV show, or comic book as your primary source that represents a superhero and at least three secondary sources (outside research that might include the historical or biographical context for the text; critics of the film or TV show, etc). ***You may NOT use Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as your primary source since we will use the film as a model text. REQUIREMENTS: • • • 4-6 pages (at least 1,500 words) MLA format. 12-point font, Times New Roman. Works Cited Page A creative title that hints at the subject matter. • Indicate a clear focus in a well-written thesis statement that includes a focus on how the superhero reflects ONE cultural value. Your essay should be well-structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Concrete evidence properly cited and integrated. Include at least 4 sources (1 primary source and 3 secondary sources). The evidence should clearly support the topic sentence and the overall thesis statement. Each body paragraph should have at least 2-3 sources (primary source + 1 to 2 secondary sources) Provide a conclusion which states why your argument is significant • • • • • • • • Implement proper stylistic conventions to include: sentence variation, college-level vocabulary, complex sentence structure. Write the paper as if addressing a scholarly audience. Demonstrate thoughtful revision and editing/proofreading GOALS: This assignment will help students meet the following Student Learning Objectives, as stated on the course syllabus: • Utilize the writing process to produce complex, high-quality work. • Evaluate the validity and soundness of arguments and the evidence within them. • Synthesize ideas of two or more writers to create a broader understanding of an issue • Utilize critical reading strategies to pull meaning from complex texts. APPROVED FILM/TV LIST: The following is a list of films or TV shows you should consider; however, you are not restricted to the list. At the same time, if you choose a film or TV show that is not here (or a comic book), please run it by me for approval (send me an e-mail). I will not accept papers on films, TV shows, or a comic book not listed here if you do not run it by me first. When choosing a film, please make sure the focus of the film is on a superhero, and the movie is “current” (produced within the last 10 years). For summaries of these films, consult the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) found at www.imdb.com (Links to an external site.) . Aquaman The Avengers Avengers: Age of Ultron Avengers: Infinity War Avengers: End Game Black Widow Black Panther Captain America: The First Avenger Captain America: The Winter Soldier Captain America: Civil War Captain Marvel Dr. Strange Deadpool Once Upon a Deadpool Eternals Fantastic Four Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume II Iron Man Iron Man 2 Iron Man 3 Elektra Birds of Prey Big Hero 6 Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice Justice League Wonder Woman (2017) Wonder Woman 1984 The Dark Knight The Dark Knight Rises Joker (2019) Kick-Ass Shazam! Thor Thor: The Dark World Thor: Ragnarok Man of Steel Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Spider-Man: Homecoming Spider-Man: Far from Home X-Men: First Class X-Men: Days of Future Past X-Men: Apocalypse Dark Phoenix Logan The Watchmen (Movie) TV Shows Agent Carter (TV show) Daredevil (TV show) The Flash (TV show) Arrow (TV show) Marvel’s Agents of Shield (TV show) The Boys (TV Show) Daredevil (TV Show) Doom Patrol (TV Show) Jessica Jones (TV Show) Krypton (TV Show) Legion (TV Show) Luke Cage (TV Show) Shadow and Bone (TV Show) Supergirl (TV Show) Stargirl (TV Show) Superman and Lois (TV Show) The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TV Show) The Watchmen (TV Show) WandaVision (TV Show) Last Name 1 Student Name Professor English 124 Fall 2020 “Anyone Can Wear the Mask:” Diversity & Multiculturalism in America Multifaceted diversity is woven into the fabric of American society. From its inception to its present, America has always been a country of diverse people living in a diverse land. As such, multiculturalism and diversity are not simply modern American values: they are American realities of our past and present. While the variety and texture of American land -- its mountains, prairies, and “oceans white with foam” -- are celebrated as evidence of the country’s geographic beauty, the diverse demographics of this country have not always been valued. In recent decades, however, there have been shifts in society and popular culture to recognize and embrace diversity as a strength and source of pride. A recent example of this is the 2018 film ​Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse​ whose lead character, Miles Morales, is a Black-Latino youth. By featuring a biracial teenage boy who becomes a superhero in his own unique context of diversity, ​Into the Spider-Verse​ celebrates America’s reality of multiculturalism and intersectional identity and reflects a growing recognition of and appreciation for the beauty and strength of this diversity. Superheroes are excellent sites for cultural analysis, for they reflect the realities and values of the societies that create them. This argument for interpreting literary characters as cultural embodiments is not unique or new in literary criticism and has been cogently expounded by Jeffrey Jerome Cogen, author and Dean of the Humanities at Arizona State University, in his book ​Monster Theory: Reading Culture​. Cohen posits that an analysis of monster figures will Last Name 2 reveal something of the time, place, and culture in which these monsters were born. A monster is, therefore, a cultural body -- the fleshly, or ghostly, form of a community’s “fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy” (4). Thus, the shape, form, and character of a monster are not arbitrary, but rather they mirror the realities, fears, and concerns of a particular people and place. Cohen explains, “the monster is born… as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment—of a time, a feeling, and a place” (4). Cohen’s monster theory, specifically his thesis of cultural embodiment, provides a critical lens through which iconic characters in culture can be viewed. While specific to monsters, Cohen’s thesis is also relevant and applicable to their antithesis: heroes and superheroes. ​Although the story arc of hero tales often follows a consistent pattern, as noted by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his seminal book ​Hero with a Thousand Faces,​ the heroes and superheroes themselves are quite diverse. ​Like monsters, heroes and superheroes often reflect or reveal fears, hopes, concerns, or values of the people and culture that produced them. ​In the History Channel documentary, ​Superheroes Decoded​, it is observed that early American superheroes were created in the cultural contexts of despair and hardship that characterized the first several decades of the twentieth century (“American Legends” 00:03:40). Superman, for example, embodied a classic “strong man” figure and appealed to Americans in the throes of the Great Depression which had stripped many of their economic and social power and strength. The 1960s produced Peter Parker’s Spiderman who captured the rebellious teenage spirit of the American Beat generation (“American Legends” 00:45:00). Decades later in the early 2000s, in a timely reflection of post 9/11 America, Christopher Nolan’s Batman films feature a villain who uses terror to destroy and a superhero who employs justified violence only to have it backfire and reveal the worst in himself (“American Legends” 1:54:00-1:56:00). Last Name 3 Although this is only a brief survey, these examples illustrate the connection that exists between American society and the various superheroes they create. If superheroes, then, can be viewed as an interpretive lens through which the communities and cultures that birthed them can be analyzed, what does Miles Morales in ​Into the Spider-Verse​ reveal about the realities and values of modern American society? ​Perhaps most clearly, Miles embodies the reality of multiculturalism and multi-faceted diversity in modern America. Miles is not easily identified by a single descriptor — he is Black, Hispanic, a Brooklynite, an honors student, a graffiti artist, the son of a police officer, and more. Miles exemplifies what early Black feminists identified as “intersectionality,” a term that Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, explains is “the idea that multiple identities can be constantly and simultaneously present within one person’s body” (Taylor). Throughout ​Into the Spider-Verse​, audiences watch Miles live this idea in reality. Within the film’s first four and a half minutes, Miles is seen listening to hip hop, drawing artwork, donning his school uniform, speaking Spanish, walking through his Brooklyn neighborhood, and — to his great embarrassment — being given a ride to school in his father’s police car. Significantly, Miles’ intersecting identity both challenges the “black vs. white” rhetoric that has long been embedded in American imagination and reflects the increasingly ubiquitous experience of intersectional diversity among American youth. Adrian Florido, an NPR national correspondent who covers race and identity in America, asserts that historic “black vs. white” rhetoric is becoming obsolete in light of a growing population of mixed Americans. In his article “An Emerging Entry In America's Multiracial Vocabulary: 'Blaxican,'” Florido writes: Last Name 4 [B]iracial identity in the United States has often been understood in terms of black and white. And to the extent that labels are helpful for quickly self-identifying, they don't always exist for the diversity of racial possibilities that mixed Americans increasingly want to see recognized. When it comes to mixed-race in America, Mexican-American author Richard Rodriguez has written, we rely on an “old vocabulary — black, white,” but, “we are no longer a black-white nation.” Florido notes that a lack of mixed-race language has in some places resulted in the creation of new vocabulary. For Black Mexicans living in Southern California, one such innovative term is “Blaxican” (Florido). While Miles is not Mexican — his mother is Puerto Rican — he too is a mix of ethnicities, communities, languages, cultures, and histories, and his character is a nod of recognition and a welcoming embrace to the many mixed American youth like him. This recognition and embrace of Miles’ identity in ​Into the Spider-Verse​ reflects a wider societal value of appreciating the unique strength of diversity. For much of U.S. history, however, accepting diversity has been seen as an impediment to assimilation, the supposed requisite for American identity and success. “American identity” has been variously defined throughout American history. But consistent throughout has been the repression of cultures, languages, beliefs, and customs deemed inferior by the majority culture. Sadly, difference and diversity have often been viewed as threats to individual success and social progress. A prime example of this notion was the longstanding government policy of sending Native American children to boarding schools to “kill the Indian and save the man,” as Captain Richard Pratt, the founder of Carlisle Indian Industrial School infamously stated in a 1892 speech (“Kill the Indian and Save the Man”). ​Into the Spider-Verse​ stands in stark contrast to this stringent insistence of Last Name 5 assimilation and cultural hierarchy, for in the film Miles’ identity and heritage are not obstacles to becoming a hero or hindrances for him to overcome. Significantly, Miles is not immediately transformed into a superhero the moment he is bitten by a radioactive spider. Rather, he becomes one ​within​ his own complex identity and context. “Miles Morales’ journey to becoming Spider-Man isn’t a straight line,” Richard Newby of ​The​ ​Hollywood Reporter​ writes, “It’s the strands of being black, Latino, a son, a nephew, an honors student, a graffiti artist, a hip-hop fan, all woven together to create the web that is the wide demographic of Spider-Man — a union of many of the best parts of humanity” (Newby). ​Into the Spider-Verse​ thus departs from the old American values of total assimilation which saw difference as dangerous. The film, however, celebrates another longstanding, characteristic American value: self-determination. Throughout the movie, Miles is on a journey of “becoming,” and he must reckon with the reality of his new powers and decide how he will respond. This journey is not taken alone, for Miles is accompanied along the way by a cadre of multiple other Spider-People (and Spider-Ham!) who mentor and encourage him. Furthermore, Miles has a loving family who play active roles in his development. Interestingly, this championing the value of “us” contrasts with the traditional individualism and solitude that often characterizes American superheroes. Even though his journey and transformation occur in community, Miles must ultimately take individual responsibility and action to become a hero in his own right. In a telling scene that comes after a period of dejection and failure, he determinedly dons his new Spiderman suit, pulls the mask over his face, and jumps off a skyscraper with gusto. With his own unique style, Miles swings between colossal buildings and slow-moving traffic to a booming soundtrack with the Last Name 6 lyrics, “Can’t stop me now!” With this act of determination, Miles becomes Spider-Man, a classic superhero within the web of his own unique individuality. Miles Morales is an American hero with a multifaceted identity. He is unique, but his story is commonplace in a country of diverse peoples and cultures. A celebration of biracial diversity and multiculturalism in one of America’s most beloved superheroes is significant and telling of a larger cultural shift, and the makers of this film appear to be hopeful that this shift might further empower those who have been on the margins of American society. “Anyone can wear the mask,” Miles tells viewers in the closing scene. “You could wear the mask. If you didn't know that before, I hope you do now.” Last Name 7 Works Cited “American Legends.” ​Superheroes Decoded​, episode 1, History Channel, 30 Apr. 2017. ​Amazon Prime Video,​ ​www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07256MB7Z/ref=atv_dp_sign_suc_3P​. Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” ​Monster Theory: Reading Culture,​ University of Minnesota Press, 1996, pp. 3–25. Florido, Adrian. “An Emerging Entry In America's Multiracial Vocabulary: 'Blaxican'.” ​NPR,​ 8 Mar. 2016, www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/03/08/467358961/an-emerging-entry-in-americas -multiracial-vocabulary-blaxican​. “‘Kill the Indian, and Save the Man’: Capt. Richard H. Pratt on the Education of Native Americans.” ​Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center​, carlisleindian.dickinson.edu/teach/kill-indian-and-save-man-capt-richard-h-pratt-educatio n-native-americans http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4929/ Newby, Richard. “'Into the Spider-Verse' and the Importance of a Biracial Spider-Man.” ​The Hollywood Reporter,​ MRC Media & Info, 12 Dec. 2018, www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/why-spider-man-spider-verse-is-important-fans -color-1168367​. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.​ Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rotham. Sony Pictures, 2018. Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. “Until Black Women Are Free, None of Us Will Be Free.” ​The New Yorker,​ 20 July 2020, Last Name 8 www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/until-black-women-are-free-none-of-us-will-b e-free.
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December 2, 2021
What Makes a Hero? Captain America's Sense of Responsibility and Duty
American superhero movies often depict their heroes as the perfect specimen. These
films encourage their audiences to believe that these specimens make an ultimate hero. Since
their personalities and characteristics make them the ultimate hero, mimicking them is a goal that
millions strive for under the assumption that doing so will make them a hero. These
characteristics often reflect cultural values and societal expectations and are common themes of
American movies, especially superhero films. This concept is especially true in the making of
Captain America. In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America is not just the
ultimate hero but the perfect American soldier willing to do what it takes to win World War II. In
the film -which derives from the wildly popular Marvel comics released during the Second
World War- Captain America is portrayed as an honest, noble, and extremely loyal individual
willing to put his life on the line for the sake of his country. An in-depth analysis of Captain
America's personality and characteristics concerning societal expectations offers tremendous
insight into his keen sense of responsibility and duty to his country, making him the perfect
superhero.
The making of the ultimate superhero -especially in America- requires that the hero is
depicted in a film or comic fits the societal expectations of a hero while maintaining the super
part of him that makes him out of this world. Since society places an exceptional amount of
attention on superheroes, they have become a staple in their culture (Russel 130). Stan Lee, the

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creator of the Marvel universe, suggests that the making of a superhero involves more than just a
story of the superhuman abilities of a bigger-than-life hero. Instead, a superhero must maintain
human attributes that allow an audience to connect to them on a more personal level (Lee). This
level of human connection allows for the presentation of societal and cultural values in a
superhero comic or a movie, making it a pivotal part of any film depicting a hero as the main
character. These heroes offer individuals of all ages a framework of the perfect human being to
turn to when examining their personalities and character flaws. Their stories of fantasy and
science fiction intertwine with realistic human attributes also offer an outlet for many, as these
stories, like many films, are often an escape from real-life problems.
In the film Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), the hero, Steven Rodgers -aka
Captain America- is a young man who attempts to join the army on numerous occasions until he
is finally accepted. Once he is accepted, he proves himself on various occasions to be the perfect
candidate to be transformed using a German doctor's super-soldier serum into the ultimate
American soldier. One particularly interesting scene where he proves himself involves a
conversation between Colonel Chester Phillips and Doctor Abraham Erskine discussing the
potential candidates to receive the serum. The Colonel, convinced that Rodgers is ...


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