Superhero Movie: The Modern American “God” Movement

Humans need heroes, especially Americans who have long shrouded in fear and gloom. For the United States, which lacks the myth of primitive heroes, in the return of the world’s mythological archetypes and the infiltration of contemporary American ideology, the United States has created a series of superhero films of the 20th century system, realizing the “creation” movement of modern society.

Superhero Movie: The Modern American "God" Movement

With the enthusiasm of “Avengers: Endgame”, the society once again broke the hot debate on the American superhero series. According to Reuters, China’s first-day box office reached US$107 million (US$) after the release of “Focus 4”, far exceeding the one-day box office of Chinese imported movies set by The Fate of the Furious 8 (70 million yuan). The record of the dollar). Since 2001, the American Film Company has produced about 80 live superhero movies, and only Marvel Comics has created more than 8,000 heroes. Why do Americans love to create heroes so much? What are the rules and principles of hero creation? This mammoth modern American “God-making” movement has a clear and distinct trajectory.

Superhero Movie: The Modern American "God" Movement

The so-called superhero movie is mainly adapted from the superhero series comics created by Marvel Comics and DC (Detective Comics). Characters in comics often have the special ability to transcend ordinary people, protect people and save the world through unusual feats and heroic acts. The popular characters such as Superman, Batman, Hulk, Iron Man, and Wonder Woman are typical representatives of superheroes. These images are behind the human desire for extraordinary ability. In the turbulent and dark days, people are given their hearts and hopes for the future.

Marvel and DC’s main comic characters

Author | Beijing News reporter Wu Xin Intern Zheng Wei

The world needs heroes,

Especially Americans

The American Superhero series of films can be sought after by the global audience across the age, country and ethnic divide. In addition to the artistic quality of the filming and the excellent business operation mode, the eternal search for heroes is the fundamental cornerstone of the world.

Superhero Movie: The Modern American "God" Movement

The word “hero” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “protection and service.” Almost every nation has its own heroic mythology, the Chinese have Pangu and Nüwa, the Greeks have Zeus and Odysseus, and the Norwegians have Odin and Niall (Njrd). )… However, apart from the religious mythology of the Indians, the young Americans never had their own local myths.

Joseph Campbell, an American archetype scholar, once said: “A society needs heroes because the times require a strong heroic image to condense the spirit of the times.” Through a comparison of heroic mythological texts around the world, published in 1949. The Hero with a Thousand Faces summed up the “Hero Journey” model, which was regarded as the standard by numerous Hollywood directors. “George Lucas” director of Star Wars once said that “Star Wars” is a modern myth based on Campbell’s philosophy. After being inspired and defeating the difficulties, the hero brings new experiences back to the ethnic group, metaphorizing the proletarian laws of human beings. Behind the condensed heroic deeds, people feel a powerful driving force, which gives comfort and insight into the dangers of the world, and it is clear that only heroes can resist everything. Human beings find spiritual comfort in the projection of heroes. It is through the shaping of hero images such as Batman and Superman that Americans have created their own Odysseus and Hercules.

Superhero Movie: The Modern American "God" Movement

Thousand Face Heroes

Joseph Campbell translated by Huang Weiping

Zhejiang People’s Publishing House (2016)

For the United States, although it has repeatedly claimed that it has no intention of becoming a new empire, after two world wars, the Cold War and the September 11th incident, the United States has become a de facto superpower. Historically, the United States established itself in war, consolidated in war, and expanded in war, but the growing power of the country has made Americans more uneasy. A best-selling book mentions the ten rules of American mythology. The first is “fear”. Fear is a primitive and natural state for the United States. In a world of crisis and threats, Americans have a heartfelt embarrassment for heroes. In different social stages, the American “creation” has a deep imprint of the times.

In 1938, the world was shrouded in the haze before World War II. The United States had just experienced the Great Depression, and people were eager to be saved. The first superhero in the modern sense, Superman, was born. The “S” on Superman’s chest represents “Hope” in his mother star comet, symbolizing human expectations of saving the world and pursuing justice. He has a moral compass that never fails and an endless desire to make the world more just and safe. .

Superhero Movie: The Modern American "God" Movement

Superman’s comic image evolution

If Superman helps readers adapt to the comprehensive social reforms in the United States, the emergence of another superhero, Captain America, prepares Americans for war. As a bystander of World War II (1940), the Americans were shocked by the threat of the German dictator Hitler, so a role that could “represent the integrity and willingness to fight for justice in the United States” came into being. On the cover of the first issue of Captain America, the fearless captain heavy boxed Hitler and condemned fascism as “the source of hatred and oppression, the tyranny and the evil that are sweeping the world.”

The Fantastic Four was born in the beginning of the American Apollo manned space program in the 1960s. They were originally four astronauts who suffered from ray-radiation variations in space navigation and have acquired superpowers since then. The 1960s was an era of technological advancement. The Iron Man, who relied on technology to have steel shirts, and the Hulk who was accidentally exposed by gamma rays, all reflected the fear and temptation that Americans could not control but were curious about.

It can be said that behind each superhero, more or less touches the chaos of American social history. The background color of the film is intertwined with the history of blood and tears of the civilian class and special groups. Spider-Man and Batman accused the chaotic and dangerous social security of the United States; the mutant X-Men warned of the discrimination, abuse and isolation of ethnic minorities in the United States. Especially after the September 11th incident, the superheroes used their super powers to save the world in a dangerous situation, which perfectly matched the social psychology of people’s desire for safety and comfort. The human subconsciousness heralds the call of the hero, in which the United States shows extreme enthusiasm and desire.

Typical regression of the prototype:

Mapping of Western mythology

Director Chen Guofu once commented, “We must think about the relationship between film and myth. Myths have a necessary role in people’s lives.” Myth is one of the most popular film subjects of Hollywood filmmakers. The cultural charm, the masculine beauty of men, the epic level of combat special effects and the perfect combination of Western heroism. In the face of complicated character shaping, drawing inspiration from mythological and religious archetypes is the secret and law of the superhero series of films.

Among the world mythological systems currently known, Nordic mythology has far-reaching influence in the Western world. Modern countless film and literature and literary themes begin with it. The Japanese manga “Saint Seiya”, the American TV series “The Game of Power”, and the Chinese novel “Dragon” are reflected. Among them, the dusk of the gods is a series of great disasters in the fables of Norse mythology. In the movie “Thhor: Ragnark”, Thor, who lost the hammer of Thunder, was imprisoned in the galaxy at the other end of the universe. In the attempt to return to Asgard to stop the great catastrophe of the dead god Hela. The corner of the villain Loki also bears the shadow of Norse mythology, but the mythical Loki is not the brother of Sol, but the brother of O’Ding, the father of Sol. A little different from the prototype, the film uses a happy ending that caters to the audience’s expectations.

“Raytheon 3: The Twilight of the Gods” poster

Ancient Greek mythology is familiar to everyone. The Olympus gods built by Zeus, Hera, Athena and other gods still shine in the Western world. In 2017, DC relied on Wonder Woman to compete with Marvel. The Amazon, the Olympus gods, and the son of Zeus, Ares, all found prototypes in Greek mythology. Only the mythical Ares looks handsome and strong, and the film has undergone a modest transformation. The protagonist of the movie “Aquaman”, the image of the son of Queen Atlantis, is also highly similar to the highly civilized Atlantis empire in the mythology.

In addition to directly drawing the heroic image and storyline in the mythical prototype, the process of “making God” contains a deeper prototype backtracking.

In Western classical mythology, Zeus promised Dionysos, the illegitimate son of Dionysos, to inherit the throne in the future. Hera was framed by the shackles, and the Titan shredded and swallowed Dionysus. (1), after Zeus returned, he killed the Titans with lightning, and took out the heart of the Bacchus from the ashes and sewed into the thighs (2), and finally regained his life. Recalling the beginning of the Iron Man series, the unrestrained and inherited tycoon of the wealthy arms dealer Tony Stark was ambushed by a terrorist organization after a weapon show (1), the terrorists will He was confined to the cave and forced another hostage – scientist Insson to serve as his assistant. In order to prevent the remaining shrapnel from entering the heart of Stark, Inson implanted an electromagnet ring (2) in his chest. After awakening, Stark and Inson secretly developed weapons, and the two eventually managed to escape. The process of Stark’s escape from the rebirth of the gods is very similar (the same number corresponds to a similar plot), and the changes that Stark experienced in the cave can be regarded as the ritual of the “Bacchus Festival”, only the profitable, disregarding human arsenal After the experience, the merchants completed the confirmation of the new identity and regained their body and mind. In modern superhero movies, character design achieves a typical return to mythological archetypes through deep symbolic symbols and ritual imitation.

Prototype misplacement and update:

Ideological penetration

The heroic mythology of the ancient times and the epic of the medieval knights are far away. People urgently need new heroic myths that embody the spirit of the times. At the same time as the mythical archetypes, modern superhero movies are constantly adjusting and shaping new “prototypes”, which is ultimately the injection of American ideology.

The key to American ideology is capitalism. “Capitalism as an ideology is defined as a belief that the value of success should be measured by material wealth.” In the movie, the romantic image of the poor is strengthened. The emotional recognition of the rich, the poor usually do the daydream of becoming a superhero. In Gotham City, the poor will not become poor because of the conspiracy of capitalism. On the contrary, they will be boosted by the rising profits of huge enterprises. In The Dark Knight Rises, the poor are not only physically dependent on the rich, but even mentally and psychologically whimsical. Superhero movies all suggest that people have a “golden rule” – capitalism may not be perfect, but at least the most perfect thing that can be done.

At the same time, the superhero movie deliberately weakens the role of the government in the plot setting. When the city encounters an accident, the government and the police always “slowly beat”. The police can’t effectively fight against all kinds of powerful villains, only superheroes can save the world. This is the embodiment of American conservatism. They advocate reducing the government’s constraints on society and safeguarding the people’s greater freedom. In the “Batman” series, the mayor of Gotham City is just a jealousy. He can’t control the political power, and he can only let the big chaebol Marx arbitrarily manipulate. The mainstream ideology of the United States represents the interests of the middle class and the big chaebol. From the X-Men: First Class, Lockheed can control government officials, Italian ambassadors, and even NATO. The military action can be seen.

The unforgettable 87th Academy Award nominee is known as the “whitest year” in history (nominating the best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress is white), racism The problem is a commonplace in the United States. Although the deep-rooted social inferiority has been criticized, it is still active in the film. In recent years, superhero movies have tried to obscure racism and invited many black actors to play roles. However, it is undeniable that the main superhero characters are almost all white. Other ethnic groups have not been able to become protagonists, and even have been portrayed as villains. Iron Man’s “dead rival” is an Asian Chinese. The black image is also facing an embarrassing situation in the superhero movie. Colonel Rhodes in Iron Man 3 puts on the steel shirt and becomes the assistant of Iron Man. It is the highest power of black people in superhero movies.

Colonel Rhodes in Iron Man 3

More significantly, superhero movies are full of symbolic American elements. Wearing a red cloak, blue clothes, a giant “S” in the chest, the red and blue colors are the symbol of the American flag. This is especially true for Captain America’s clothes and shields. The captain of the American Stars and Stripes Shield, whether from the name or the dress, is the first to associate the United States with the United States. Not only that, the Stars and Stripes that appear everywhere in X-Men and Iron Man, and the Statue of Liberty displayed under the panoramic rotating lens are undoubtedly symbols of the United States. This strong self-confidence in order to conceal inner fear seems to be announcing to the world that only the United States can save the world, and only the United States is the center of the world.

“Captain America” ​​movie image

The myths of each nation reflect the virtues cherished by their respective civilizations. Superheroes are actually mirror images of the Americans themselves. For the Greeks, virtue is wisdom, strength and honor. For Americans, independence is the best quality. Because of independence, a hero can show strength, perseverance, and courage in a grotesque and funny costume. These heroes act as carriers for the outside world to understand the United States. The United States can also use these images to explore, dissect, and ultimately understand its national character.

Taking the prototype as the key and infiltrating the values ​​of the self, this modern American “God-making Movement” is also very useful for China. For the time being, the film was laid off on the level of cultural hegemonism. In the global battle to develop and reconstruct myth resources, China appeared weak. However, the fact is that from the “Shan Hai Jing” to “Huainanzi”, from “Journey to the West” to “The Romance of the Gods”, China’s spiritual heritage is huge and distinctive, and we should no longer limit our eyes to a single such as Sun Wukong. The image should reflect on the American method of “making God” and create a Chinese hero with the characteristics of the times and able to convey the voice of the East.