America looks to superheroes for hope

Michelle Marchante/Assistant Opinion Director

Interview with Andrew Strycharski, the director of film studies at FIU


Superheroes appeared around the 1930s when America had just come out of the Great Depression and was about to enter World War II. Americans were low on morale, money and hope. Then, extraordinary heroes like Superman, characterized with America’s sense of democracy and justice, were born. Superman, along with other superheroes like Captain America became America’s mascots and unofficial soldiers in the war against the Nazi’s. They became symbols of what it meant to be American. As time went on and America once again became stabilized, these prominent superheroes receded from the spotlight and became a niche genre. Yet, in these past couple of years, superheroes have once again entered the spotlight, as the amount of Marvel movies and DC TV shows demonstrate, but why?

According to Andrew Strycharski, the director of film studies at FIU, there are a variety of ways film interacts with society, such as helping people escape social reality, acting as a doorway to channel society’s general mood or to directly comment on it.

“Look at movies [during] World War II. [Before America enters the war], a lot of American movies try their best to ignore everything that’s happening in the rest of the world and instead present an isolated happy view of American society. After America enters [the war], Hollywood becomes part of [the] war production and starts cranking out patriotic stuff,” Strycharski said to Student Media.

When it comes to the reemergence of superheroes, particularly Captain America, Strycharski sees the superhero movement as an attempt to recapture the feeling from World War II where Americans felt that they were “the good guys fighting for the right against threatening forces.”

“The external threats the U.S. face have really changed over time and… when the Soviet Union crumbled…there was this feeling that there was no one in the rest of the world who was a competitor or a threat to the United States in terms of military power so perhaps that feeling of superiority is something the people have begun to lose faith in again,” Strycharski said.

While Strycharski doesn’t see any present day external threats that are at any sort of level comparable to what we faced during the days of “mutually assured destruction between the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” he can see similarities.

“Historically, the similarities are very thin but in a kind of cultural imagination, I can see that… Americans today feel a threat that they didn’t feel in the very recent past. A generation of people have grown up without a sense of external threat and are now experiencing that sense of external threat for the first time…

“[I]t’s probably significant that you’re talking about a generation that’s grown up with a feel that there was no more Russia, no more Nazi Germany, no sense of here are the people who threatened our existence and are now perhaps feeling a sense of it,” Strycharski said.

During the first season finale of CBS’s show “Supergirl” that aired on Monday, April 19, Supergirl, played by Melissa Benoist, spoke to the brainwashed citizens of National City through a live broadcasted speech. Taken out of context, this speech could be meant for us.

“We have been attacked. Mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, children, everyone, suddenly stopped by a force of evil as great as this world has ever known. Your attacker has sought to take your free will, your individuality, your spirit.

“Everything that makes you who you are. When facing an attack like this, it’s easy to feel hopeless. We retreat, we lose our strength, lose our self,” Supergirl said.

America is in crisis. Our country is financially unstable and in these past couple of years, we’ve suffered the possibility of entering a depression. Our country is being threatened by terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, we’re watching North Korea test nuclear missiles no doubt meant to terrorize us and we’re watching China build a military base in neutral waters.

We’re not just suffering on the national level but also locally. Unemployment rates in America are still high and as students, we’re terrorized of graduating and not having a job waiting for us because as we know, getting a bachelor’s doesn’t automatically guarantee you a job as it used to before; now many jobs require masters and the competition we’re facing is intense.

This is why the superhero movement has been sparked again. We’re unsure of our future, personally and as a nation and just like the past generation, we looked to superheroes for hope that our nation, our America is not lost, we’re looking to them again.

This is why Supergirl’s speech is so important, so central to us and why it can hit home.

“[N]ow, in each and every one of you, there is a light, a spirit, that cannot be snuffed out. That won’t give up. I need your help again. I need you to hope. Hope. That you will remember that you can all be heroes. Hope. That when faced with an enemy determined to destroy your spirit, you will fight back and thrive. Hope,” Supergirl said.

America is not lost. We’re not lost. Just like superheroes fall down and get back up, we will rise above everything. America is and shall always be America, even if we don’t see it like that right now. You just need to have hope.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Image courtesy of Flickr:

About the Author

Michelle Marchante
Michelle Marchante is the 2018-2019 Editor-in-Chief of PantherNOW. Majoring in broadcast journalism, she lives and breathes web, print, radio and TV news 24/7. You can connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM

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