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American Cinema in the Shadow of 9/11$
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Terence McSweeney

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474413817

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474413817.001.0001

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Post-9/11 Power and Responsibility in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Post-9/11 Power and Responsibility in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

(p.269) Chapter 13 Post-9/11 Power and Responsibility in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
American Cinema in the Shadow of 9/11

Christine Muller

Edinburgh University Press

Moving to the science fiction genre, but remaining within the field of allegory, Chapter Thirteen sees Christine Muller scrutinise one of the most economically successful and culturally impactful genre variations to emerge from the American film industry in the last two decades, the renaissance of the superhero film. While it is an emergence which has been criticised by many (see Alan Moore's criticism of it as a "cultural catastrophe" in Flood, 2014), its impact has been so profound that to dismiss it seems imprudent, and, as Richard Gray and Betty Kaklamanidou observed in their The 21st Century Superhero Essays on Gender, Genre and Globalization in Film (2011), in many ways the 2000s were the 'decade of the superhero' (Gray and Kaklamanidou 1). Indeed, one can deal a great deal about a culture by its heroic mythology. Just as the ancient Greeks had tales of Hercules and Achilles, late nineteenth century America turned to mythologised stories of Wyatt Earp and Davy Crockett, in the twentieth century and into twenty-first, western culture found its heroic ideals embodied in comic-book heroes like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. In Muller's chapter, "Post-9/11 Power and Responsibility in the Marvel Cinematic Universe", she considers the relationship between the superhero film and the tumultuous post-9/11 era, exploring the ideological function of superhero narratives. Muller looks at how the Marvel Cinematic Universe often returned to trauma in a variety of forms in their films which frequently emerge not as bloated blockbusters empty of resonance, but texts which engage with the decade in deeply revealing ways (see DiPaolo and McSweeney). Far removed from the cartoonish fantasyscapes of Salkind era Superman (1977) or the increasingly extravagant excesses of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher's Batman years, the real world set Marvel Cinematic Universe films, beginning with Iron Man (2008), are deeply immersed in what we might call the ongoing 'War on Terror' narrative. While some writers have dismissed the genre as perpetuating hegemonic ideological systems (see Hassler-Forrest) Muller argues that they are able to, at times, offer more than the conservative world view they are primarily associated with. The defining events of the 'War on Terror' era thus become replayed in the MCU through the melodramatic spectacle of the superhero genre.

Keywords:   Science fiction, 9/11, Marvel, superhero films, War on Terror

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