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Fighting the Battles We Never Could: the Avengers and Post-September 11 American Political Identities


DOI: 10.1017/S1049096513001650

Hagley, Annika, and Michael Harrison. “Fighting the Battles We Never Could: the Avengers and Post-September 11 American Political Identities.” PS: Political Science & Politics 47.01 (2013): 120–124. Print.

p.120: The mass appeal of the superhero, as evidenced by this success, has never seemed more powerful than in the years since September 11, a day that floored the likes of Captain America, who wept amidst the rubble with Spider-Man. “Some things are beyond words. Beyond comprehension. Beyond forgiveness” (Straczynski, Romita, and Hanna 2001, 2–3). In this atmosphere of uncertainty, comic book writers struggle to deal with the realization that, when America needed its heroes the most, they could only stand among the wreckage of the smoldering twin towers with the rest of us and ask “why?” -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.120: The group culmination of the Marvel superhero films, The Avengers (which followed a series of individual lead-in films introducing its principal characters), was a particularly welldesigned expression of American political identity in the post September 11 era: each character represents a distinct identity or kind of behavior with which the United States has been struggling to reconcile itself while collectively representing the reactions of a nation to a direct, domestic attack. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.120: This renewed interest is also a revealing look at the psyche of a nation as it struggled with war, retribution, and its own constitutional and democratic imperatives. Numerous cultural critics have long appreciated the psychological catharsis that the “hero” myth provides people and, in the long days following America’s wounding, the country witnessed the manifestation of its pain, desire for revenge, struggles with its principles, and thirst for the use of its awesome military power -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.120: Iron Man, commonly understood to represent the military industrial complex, shows a newfound capacity to depersonalize war and is placed in counterpoint to Captain America, who represents traditional notions of patriotism and acceptance of authority. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.120: Having been frozen in an uncomplicated era when the enemy was clear, the fighting was up close, and the prize was the defeat of fascism in all its forms, Captain America is discursively tied to a period with a clearer delineation between “us” and “them.” -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.120: Throughout the film, the hostility between the two heroes speaks to the tension between the traditional, righteous protection of democracy and just war and the new, ill-defined kinds of warfare that test the nation’s devotion to civil liberties and human rights. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.121: In addition, Stark’s snooping points to the message that in this war (a proxy for the Global War on Terror) no one is playing by the rules of Jus ad bellum, and an organization such as S.H.I.E.L.D. (representing the department of homeland security, the CIA, and the government in general) requires external checks and balances. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.121: By the nature of their work, these kinds of people will always be outside both the legal and ethical norms that govern others. The moral confusion inherent in the role of espionage in the face of a “war” is revealed in a scene when, imprisoned, Loki spits viciously that Black Widow “lies and kills in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors, but they are part of you and, they will never go away.” Black Widow’s response to Loki’s goading is to reveal that she is haunted by the “red” in her ledger and would like a chance to atone for her past, a revelation which points to the ethical cost of waging a secret war to the individuals who serve in these clandestine capacities. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.123: The agency that brings these disparate superheroic forces together, S.H.I.E.L.D., itself stands in for the Department of Homeland Security. In a nod to the agency created in 2002 to combat terrorist threats on US soil, the film indicates that the acronym stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.123: n the movie, S.H.I.E.L.D. “hacks in” to satellite arrays to locate the errant Asgardian technology powering Loki’s army: “We’re sweeping every wirelessly accessible camera on the planet, cell phones, laptops....” -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.123: When an incensed Banner asks, “Captain America is on threat watch?” Black Widow calmly responds, “we all are,” signaling her uncomplicated acceptance of the relegation of civil liberties to a lower priority in the face of security breaches and the prevention of terrorist attacks. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.124: Fury’s words here echo the vision of the United States seeing itself as the only force capable of successfully battling global terrorism, but at the same time injects uncertainty into that future. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014

p.124: Through the interactions of the superheroes as they struggle to meld as a team, viewers gain insight as to the construction of the American polity. -- Highlighted apr 30, 2014