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Thinking about Journalism with Superman
Unformatted Document Text:  Thinking about Journalism with Superman 15 defeated and the Unity House team won the city championship, Planet editor Perry White praised the team for proving “that youngsters of different races and creeds can work and play together successfully—in the American way.” 84 By the time that phrase was familiarly ensconced in the opening of the George Reeves TV series a few years later, the “American way” had become identified less with tolerance and more with upholding conservative values during the cold war. 85 That in turn highlights the contradictory ways that we can think about the American way as it relates to Superman and the press. It can represent what has been called our “civic dogma” and “political catechism,” or what might also be termed our master mythology: “government by consent of the governed,” “human rights protected by government,” “the right to rebel when our rights are chronically violated,” and “the freedom of the individual to pursue his/her own destiny,” with journalism being a democratic force toward those ends. 86 The “American way” can also represent consumerism, ethnocentrism, and imperialism, with the press complicit in the same. Beyond that, the American way can invoke different conceptualizations of the hero as represented in national mythology as well as in journalism—that of the omnipotent savior versus that of the empowering fellow citizen. A critical perspective on Superman sees him as embodying what has been called “the American monomyth” in which a male superhero saves society by virtue of his “divine, redemptive powers.” The monomyth “imparts the relaxing feeling that society can actually be redeemed by anti-democratic means.” 87 Again, those means can include vigilantism; for example, several Smallville episodes depict Clark Kent, Chloe Sullivan, and others as working for “Watchtower,” a panopticon-like base for superheroes to track evildoers and dispatch justice as they see fit. Beyond that, Superman has been viewed as an icon of consumerism in that he is

Authors: Ehrlich, Matthew.
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Thinking about Journalism with Superman 15 
 
 
defeated and the Unity House team won the city championship, Planet editor Perry White 
praised the team for proving “that youngsters of different races and creeds can work and play 
together successfully—in the American way.”
84
 By the time that phrase was familiarly ensconced 
in the opening of the George Reeves TV series a few years later, the “American way” had 
become identified less with tolerance and more with upholding conservative values during the 
cold war.
85
 
 
That in turn highlights the contradictory ways that we can think about the American way 
as it relates to Superman and the press. It can represent what has been called our “civic dogma” 
and “political catechism,” or what might also be termed our master mythology: “government by 
consent of the governed,” “human rights protected by government,” “the right to rebel when our 
rights are chronically violated,” and “the freedom of the individual to pursue his/her own 
destiny,” with journalism being a democratic force toward those ends.
86
 The “American way” 
can also represent consumerism, ethnocentrism, and imperialism, with the press complicit in the 
same. Beyond that, the American way can invoke different conceptualizations of the hero as 
represented in national mythology as well as in journalism—that of the omnipotent savior versus 
that of the empowering fellow citizen. 
A critical perspective on Superman sees him as embodying what has been called “the 
American monomyth” in which a male superhero saves society by virtue of his “divine, 
redemptive powers.” The monomyth “imparts the relaxing feeling that society can actually be 
redeemed by anti-democratic means.”
87
 Again, those means can include vigilantism; for 
example, several Smallville episodes depict Clark Kent, Chloe Sullivan, and others as working 
for “Watchtower,” a panopticon-like base for superheroes to track evildoers and dispatch justice 
as they see fit. Beyond that, Superman has been viewed as an icon of consumerism in that he is 


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