The Superhero and the American Myth

America is a relatively young country, young, at least in terms of most other civilizations in the world. A mere two and a half centuries old compared to the thousands of years that Greece and Egypt have existed, America is like the proverbial college student who think he’s so much wiser and more knowledgable than those dusty old professors who think they know better then he does about the world. The relative young age of America, combined with its nature as a melting pot of culture, a Borg like assimilation and combination of the cultures and tastes and mythologies of all of the different immigrants and peoples that have traveled to America in its short lifespan, America doesn’t have a myth to call its own. Greece had Zeus and Poseidon and Scandinavia has Odin and Thor and Israel had God and Jesus Christ and David and Goliath. Folk heroes and gods exist and permeate the culture of these regions, and while America has the cowboy and Paul Bunyon and some other folk tales, they aren’t myths that have completely stood the test of time. There has been something of an exception to that rule, however: the superhero.

The first superhero appeared in 1938 in the very first issue of Action Comics, a monthly comic strip magazine published by National Allied Publications. The name that the two young men who had created the character, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, came up with for this fictional man who could lift cars over his head and leap tall buildings in a single bound was a simple one. They called him Superman. The next superhero to appear did so in 1939 in the 27th issue of Detective Comics, another monthly book also published by National Allied Publications, who would later change their name to DC Comics because of the success of the book. This hero was simply a man inspired by the pulp books of the day and blended with the cape and costume of Superman. Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the creators of the character, decided on the bat as it’s totem animal. Soon, the Batman would be swinging across the acid yellow skies of Gotham grabbing gangsters by the throat and striking fear into the hearts of the criminals in Gotham City.

For now, let’s just focus on these two heroes, the first two of the superheroes and the two extremes within the now bursting pantheon of characters that include The Amazing Spider-Man, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and Wonder Woman. If you didn’t recognize half of those names, even for the most hardcore of comic book readers some of them can be hard to keep straight. The other reason I’ve chosen to focus on these two is simple: they’re easily the most well known of the superheroes. Now, on one hand you have the Superman, a big bright and colorful older brother from another planet how has come to earth to live among us as the unassuming Clark Kent and fight for Truth, Justice, and The American Way, all while wearing the country’s colors. Then you have the Batman, the alter ego for Bruce Wayne, the millionaire playboy with fourteen cars and ten different women at his beck and call who goes out into the dark and the night and sets the world right with his fists and intellect.

From a story perspective, these two characters could not be more different. Superman, while he did lose his entire people when his home planet of Krypton was destroyed, grew up in the corn fields of Kansas and was raised by two kindly farmers who found him in the side of the road and decided to raise him to adulthood. Until recently, they had even been alive in the timeline of the comics and the now adult Clark Kent, while living in the thriving city of Metropolis as a journalist for the Daily Planet newspaper, would visit them regularly for advice and to help his Ma and Pa with their farm. He’s accepted the world over as a hero. The Batman, however, was thrown into a life of fear and anger when his parents were gunned down in an alley outside of a theater by a mugger. Bruce Wayne would then go on to be raised by the family butler, Alfred, and would forgo a childhood in favor of devoting his life to ridding the world of the evil that took his parents’ lives. He trained himself to be the perfect human specimen and used his vast wealth to build the tools needed to wage his one man war on crime, to turn himself into a monster of shadow and hunt criminals who were what he described as a “superstitious and cowardly lot”. He is appreciated by the police in Gotham but also feared and, in some cases, shunned as a dangerous vigilante.

These two characters tap directly into two very important parts of the American psyche. Bruce Wayne is the wealthy self made man that ostensibly is the epitome of the American dream. He does whatever he wants because he can afford to, both in his public life as Bruce Wayne and in his private life as the Batman. He’s the person that everyone in America, or at least those that buy into the idea of the American dream, strives to be. Superman is the kind of godlike figure every one wishes they could be. He is the proverbial big brother who is always stronger than those around him and isn’t afraid to use that power to protect those weaker than him. He always does it benevolently and because it’s simply the right thing to do, returning afterward to his simple white collar life as a reporter. The cities attached to these characters as well personify America. Metropolis, the city that Superman calls home, is big and bright and vibrant and everything that Americans dream of something like New York being. Even Smallville, the small farming town in which Clark Kent grew up, taps into the American ideal of small town Americana. While Gotham City, the home of the Batman, is dark, dangerous, and mysterious. It’s what everyone fears about the American city, with muggers and corrupt officials around every corner.

These two pop culture icons tap into these basic American ideas and have survived the seventy some years they have been around because of it. In terms of myth, seventy years doesn’t seem like much time; Zeus and Odin and the like have been around for centuries. However, in terms of the lifespan of America itself, the superhero, especially Superman and Batman in particular, have been around for nearly a third of the lifespan of the country itself. Comparatively, that’s quite some time. In seventy years, America fought in and recovered from two world wars. In seventy years, America went from a small British colony to owning nearly all of the land in the continental United States. A lot can happen in seventy years, and the fact that these characters have existed for so long, for one thing, is impressive. Combining that with the fact that they are household names and the basic elements of their stories are familiar to nearly everyone in America (Everyone knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne and his parents were murdered, and everyone knows that Superman is Clark Kent and that Kryptonite is his one weakness.) has proven the staying power of these characters, these costumed folk heroes, these superheroes, these myths.

The epics that were the genesis, or at least the stories of characters like Zeus and Odin, have full and complicated continuities, lives, and relationships similar to continuities that started to develop in the 1950’s when DC Comics had Superman guest star in Batman’s book. Suddenly, these superheroes existed together in the same universe. Superman and Wonder Woman could have a romantic relationship, or the Batman could struggle with the fact that he was just a man among these beings that could fly, dodge bullets, and create almost anything out of thin air with the power of their will. You suddenly could have these complex timelines and relationships and a team of these characters that work together with a base on the moon that gave these gods among men their Mount Olympus. You have a pantheon of heroes and villains, lovers and fighters, and stories connecting them all. If you look at these characters, not simply as the heroes in stories for children, but as characters within a greater mythology, it all starts to look the the common elements of mythology from around the world. Zeus would regularly come down to earth in a human guise and take lovers. Superman, when he takes off the costume, goes home to his human love, Lois Lane, and pretend to be one of the mortals while at the same time having his godly love interest in Wonder Woman.

The parallels are obvious, if you know to look for them. America, a country as young as it is, is far too young to have developed mythologies as complex as those of civilizations that are millennia old. America hasn’t had the time to build it’s Mount Olympus, its Asgard, its Heaven. However, the Superman and the Batman, to name a few, have still managed to find their way into the American culture and the American psyche. The only difference being the lack of religious connotations surrounding the superhero. No one worships Superman as a god like the Greeks worshiped Zeus or the Hebrews worship God. However, who’s to say that won’t change? The Hebrew idea of God existed for centuries before turning into an actual religion. Why can’t there be a church of the superhero a hundred years from now?

Obviously, it is simply to know. No one alive now will survive the centuries needed to see if the superhero will survive the tides of time and maintain its status within American culture. Maybe they’re just a long term fad that, after the saturation of the market in the 90’s of comic books and the current saturation of superheroes in film, will die out and only the biggest fans will keep talking about Batman and the latest story involving him and the Joker or Superman and Lex Luthor.

Given, however, that these characters have survived and beaten homicidal maniacs and invaders from other planets and other dimensions, it seems unlikely that the apathy of the general populace will be enough to kill them off.

-WC

30 Comments
30 Comments
Posted by azza04

Cool blog man, very interesting.

Posted by kennybaese

@azza04: Glad you liked it. It was a tumblr post that then turned into a paper for a class. I decided to post it on here for funsies.

Posted by PowerHerc

Great read. Well written.

I agree that a lot of characters and stories of myth have parallels to comic characters and stories.

However, I think it's important to remember one HUGE difference between the mordern "American Mythology" of comics and the various mythologies of Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, Egypt, etc. is that all of the latter were actually religions which explained the how and why of everything to their respective culture(s), though they later fell into the category of myth. American superheroes aren't and didn't start out as religion. They started out as and remain a form of entertainment. So, though many parellels exist between the two, I don't quite see American superheroes/comics as mythology in the traditional sense of the word.

Edited by cody1984

@walkingcarpet said:

A mere two and a half centuries old compared to the thousands of years that Greece and Egypt have existed, America is like the proverbial college student who think he’s so much wiser and more knowledgable than those dusty old professors who think they know better then he does about the world.

This shows severe f***ing arrogance and lack of knowledge on your part. The United States is actually older then most nation states in the world, including many European ones since they were part of different empires and nations broke up and combined to form present day European nation states and other nation states across the world. European powers forced together a lot of different tribes, different cultures, and ethnic groups that ended up resulting with nations being what they are in Africa (almost the whole continent) and Asia (India being an example). All of that took place after the United States gained its independence so this Eurocentric view that you put forward doesn't match reality at all.

@walkingcarpet said:

The relative young age of America, combined with its nature as a melting pot of culture, a Borg like assimilation and combination of the cultures and tastes and mythologies of all of the different immigrants and peoples that have traveled to America in its short lifespan, America doesn’t have a myth to call its own.

A Borg like assimilation process would be better describe as what European nations like France did to make themselves a nation as well as what the Chinese did. Again, this view is pretty asinine.

As far as the rest of your post goes your comparing ancient dead religions from a bunch of superstitious people to fictional characters doesn't correlate very well.

Posted by kennybaese

@cody1984 said:

The United States is actually older then most nation states in the world...

As far as the rest of your post goes your comparing ancient dead religions from a bunch of superstitious people to fictional characters doesn't correlate very well.

I wasn't comparing the age of the country so much as the culture and the myth of the culture. My intent hadn't been to compare religions to comic books, it was to compare ancient myth to what I think it the modern myth of the superhero. I can understand where you're coming from. However, it feels to me that you are reading the whole thing out of context. I guess I didn't make that context clear enough in the writing.

Posted by kennybaese

@PowerHerc said:

I think it's important to remember one HUGE difference between the modern "American Mythology" of comics and the various mythologies of Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, Egypt, etc. is that all of the latter were actually religions which explained the how and why of everything to their respective culture(s), though they later fell into the category of myth. American superheroes aren't and didn't start out as religion. They started out as and remain a form of entertainment. So, though many parallels exist between the two, I don't quite see American superheroes/comics as mythology in the traditional sense of the word.

This is true, and the one part where I personally felt the whole argument broke down a little too. However, when I talked to a couple different people about what they thought the American myth was, or was going to be, they almost instantly brought up the cowboy, which isn't a religious figure either. While it doesn't fit within the traditional definition of mythology, I was looking more at the stories and characters that kind of define a culture, at least to other cultures. A lot of people if you ask them what them what they thing of when the thing of Greece, they'll say the Greek gods. That was more the angle I was going for.

I tried at the end of the essay to try to tie it back into the religious thing after I realized that that was the weak point of the whole writing, but I think it fell a little flat. Thanks for the feedback. :)

Posted by Larkin1388

Great article. It is a shame that we Americans have no legends or myths to call our own. I suppose America does have Native American myths and legends. I would hold these as legitimate, seeing as they were here before all of us. Does anyone know what America was called before it was called America?

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
@cody1984 said:

@walkingcarpet said:

A mere two and a half centuries old compared to the thousands of years that Greece and Egypt have existed, America is like the proverbial college student who think he’s so much wiser and more knowledgable than those dusty old professors who think they know better then he does about the world.

This shows severe f***ing arrogance and lack of knowledge on your part. The United States is actually older then most nation states in the world, including many European ones since they were part of different empires and nations broke up and combined to form present day European nation states and other nation states across the world. European powers forced together a lot of different tribes, different cultures, and ethnic groups that ended up resulting with nations being what they are in Africa (almost the whole continent) and Asia (India being an example). All of that took place after the United States gained its independence so this Eurocentric view that you put forward doesn't match reality at all.

@walkingcarpet said:

The relative young age of America, combined with its nature as a melting pot of culture, a Borg like assimilation and combination of the cultures and tastes and mythologies of all of the different immigrants and peoples that have traveled to America in its short lifespan, America doesn’t have a myth to call its own.

A Borg like assimilation process would be better describe as what European nations like France did to make themselves a nation as well as what the Chinese did. Again, this view is pretty asinine.

As far as the rest of your post goes your comparing ancient dead religions from a bunch of superstitious people to fictional characters doesn't correlate very well.

wow... you are rather aggressive... lol
Posted by ssejllenrad

Great blog. If only I could like it... Take a hint comicvine! Like button!

Posted by cody1984

@walkingcarpet said:

@cody1984 said:

The United States is actually older then most nation states in the world...

As far as the rest of your post goes your comparing ancient dead religions from a bunch of superstitious people to fictional characters doesn't correlate very well.

I wasn't comparing the age of the country so much as the culture and the myth of the culture. My intent hadn't been to compare religions to comic books, it was to compare ancient myth to what I think it the modern myth of the superhero. I can understand where you're coming from. However, it feels to me that you are reading the whole thing out of context. I guess I didn't make that context clear enough in the writing.

Your opening compares the United States age to the rest of the world so you claiming you were not talking about its age doesn't make sense. You also repeatedly use Zeus and Odin comparing these figures of ancient religions to fictional characters in comic books as a way to try and make a claim about America culture when comic books are below the radar when it comes to the culture of the United States and only at most tend to reflect what is going on in the culture at the time. Something like manifest destiny has actually had a much more profound effect on American culture than comics ever had. As far as ancient Greece goes the concept of Democracy had a much more profound effect on American and indeed western culture (even other cultures in the rest of the world) then any myth related to Zeus. As far as mythology and culture goes if you look at western culture as whole it’s changed over time quite a bit has adapted mostly based on which nation had the hegemony at the time. The British Empire set most of western culture when it ruled the world and now the United States is the biggest influence on Western Culture due to it being the world's superpower at the moment. As far as mythology goes different aspects of it that are based on a particular western country's original mythology are used by other countries in folk tales and in their own mythology. After all there are several different King Arthur stories not one of them being agreed upon as the canonical story.

As far as how Superman as a mythical character goes he has more in common with American mythology of the melting pot being as how he is from a different planet but is just as American as anyone else, him being for truth since the United States culturally at least tends to value honesty, justice would represent American mythology of fighting for freedom and justice since the nation's founding, and the American way represents in American mythology that the American way is the right way. Lois Lane being his love interest really doesn't represent Zeus in the guise of a mortal having human female lovers since Superman is not depicting as a complete man whore like Zeus is in mythology. So besides power level similarities I don't see a comparison between the two being accurate.

Posted by PowerHerc

@walkingcarpet said:

@PowerHerc said:

I think it's important to remember one HUGE difference between the modern "American Mythology" of comics and the various mythologies of Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, Egypt, etc. is that all of the latter were actually religions which explained the how and why of everything to their respective culture(s), though they later fell into the category of myth. American superheroes aren't and didn't start out as religion. They started out as and remain a form of entertainment. So, though many parallels exist between the two, I don't quite see American superheroes/comics as mythology in the traditional sense of the word.

This is true, and the one part where I personally felt the whole argument broke down a little too. However, when I talked to a couple different people about what they thought the American myth was, or was going to be, they almost instantly brought up the cowboy, which isn't a religious figure either. While it doesn't fit within the traditional definition of mythology, I was looking more at the stories and characters that kind of define a culture, at least to other cultures. A lot of people if you ask them what them what they thing of when the thing of Greece, they'll say the Greek gods. That was more the angle I was going for.

I tried at the end of the essay to try to tie it back into the religious thing after I realized that that was the weak point of the whole writing, but I think it fell a little flat. Thanks for the feedback. :)

You're welcome. The Cowboy is indeed a symbol of America, though, again, he isn't a religious icon either.

Maybe we should differentiate between myth and mythology. Either way, your article was quite interesting and a pleasure to read.

Posted by Superguy0009e

i think you're right, both Bats and Sups represent different parts of America.

The homegrown billonaire that people think worked very little in life

And the middle class alien that no one really expected much from.

that is what makes these people special, that when they are heroes, they are the opposite of what people expect of them

instead of being stupid and wimpy, Kent becomes the strongest man in the world

instead of being a lazy good for nothing, Wayne worked his butt off to help a dying city

Posted by AmazingFantasy15

It makes sense that superheroes would have similarities with mythology since superman is known to have been influenced by mythical characters like Hercules and Samson so in a way superman is a descendant of those mythologies as are all superheroes since the idea for superheroes started with superman (hence the name SUPER heroes), also in Ancient Greece certain religious customs were originate from the works of poets and Authors like Hesiod and Homer as was certain myths like the ages of humanity (e.g. the golden age, silver age, etc. each with a different race of people) from Hesiod's books. Also it isn't that crazy for entertainment to turn into belief, after all when the story of Atlantis was first written it was meant as a hypothetical city, a work of philosophy rather than religious fact and yet today you have people who believe Atlantis was real (people who won't have read Homer's book on because if they did they would know it wasn't real since it says in the book) and are actually looking for it.

Edited by kennybaese

@cody1984 said:

Your opening compares the United States age to the rest of the world so you claiming you were not talking about its age doesn't make sense.

Like I said in the previous comment, my intent had been to compare the ages of the different cultures, not the actual governments. I can understand your confusion, it's the result of bad wording on my part. I should have said in the opening that American culture was younger than other cultures rather than it being a young country.

@cody1984 said:

As far as how Superman as a mythical character goes he has more in common with American mythology of the melting pot being as how he is from a different planet but is just as American as anyone else, him being for truth since the United States culturally at least tends to value honesty, justice would represent American mythology of fighting for freedom and justice since the nation's founding, and the American way represents in American mythology that the American way is the right way. Lois Lane being his love interest really doesn't represent Zeus in the guise of a mortal having human female lovers since Superman is not depicting as a complete man whore like Zeus is in mythology. So besides power level similarities I don't see a comparison between the two being accurate.

Again, I feel like you're missing the point of the essay. I'm not saying that Superman, as a character, is identical to Zeus, I'm simply pointing out similarities between the two characters. The first chunk of this seems to make my point for me. While I can understand your disapproval at me comparing Clark Kent to a "complete man whore" I was simply trying to point out the parallel, not saying that the two are identical. I'm not comparing a comic book character to a religious figure, I'm comparing two different characters in literature and myth. Power levels don't have anything to do with it.

Given your replies to this post up until now, it's obvious to me that something about the post has made you hate it vehemently, and since trying to change someone's mind about anything on a message board tends to be a futile effort, I'm going to stop trying after this post. I welcome criticism of my writing, and there are some inaccuracies in the essay that you have pointed out, and I'm appreciative of that. I'm also happy to see that this post has gotten even as much attention as it has, positive and negative. However, it seems to me that your intent is to simply make me out to be an idiot from behind your keyboard, and I, honestly, don't appreciate it. If you have constructive criticism to offer, by all means do so, but your vitriol here seems a little much.

Edited by BiteMe-Fanboy

Did you make a good grade on the paper?

also, cody1984, you're a d*ck.

Posted by kennybaese

@PowerHerc said:

Maybe we should differentiate between myth and mythology. Either way, your article was quite interesting and a pleasure to read.

I'll be more careful about it in the future. I guess I didn't really see much or a distinction between the two, but I see your point. Thanks again for the feedback.

@ssejllenrad: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

@Superguy0009e said:

i think you're right, both Bats and Sups represent different parts of America.

The homegrown billonaire that people think worked very little in life

And the middle class alien that no one really expected much from.

that is what makes these people special, that when they are heroes, they are the opposite of what people expect of them

instead of being stupid and wimpy, Kent becomes the strongest man in the world

instead of being a lazy good for nothing, Wayne worked his butt off to help a dying city

This is exactly the point I was trying to make. It's why I think superheroes in general, not just Superman and Batman, might prove over the long term to be America's myth.

@AmazingFantasy15 said:

It makes sense that superheroes would have similarities with mythology since Superman is known to have been influenced by mythical characters like Hercules and Samson so in a way Superman is a descendant of those mythologies as are all superheroes since the idea for superheroes started with Superman (hence the name SUPER heroes), also in Ancient Greece certain religious customs were originate from the works of poets and Authors like Hesiod and Homer as was certain myths like the ages of humanity (e.g. the golden age, silver age, etc. each with a different race of people) from Hesiod's books. Also it isn't that crazy for entertainment to turn into belief, after all when the story of Atlantis was first written it was meant as a hypothetical city, a work of philosophy rather than religious fact and yet today you have people who believe Atlantis was real (people who won't have read Homer's book on because if they did they would know it wasn't real since it says in the book) and are actually looking for it.

Exactly. Just because superheroes are just literary characters now doesn't mean that they can't take on a bigger role in the future. Aside from the religious thing, the one other thing that I was worried about in my argument was the fact that many superheroes are pretty directly influenced by other pre-existing characters in other mythologies (the Superman / Hercules and Samson thing you mentioned and the more obvious ones like Thor and now Wonder Woman in the New 52). Ultimately, I decided that American culture is referential to other culture by its nature as a culture of immigrants. I think the superhero is enough of a twist on those classical mythological themes and making them American.

@BiteMe-Fanboy: I have no idea. I turned it in as a final project a couple of days ago. I am going to bug my professor later to see what she thought of it though. And don't bag on cody1984 too hard. He's simply expressing his opinion. I just felt he was missing the point of the essay.

Thanks again for all of the feedback guys.

Posted by The Fastest Man Alive

A really excellent blog, I hope you write more like it :)

Posted by MetropolisKid41

Great blog, a very fun read!!! There are a definitely a lot of parallels, especially Superman to Old Testament stories, like Samson, and Moses. Superman's rocket ship was essentially a parallel to Moses' basket on the Nile. Keep up the great work, hope you got a good grade. And don't worry, I got what you meant as far as age of Dynasty goes, compared to the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks who's power lasted sometimes thousands of years, we are relative babies as far as a cultural and political powerhouse goes. We've really only been a premiere Country of power since the late 1800's when we first had our "Age of Imperialism" and began to spread our sphere of influence beyond the North American continent.

Posted by kennybaese

@The Fastest Man Alive: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. It's the kind of stuff I'm planning on writing from here on out across all of the Whiskey sites (posting on the corresponding site, naturally. I wrote something on Giant Bomb about Arkham City and fan service a little bit ago). All of it will go on my Tumblr too.

@MetropolisKid41 said:

Great blog, a very fun read!!! There are a definitely a lot of parallels, especially Superman to Old Testament stories, like Samson, and Moses. Superman's rocket ship was essentially a parallel to Moses' basket on the Nile. Keep up the great work, hope you got a good grade. And don't worry, I got what you meant as far as age of Dynasty goes, compared to the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks who's power lasted sometimes thousands of years, we are relative babies as far as a cultural and political powerhouse goes. We've really only been a premiere Country of power since the late 1800's when we first had our "Age of Imperialism" and began to spread our sphere of influence beyond the North American continent.

Thanks. I didn't go into the biblical parallels much because of their religious connotations. If you look at the Bible as a piece of literature detailing a large and complex mythology, then there is a ton of stuff like that, especially pertaining to Superman. Given, however, that the Bible is still very much used as a religious text these days (unlike the writings involved with Greek and Norse mythology) it seemed like inviting a little too much anger from those who have those religious views, especially when comparing Kal-El to Moses or even Christ. Nothing wrong with that, I just didn't want to have to deal with it or step on anyone's toes.

Posted by RazzaTazz

Nice blog, you forgot Johnny Appleseed of the American legends :P  .  Most countries employ heroes in one form or another in the depiction of their national identity.  In Nazi Germany for instance this was realized early on and immortalized heroes as members of their cause (such as Leo Schlageter) who had little in common with their actual message.  Also in Soviet Russia the same tactics were used such as with Alexey Stakhanov who became a hero for having one day finished 1400% of his daily workload.  In both cases though these characters were partially mythical, in one case through incorrect attribution and in another in that no one even knew if the man was real or just a fabrication of Soviet propaganda.  It is not uncommon to find heroes for a cause though, for instance in the modern US political scene Ronald Reagan has taken on a near mythical status for the Republican party though most of the things he is credited with, he did the exact opposite (more taxes, bigger government).  

Posted by kennybaese

@RazzaTazz said:

Nice blog, you forgot Johnny Appleseed of the American legends :P . Most countries employ heroes in one form or another in the depiction of their national identity. In Nazi Germany for instance this was realized early on and immortalized heroes as members of their cause (such as Leo Schlageter) who had little in common with their actual message. Also in Soviet Russia the same tactics were used such as with Alexey Stakhanov who became a hero for having one day finished 1400% of his daily workload. In both cases though these characters were partially mythical, in one case through incorrect attribution and in another in that no one even knew if the man was real or just a fabrication of Soviet propaganda. It is not uncommon to find heroes for a cause though, for instance in the modern US political scene Ronald Reagan has taken on a near mythical status for the Republican party though most of the things he is credited with, he did the exact opposite (more taxes, bigger government).

In this context something like the cowboy makes more sense as the American myth. I don't know, they just never seemed big enough to me to accept. Not big as in popularity, but big as in, I don't know how to put it, character or something. They aren't larger than life, I guess. The way that you describe it here, though, it makes sense. The cowboy tamed the wild west and built America up what it is today in a lot of ways, which makes them mythic.

I don't know, maybe I'm just not into cowboys.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@walkingcarpet: Well with cowboys it would make sense more that it was specific people.  For instance a lot of people have heard of Wyatt Earp but don't really know who he is.  
Posted by kennybaese

@RazzaTazz: Fair enough. I only talked about the cowboy in broad terms because that was really all I got when I asked people what they thought the American myth was. They came back with the cowboy and not Wyatt Earp or anything like that.

The exception was when people told me Lewis and Clark, which I think ties into the cowboy thing of exploring and settling the wilderness as far as myth goes. The reason for those responses, though, was that Lewis and Clark is a thing here in Montana where I live with Yellowstone close by and everything.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@walkingcarpet: You should have asked me, I would have said Wyatt Earp
Posted by kennybaese

@RazzaTazz: Well, come and hang out in Bozeman and we can have these conversations.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@walkingcarpet: Montana?  You are a cowboy too then :P
Posted by kennybaese

@RazzaTazz: I live in Montana, but I detest cowboys. At least the ones here. They're a bunch of Abercrombie and cowboy boots wearing douche nozzles that drive oversized trucks to compensate for their undersized *ahem*. Not a fan, especially when I have to try to park around their stupid trucks with names that sound like the name of a supersoaker from the 90's. And end rant.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@walkingcarpet: Fair enough, i think that attitude is prevalent everywhere in North America.  I can drive 10 minutes and be submerged in that culture and I live in East Coast Canada
Posted by kennybaese

@RazzaTazz: Nice. Yeah, I have no problem with actual cowboys, but the ones how live in town here are pretty consistently douches. Combine that with the fact that there are about half again as many guys as there are girls in this town and those cowboys almost always get the girls... My resentment is the product of my living in the wrong area for my personality, I think.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@walkingcarpet: Sounds like, I think I live in a remote place but that sounds worse