Departmental Theme: The American Superhero and American (In)Security

Today we’re very pleased to share with you this reflection from Andrew Friedenthal, one of our Assistant Instructors here in AMS, about integrating the 2013-2014 departmental theme, SECURITY/INSECURITY, into his teaching this semester:


In my class, The Myth & History of the American Superhero, the departmental theme of security/insecurity is inherently a part of the course material. The history of the superhero in America is inextricably linked to a history of feeling insecure, from two young Jewish men creating Superman in response to Nazi aggression overseas to a renaissance in superhero films in the years following the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Superheroes are often called our “modern myths,” but what they actually are is simpler than that – they are symbols of our hopes and fears, our highs and our lows, our feelings of safety and apprehensions about infringements on that safety. In a sense, they embody our feelings of security and insecurity about yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

As a class, we watch the 2012 blockbuster film THE AVENGERS and then spend a significant amount of time teasing out its political implications.  A movie that features shadowy government organizations, the wide-scale destruction of Manhattan, and a man wrapped in the American flag cannot help but be rife with echoes of our contemporary struggle with issues of security in a post-9/11 world.

Stories from Summer Vacation: Andrew Friedenthal’s Summer of Teaching and Comic-Con

Here’s how AMS Ph.D. student Andrew Friedenthal will be keeping busy this summer:

Comic Book And Animation Fans Flock To Comic-Con

Visions of Comic-Con

Aside from teaching the AMS 310 “Introduction to American Studies Course” this summer, focusing on the importance and history of popular culture in US history, I’m going to be attending the annual ground zero for upcoming popular culture – San Diego Comic-Con.  Rather than dressing up as Batman or Iron Man, though, I’ll be in a suit and tie, as I’m presenting a part of my dissertation at an academic conference there!  The annual Comics Arts Conference runs congruent to Comic-Con every year, and is the top annual conference for comics studies, since it allows for academics and culture-makers to forge a joint conversation about the history and future of comics and popular culture in general.  I’ll probably find time to switch into an Avengers t-shirt, though.