A while ago, we conducted a poll asking what characters you all thought embodied American values. In a changing climate where everyone has differing opinions on race, gender equality and immigration, the results at the end were interesting. What we would like to share are the top 3 picks that you, the readers, voted as characters who embodied American values as well as come commentary curated from various readers who took the poll.
#3 Superman – 12% of the vote
What I find amazing about this pick, is Superman in some ways embodies the American dream of today. He immigrated here illegally, had papers falsified by his parents as he had nothing to identify him, mostly kept his head down, worked hard and embodied most of the positive qualities of being a hard working middle class American from the “Midwest” (depending on which origin story is running at the time). He is the epitome of the illegal immigrant yet he is one of the most well-known American super-heroes of all time. It kind of makes you wonder why this present administration doesn’t have a ban out on him! Superman has transcended all of the barriers that many fight against this day and he endures because some of his qualities makes him so American. Below is what one of our readers had to say on him.
Superman can represent the original founding fathers and possibly a religious standpoint. His story reflects on Moses in the Abrahamic religions; you know the story so I won’t get into it. Superman is technically an immigrant to the United States; his origin story emphasizes that any person can eventually be accepted as American, even if they were (literally) an alien from another planet. It is especially important for us to reflect on this concept as our nation decides the future of immigration reform; regardless of our policy preferences, we must remember that the promise of acceptance represented by Superman is essential to our nation’s identity. In continuing the trend of Biblical inspirations, Superman is often portrayed as a Christ figure, Satan tempts Jesus with the promise of wealth and power, for example the antagonist General Zod tempts Superman to rule Earth using his near-invulnerability and superhuman abilities. Instead, Superman displays humility and strives to motivate each human to pursue good. Superman’s human upbringing has taught him to control not only his abilities, but also his human emotions. This to me represents many core beliefs of Americans and their religion. These references to Jesus are also reflective of America’s heritage, since our Founding Fathers were strongly influenced by Europe’s Enlightenment and its Judeo-Christian tradition. They envisioned an enlightened society governed by science and rational thought, but also highly valued the presence of morality in creating a more perfect union. That inherent fear led the Founding Fathers to devise the system of checks and balances that still exists in our nation. Superman is one of the foremost symbols of American values. Although our nation remains intensely divided, we can all look up to Superman as what we can, and perhaps should be. Superman’s greatness lies in his humility!
#2 Luke Cage – 15% of the vote
In some ways, Luke Cage, especially after it was brought to life on the Netflix series, personifies the fear reality some American’s are not willing to face: an indestructible Black man. Whether it be literally or figuratively, Luke Cage’s character shows that no matter how often those who show hate to Black people try to bring them down, they will still rise to meet all challenges thrown at them. Luke Cage’s character shows after 400+ years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and other depravity, the spirit will endure and find other ways to combat those who seek to take away the American dream.
Here is what our readers said:
Luke Cage because he’s an average guy with non-average abilities and uses them for the protection of others. We don’t have powers but we all want to help our communities out. He doesn’t get big-headed but rather remains humble about what has been given to him.
I picked Luke Cage because of his courage, high ethics, honesty ( yes I know he lied about Seagate), compassion, and humility. Not sure those are necessarily archetypal “American “values, but they’re ones that I personally hold in high regard.
Luke Cage represents the people who the dream forgot. He represents the people who don’t see any part of the increases in the economy. He represents the people who don’t benefit from improvements in foreign relations or rises in the stock market. He represents the people who the politicians say they want to help, but never actually visit or talk to.
These are the people that Luke stands for, are just as American as everyone else. But they’re the America that the dream forgot. When the Avengers are protecting the world from the Chitauri, Luke Cage is protecting Lennox Ave. because nobody else will.
#1 Captain America – 22% of the vote
The number one pick is one of the biggest superhero icons of all time: Captain America. His claim to fame is he is just another average New Yorker, like Luke Cage who was given the strength literally to save America in comics throughout WWII. One of the most endearing images is that of him punching Hitler square in the jaw.
He was another representative of the American dream for decades and his recent reveal to be a Hydra agent brought such consternation among fans, that a few went overboard with their hate of the writer that brought this storyline about. While it’s understandable that many are uncomfortable with the change, many are still unwavering in their love of what Captain America means to us Americans. “America” is in his name and some of our readers will attest to his values below:
Captain America (Steve Rogers) represents the Ideal of the American Dream. He represents what America SHOULD be for all Americans.
Captain America (Sam Wilson) represents what America actually is. He stands for the dream, but recognizes that this dream doesn’t apply to everyone equally. And that unfortunately for some of us, our status as Americans still comes with conditions that can be changed or revoked at will.
**This applies to Captain America, up through and including the Marvel Civil War.**
Cap probably confounded the pro-registration faction by resisting instead of going along with the Government line. However, there is this quote to guide him: “The Senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, “My country, right or wrong.” In one sense I say so too. My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” – Sen. Carl Schurz, R-Missouri, later Sec. of the Interior. Prussian immigrant, interesting man, really worked hard to become an American.
Other people of interest
Other readers had some points to bring up as well regarding this poll. One interesting point had to do with characters who didn’t make the poll at all:
I think The Comedian embodies real American values, not the false platitudes that have been regurgitated since this nation’s founding. Violence, theft, rape, murder, domination; those are the real American values and the Comedian holds true to them.
One reader questioned the embodiment of American values:
Does any on the list embody American values? They’re not the same characters now as they were when they were created. Peter is rich (because of Dr. Octopus) when he used to be an average Joe. Captain America is a Hydra agent or thinks he is. DC has rebooted Batman. Fisk, Luthor, and Amanda Waller represent what American values have become: Money, Greed, and Power.
Lastly, Irish native Ben M. whose picks were Captain America, Spider-man and Superman shared his thoughts about what he considers to be how his picks embody American values:
Well I’m not American but I believe the idea of the American dream is to work and strive for a happy life. I believe that Spidey has gone through ALL of the trials and tribulations and has kind of achieved that. He started from the bottom, coming from a poor family but now he’s the head of his own corporation. The other two are more obvious.
So, what are your thoughts on this list? Do you feel like there were characters that may have been missed?