Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Social Heroism and Moral Courage in Winter Soldier

By Travis Trombley - originally published in full on our new website:

In the third act of the film, when Cap’s rag-tag team assaults the Hellicariers to stop HYDRA’s launch of Project Insight, Cap hijacks the com system and delivers what has become known as the “Captain’s Orders” speech, during which he reveals the HYDRA conspiracy and calls to action any who defy their bid for "absolute control." 

Following this speech, Rumlow - who becomes Cap’s longtime nemesis in the comics called Crossbones - struts into the command room and orders one of the computer technicians to launch the Insight ships. Kline - the technician in question - is a pale, skinny fellow with curly hair. He lacks Steve’s classic handsome and superhero jaw, yet he refuses nonetheless. When he doesn’t immediately respond, Rumlow bellows, “Is there a problem?” The camera zips to the standers by, all waiting for the young man’s decision. “I’m not going to launch those ships,” he eventually says, raising his head in determination and - sure - gulping in understandable fear. “Captain’s orders.”

While many of us would like to believe we would do the same, social psychology suggests otherwise, positing instead the existence of social forces that pressure individuals towards compliance.

One such pressure would be the one to rationalize an action by displacing blame. This phenomenon was famously studied by Stanley Milgram in his famous 1963 “Shock Experiment” at Yale University. After the Nuremberg Trials, during which many Nazi officers like Adolf Eichmann justified their atrocities by claiming that they were only following orders, Milgram sought to study the actual influence authority played in decision making, especially of an ethical sort.

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HeroMonitor Presents: Dan Buehrer and Superheros as Mythology

By Travis Trombley - originally published on our new site: 

Per the premise of a coming-of-age adventure story, Dan first experienced superheroes by way of discovering his dad’s old collection tucked away in the attic of his childhood home. While as a nine year-old, Dan didn’t read so much as gawk at the illustrations, it was enough to spark a conversation with his father, who - Dan says - later fueled his addiction by taking the pre-beard Dan to comic book stores to spend his allowance on new books. 

As he aged, Dan’s tastes broadened. He grew more attentive to narrative. Before long he’d purchased many of the “Marvel Essentials” books in order to read up on his favorite characters: Iron Man, Ant Man and Hulk. When he wasn’t watching the Saturday morning adventures of Batman and Superman on their respective WB animated shows, he was reading, and it was all adding up. 

“Even as an adult, now, I feel like superheroes have shaped my sense of morality,” Dan said. “You read all these stories about these heroes with godlike abilities, who could do what they want, but they abide by man’s laws - don’t kill or steal or abuse their powers - and it makes you realize that we all have this moral obligation to be good to one another - to use what we have to help others. I feel like I’m a good person because I try to live by that, whether it’s a friend needing help with a move or assisting someone in danger, and I got that mentality from superheroes.” 

It’s an easy pill to swallow. Dan acknowledges the premise to the superhero is in many ways the imperative to do good unto others, which fits well within a prevalently Judeo-Christian framework. It makes sense that such beings could quickly ascend to the position of ideological paragons. 

But there’s more to the superhero mythos than just helping people. Dan said that as he matured and became cognizant of life’s nuances, he gleaned more complicated insights about the world and his perception thereof from his caped crusaders. 

Read the rest of the article at HeroMonitor.

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HeroMonitor Presents: Captain America Stature in Brooklyn

By Travis Trombley - originally published on

Statues and monuments aren’t about the people to whom they owe their likenesses. Not really. Such memorials immortalize the ideas, struggles and virtues of ages in the forms of figures who represented and distilled them. 

The bust of General George Custer in my hometown represents not the man - who, I gather, was kind of a dick - but the myth that surrounded him: roguish man of action who - by will and grit and skillful heroism - rose through the Union ranks during the Civil War to eventually help secure America’s westward expanse. 

Lincoln’s Monument is more a testament to resolve and righteous fortitude than the man himself. describes the purpose of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument off the Tidal Basin in DC  as a “a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy [that] will forever serve as a monument to the freedom, opportunity and justice for which he stood.” The monument inspires the sense of justice and willingness to fight for change that he represented - it is an attempt to replicate his effect on people as much as it is a way to honor the historical figure. 

Statues of fictional characters like Rocky Balboa and - only slightly less fictional - Paul Revere stand as tributes to their roles in the American zeitgeist. 

Similarly, superheroes often function as embodiments for ideas and ideals. In a sort of reverse fashion from those who earn monuments through notable deeds, the genre demands that superheroes execute acts of greatness (usually great violence), so what they do is less compelling to readers than why they do it. This is why the superhero origin story is such an important component of the mythos: we need to know the idea the hero represents while doing cartoonish battle. 

As such, it comes as no surprise that superheroes - like our historical myths - have for almost 80 years now represented our ideologies and anxieties in their flashy, pow-filled “conversations.” They’ve become a part of the way we interpret our culture and world, a sentiment now recognized by the erection of the world’s first public superhero statue. 

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HeroMonitor Presents: Wonder Woman Appointed UN Ambassador of Women's Rights

By Travis Trombley - full article on new site:

An oddly poignant representation: Wonder Woman tries to speak, but some UN representatives roll their eyes.

This appointment further indicates the cultural power of superheros and superhero iconography. To invoke Wonder Woman’s image is to invoke female power, simply by merit of her being a staple hero in the male-dominated DC lineup. Pragmatically, it’s a choice that maximizes recognizability across the globe. Ideologically, it’s a choice that clearly embodies the idea that the UN will actively struggle and fight for gender equality across the globe.

Or it’s all a brilliant marketing ploy by DC to promote the forthcoming Wonder Woman film. 

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