The American Monomyth - Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence (Pt.1 - An Introduction)

As consumers of popular culture, looking back to the past from 2008, the pattern should be familiar to us now;
An idyllic heaven is threatened by some external force, against which the hard-working, honest townsfolk is helpless. A selfless hero of superhuman capabilities and dedication comes to save the day and restores the harmony by violently dealing with the external threat.

Most recognizable from superhero comics, this pattern has pervaded to every outlet of popular culture and has become a major force in forming our expectations towards problem resolution.
But where does it come from and how does it work?
In their 1977 volume The Amerian Monomyth, Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence aim to decipher this phenomenon, which they call the American Monomyth.

In his introduction to the book, Isaac Asimov states that despite the scientific and technological advances of the past centuries, American society has not moved beyond mythical consciousness, but has replaced the classical monomyth with a distinctively American one. Asimov argues that the central theme of the American monomyth is redemption, whereas the classical pattern was centered around a rite of initiation. The theme of redemption is a secularized adoption from the Judeo-Christian dramas, where a selfless servent impassively gives his life to serving others and zealously destroys evil that threatens them. Asimov further argues that, in such a setting, these supersaviors function as a replacement for the Christ figure and the fan loyalties that these stories invoke should be compared to traditional religious following.
Asimov warns that such a perspective imparts the relaxing feeling that society can actually be redeemed by anti-democratic means.

In order to elaborate the basic premise outlined by Asimov in his introduction, the authors Jewett and Lawrence take up some of the most influential popular culture icons of the 20th century and demonstrate how the monomtyh can be identified in their core messages.

Their examples include Star Trek; the Starship Enterprise as the redeemer figure for troubled people and its crew as the sexually repressed men of dedication and iron will.
And Playboy; whose images of lustful and craving women trying to seduce upright, disinterested and cool men who only seem to accept their invitation to redeem them from the delirium of their lust.
Brilliant these analysis may be, but for the purposes of this blog, I want to concentrate on the authors' analysis of the superhero comics in general and Superman in particular on the second part of my review.