United States: Superhero politics

Julian Schmid explains a presidential obsession with Marvel comic characters

The World Today
Published 5 February 2021 Updated 10 June 2021 3 minute READ

Julian Schmid

Researcher, Institute of International Relations in Prague

When Donald Trump was discharged from hospital only days after having been diagnosed with COVID-19, he climbed the stairs of the White House, ripping the mask off his face before giving a short speech from a balcony to tell a crowd of his heroic triumph over the virus.

Several news outlets reported that the US president had intended to rip off his white shirt to reveal a red and yellow Superman symbol underneath.

Even though Trump didn’t follow in the footsteps of Superman actors Christopher Reeve or Henry Cavill, his re-appearance after illness wearing a superhero costume would have been an easily identifiable reference for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Superheroes have a long history, first in the form of comic books and then TV series, films and recently video games. They have influenced and underpinned US foreign policy and served to define the relationship between Americans’ notions of their identity and the rest of the world. 

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