Nostalgia and White Supremacy

Snoopy Jenkins acknowledges how the dominant, racial and patriarchal ideals of Western culture have been implemented in comics books and more specifically, the tales of American Superheros. For example, Jenkins states, “In our world, the most famous, most powerful, most influential superhero ever devised is a straight White man… The superhero concept is a racial construct…” The fact that a extreme lack of representation has existed for such a long period of time shows in fact that it is the familiarity of superheros that readers long for rather than a newer, more diverse comic. Jenkins also addresses this idea; “Diversity does not sell superhero comics- nostalgia does, and this nostalgia hearkens back to postwar America, with its effervescent, bubbly nationalism, cleanly delineated racial hierarchies and obvious, unquestioned gender roles.” This idea of nostalgia interests me because it indirectly shows how values of white elitism have been the dominating force of American culture since its foundation.

We, as a human race, are attracted to simplicity. And in this sense, simplicity reflects nostalgia for White, American males who subconsciously benefit from institutionalized systems of inequality. Jenkins states, “everyone drawn and colored and inked and lettered in panel conducts themselves in accordance or in conflict with mainstream, middle-class White American social ethics. The ‘right thing’… [is] a moral good defined in panel by rural Midwestern Protestants…” Further, the idea of ‘the right thing’ that these superheros usually perform are depicted by these systems of inequality and are therefore very bias in nature. The ‘right thing’ is never culturally diverse and constantly instills the public with the assumption that western culture is the only ‘moral’ culture.

There is no room for diversity, racially, culturally, or sexuality wise due to the fact that most white, male superheros exist as a product of wartime America. They gain their power from the military and dominate war related tasks. Jenkin illustrates this idea, “superheros use violence to solve problems, foreign and domestic… [they] show unsophisticated, immature White males who wrest manhood from their military experience, who telegraph masculinity by glorifying war.” Thus, there is no room for diversity of the character due to the specificity of what people expect and the idea that people want to read nostalgic comics. People keep existing in this “a world where humanity is White and human variation is never heroic.” Addionally, “Every Wednesday, superheros seduce the innocent with disturbing commentaries on justifiable public conflict, acceptable casualty rates, and unspoken racial hierarchies. Superheros are White male power fantasy distilled to narcotic purity…”


1 thought on “Nostalgia and White Supremacy

  1. johnsowr

    This is a really great elaboration and synthesis to Lamb’s pieces. I agree that people are attracted to the simple good vs. evil dichotomy. Your post also makes me think about how much comics are tied to the political climate that they are written in. In my politics class the other day we were talking about the role of media in politics and it could be interesting to not only think about how comics are a reflection of politics but also how comics and the dominant and normative views expressed in many superhero comics in turn reinforced and strengthened those values.


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