Aliens and Amazons: Myth, Comics and the Cold War Mentality in Fifth-Century Athens and Postwar America
Abstract (Summary)Comic books and classical culture seem to be increasingly linked in recent years, whether through crossovers into one another's media or through portrayals in the mass media itself. Such a connection begs the question of the actual cultural relevance between these two particular cultural products and whether or not two such products can be found to be relevant to one another when separated by time and space - indeed, if two separate cultures experienced similar cultural pressures, would these cultural products represent these pressures in similar ways? Given previous scholarly work linking the Cold War-era in the United States and the Peloponnesian War in fifth-century Greece politically, this thesis argued that a cultural "Cold War mentality" existed both in early postwar America and fifth-century Athens, and that this "Cold War mentality" is exhibited similarly in the comic books and mythology produced in those eras. This mentality is comprised of three stages: increased patriotism, a necessary identification of a cultural other, and attempts by a threatened male society to obtain psychological power through the "domestication" of women. The methods of this thesis included cultural research as well as research into myth and comic books of the respective eras. Chapter One argued that the so-called "labors" of the Athenian hero Theseus and the exploits of Superman and Batman can be interpreted as "catechisms of patriotism" that tell citizens how they should act in adversity. The second chapter argued that the Spartans and Amazons could have been iconographically linked as others by the Athenians, and shows that the Spartan/Amazon other, as well as the alien/Communist other of EC science-fiction comics were both imagined not as wholly physical threats, but largely as political and ideological ones. The final chapter showed that Athenian and American societies viewed women not as obstacles or monsters as most have argued, but instead as repositories of a civilizing societal power that male society needed to acquire to be strong in the face of a difficult, othered enemy. This is shown through discussions of the vengeful actions of such mythological characters as Medea and Clytemnestra, as well as the fearson revenge exacted by the women of the EC horror comics of the 1950s. These findings pointed out the similar cultural expressions of the Cold War experience in both Athenian and American cultures, and suggested a link between the processes involved in producing cultural artifacts.
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2006