Published July 21, 2011
Lately, some American super heroes have turned their muscled backs on good old Uncle Sam.
In 2009's “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra,” the iconic, star-spangled U.S. military action figure ditched many of his American hero trappings. His red, white and blue logo? Turned basic black. His green army fatigues? Now silver-plated robocop armor.
In 2010, Wonder Woman went a similar route, ditching her red, white and blue get-up for a less flag-inspired green and black costume.
And finally, to add insult to injury, earlier this year, none other than Superman renounced his hard-won American citizenship following a clash with the federal government.
But now, the tide maybe turning.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” hits theaters this weekend, telling the story of a young man who considered too scrawny to enlist in the U.S. Army and fight the Nazis in World War II. Instead of packing up and heading home, he volunteers for secret military operation and is physically transformed into a super-soldier dubbed Captain America.
With a sidekick in tow, Captain America embarks on a quest to defeat Hitler’s head of weaponry, Red Skull, and ensure that good triumphs over evil!
“This is a guy who got his powers because of his character. Most superheroes got their powers by accident or through birth – but this is a guy who has chosen so hopefully that is something people can aspire too,” the new Captain America, Chris Evans, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column at the film’s star-studded Hollywood premiere on Tuesday.
Robert Downey Jr., who stepped out to the premiere in support of his long-running affiliation with Marvel Comics (he is, of course, Iron Man), also hopes the reemergence of the classic 1941 character ignites respect for U.S. troops.
“Captain America is someone who is from our greatest generation who would give anything to be able to contribute to the fight against fascism,” he told us. “He speaks to the kind of highest ideal of all the men and women in our armed services. But also, he is just a guy, and he is a guy who didn’t belong until something special happened, so I think a lot of people strangely can relate to that.”
And it doesn't stop with the Captain.
Next weekend, Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” makes its way into theaters, bringing to life a classic American western peppered with the science-fiction element of extra terrestrials.
“It’s a real western; it’s got a lot of grit to it. It’s got a lot of humor, but it’s very classic,” its star Olivia Wilde told Pop Tarts. “It feels like a good old John Ford movie or Sergio Leone. It’s just really, really epic. I think it’s a movie that will last for a long time.”
Add to these films the recently released “Green Lantern,” starring heroic Air Force pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who joins an elite brotherhood of warriors known as the Green Lantern Corps, and you have a bona fide trend of comic hero films again promoting traditional American values.
“It’s great to see that American comics are returning to their patriotic roots. The emergence of comic movies like ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ and ‘Captain America’ restore that important value and love for comics strike a comeback,” said Hollywood pop culture expert Rachelle Friberg. “In recent years, moviegoers have viewed films which illustrated Hollywood’s move toward promoting a global view rather than an American view. With the return of patriotic-themed comic movies, comes the return of American pride.”
So when and why did Hollywood start to downplay American patriotism in its comic book characters?
“Many of the most enduring super heroes were created during the earliest days of WWII, and the patriotic spirit was dominant in the culture. Many of the earliest comic book creators were also first or second generation immigrants’ eager to assimilate and take part in the American dream,” explained entertainment expert Scott Huver. “[After] the post 9-11 world of the 2000s, many super heroes have been depicted as striving to represent the best of their ideals while simultaneously having their beliefs and methods questioned, much like Americans have.”
Yet, despite the distinct colors and stripes of the U.S. flag adorning the “Captain America” Hollywood premiere this week, the film’s director, Joe Johnston, made sure to acknowledge the title's character's cosmopolitan charm.
“We all need heroes no matter what country we’re from. Who Steve Rogers (Captain America) is, is not uniquely American, he’s just a guy who wants to do the right thing,” Johnston said. “You could take the shield and the flag and the red, white and blue away and you could transplant this guy into any culture and time period and you would have a story that would still work.”