The portrayal of the feelings of the general public is constantly used in film to stir the audience. If the filmmaker can rouse their feelings, people will be more engrossed in the movie than they would be otherwise. What is arguably the strongest emotion in many people is the feeling of patriotism. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” Though this feeling is not necessarily based on logic, it is none-the-less one of the most powerful feelings along with hatred and love.
Depending on when a movie is made, the amount of patriotism portrayed is directly related to the political and social climate on the time. Specifically, the recent movies Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) both show the differing amounts of patriotism that were in the American psyche at those two close but far different times in history. Additionally, it can be shown that the movies can even have their own effect on the patriotic feelings of the time. Comparing and contrasting the two movies reveals how the differing times affected the final product of both movies.
Spider-Man (2002) was filmed in 2001 before and after the events of September eleventh, 2001, but wasn’t released until eight months after in May of 2002. Though when the film was originally written and shot the amount of patriotism was evident, after 9/11 the political climate changed so drastically that the movie was edited to reflect this newfound patriotism in America.
As the red, white, and blue Spiderman swung about the skyscrapers of New York City, no movie-goer could help but feel good about the American superhero saving the city in which only eight months earlier had been attacked so viciously. The movie shot straight into the hearts of Americans who had not experienced a climate of so much patriotism since World War II. Looking for an ultimate uniter of the people against evil, the movie-going public found him in Spiderman. Though Americans already felt great patriotism before the movie’s release, Spider-Man reinvigorated the public with patriotism and quite possibly caused a temporary increase in the amount of patriotism felt throughout the country. This is a definitive case where a movie not only reflects the patriotism of the era, but can also make an impact on the climate the film portrays.
Spider-Man 2 (2004), though it came out soon after the first Spider-Man, used the superhero to portray patriotism very differently.
The message in this movie was just as strong as the first, but the methods used to create the feeling of patriotism were not the same. By 2004 the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had been either completed or had been going on for over a year. The American public had lost much of its blind patriotism and was very segregated when it came to the current foreign policy. One feeling that remained very passionate in almost every American was the support for our troops overseas. This dissimilar feeling of patriotism was used very well in the second Spider-Man movie, with Spiderman representing the American troops. In this movie he was still fighting for the people, protecting them from the enemy, but much more of how Spiderman was more a boy came out in this movie.
In one scene when Spiderman’s mask has come off, a passenger seeing his face while Spiderman tries to stop the train says “My God, he is just a boy. He can’t be any older than my son.” This, along with many other scenes in the movie use Spiderman to represent our troops overseas, many of who are teenagers themselves. This patriotic message is very strong throughout the movie, though it is less in-your-face’ than the first Spider-Man movie. This movie doesn’t jolt the viewer into having a greater feeling of patriotism afterwards, but it does reaffirm their support for the troops and however much patriotism they felt beforehand.
Though Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) are very close together in terms of time and plotline, the way they use the superhero to bring out the movie-goers feeling of patriotism is very different.
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