The prevalent mood across the United States after the Second World War was rife with optimism and unparalleled success. The middle class “rapidly expanded, unemployment was low, and the United States (the only country with a nuclear bomb) became the most powerful country on earth” (Burr par.14).
Unfortunately, this mood lasted for a short period of about four years before the Soviet Union started stockpiling nuclear bombs in 1949. Given that the United States was the only state with nuclear weapons by then, the Soviet’s decision to test its first nuclear weapons openly in 1949 caused tensions in the US.
The hitherto mood of success turned somber and Americans became paranoid due to the fears of a nuclear bomb being dropped from the Soviet Union. Americans started preparing for nuclear bomb attacks. The political environment was awash with speculations and conspiracy theories, with some politicians claiming that Soviet spies had infiltrated the American government.
The film industry thus sought to highlight the changing mood across the United States with film directors coming up with movies to underscore the situation.
Some of the outstanding superhero movies that underscored the Cold War paranoia include Captain America directed by Albert Pyun in 1990 and Batman, which was released in 1966. This paper explores these two superhero movies and their correlation with Cold War paranoia in terms of characters and the plotlines.
This movie is commonly referred to as Batman: The Movie and it is an adaptation of the Batman Television Series, with emphasis on the character, Batman, who featured extensively in DC Comics (Garcia 55). The movie’s plotline elicits fear, apprehension, and confusion, which characterized the Cold War paranoia.
When Batman tries to rescue Schmidlapp from a yacht, the vessel disappears and he comes out with his leg in a shark’s mouth (Batman). This form of unexpected events underscores the uncertainty that surrounded the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Americans did not know what to expect if either of the warring sides launched a nuclear attack against the other.
Batman and Robin later realize that the call claiming that Schmidlapp had been kidnapped was a set up by the United Underworld, which sought to eliminate Batman. This aspect underscores the many conspiracy theories that surrounded the Cold War. As the movie progresses, the plot exposes the view that everyone loses in a war.
Batman and Robin fail in their attempt to protect the kidnapping of the United World Organization’s Council, while the United Underground loses its missiles and submarines in the war. Similarly, both the United States and the Soviet Union lost substantially during the Cold War. Innocent civilians died as collateral damage on top of property destruction coupled with the death of thousands of soldiers involved in the war.
On the choice of characters, Batman represents the kind of a superhero that Americans wanted to be assured of safety from the threats of nuclear bombs from the Soviet Union.
Americans knew that the government could not protect them sufficiently if a nuclear war broke out because in a nuclear war, there are no winners as everyone loses (Burr par. 16). In addition, the use of Catwoman, under the disguise of Miss Kitka – a Soviet journalist, highlights the allegations of communist sympathizers within the United States at the time.
This movie is an adaptation of the Marvel’s Comics Superhero. In the movie, the need to come up with a superhero to protect Americans from the threat of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union stands out. Even though the plot oscillates between Italy and the United States, fear and unpredictability come out clearly.
The Italian government eliminates Tadzio’s family before kidnapping him for experimental purposes as it seeks to make a fascist superhero (Captain America). However, one of the project masterminds, Dr. Vaselli, cannot stand the thought of using an innocent boy as a guinea pig and so she escapes to the United States where she kick starts a similar project. She successfully transforms one of the soldiers, Steve Rogers, into a superhero.
Even though the director of this movie does not mention the Soviet Union directly, the themes used point to the Cold War paranoia at the time. The idea of coming up with a superhero being was born out of the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of using nuclear bombs during the Cold War (Snellings par. 17).
The cloning of a superhero in Italy and the replication of the same in the United States can be taken to imply the making of a nuclear bomb in the US and the subsequent replication of the same by the Soviet Union. On the use of characters, the script follows that of Batman with superhero characters taking the center stage.
Fear, apprehension, and uncertainty characterized the Cold War era. Americans lived in ‘nuclear war preparedness’ as the Soviet Union was allegedly planning to drop a nuclear bomb anywhere in the US. Moviemakers sought to make films highlighting this feeling of uncertainty.
In addition, Americans wanted a form of protection, which could only come from a superhero as opposed to relying on government forces. Therefore, filmmakers used superheroes in their movies to meet the society’s expectations at the time, as shown in the movies, Batman and Captain America.
Batman. Dir. Leslie Martinson. Century City, LA: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1966. Film.
Burr, William. Nobody Wins a Nuclear War” But “Success” is Possible Mixed Message of 1950s Air Force Film on a U.S.-Soviet Conflict, 2011. Web.
Captain America. Dir. Albert Pyun. New York: Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 1990. Film.
Garcia, Bob. “Batman: Making the Original Movie.” Cinefantastique 24.25 (1994): 55-58. Print.
Snellings, April. Captain America Trades World War II Action for Cold War Paranoia in ‘The Winter Soldier, 2014. Web.