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Mass-Surveillance and the Negation of the Monomyth

Journal article
Authors Houman Sadri
Published in Fafnir: Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research
Volume 5
Issue 1
Pages 21-33
ISSN 2342-2009
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 21-33
Language en
Keywords Mass surveillance, Monomyth, Superhero, Panopticon, Hubris, Film Studies
Subject categories Languages and Literature


The enduring popularity of superhero narratives in the post-9/11 cultural landscape testifies, to some extent, to the continued cultural ubiquity of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’, but the notion of heroism itself is challenged somewhat by another seemingly ubiquitous product of the terrorist attacks: the proliferation, and absorption into Monomythical narratives, of the tropes of mass surveillance and technologically-aided snooping. It is my argument that the ability to perform such acts of surveillance essentially precludes and negates the Hero’s Journey itself – not for moral reasons, but because these acts represent the use of a power beyond that of a mortal hero, and the essential repositioning of the characters in question as godlike beings. As a result of this repositioning, the Monomyth – a pattern which, after all, describes the progress of mortal humans through dangerous terrain that they do not always understand – no longer applies, and thus neither do the terms hero or heroic. Thus, the Batman of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Captain America: The Winter Soldier ’s Nick Fury negate their own heroism and, by committing acts of hubris, invite the miasma and nemesis they are seen to suffer by the respective films’ conclusions. In this way, the paranoia and, indeed, surveillance possibilities of the post-9/11 age can be seen to inform and, to an extent, redefine, both the Monomyth and the very concept of the Monomythical hero.

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