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  • Tags: Fredric Jameson
Adopting a Marxian perspective, the chapter argues that superpowers serve as a metaphor for the incredible power of the industrial mode of production in advanced nations. Superhero(ine)s thus represent the working class who have always been the main consumers of the genre. Moreover, beginning in the 1940s, Marvel’s superhero(ine)s have, like US industry, acquired much of their power as a result of research conducted by the military-industrial complex and have consistently been embedded in narratives of superpower projection overseas. This is still apparent in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D in which secret para-state groups of superhero(ine)s, as guardians of the cosmic order, have a duty to intervene in any jurisdiction with zero accountability. On the domestic front, the MCU series have an equally reactionary character as they insist on the need for self-regulation in accordance with the American ethos. Interfering with the order of things, instead of merely reacting to evildoers, leads to hubris and to superhero(ine)s turning into supervillains, meaning that characters are constantly examining their motives. Using Jameson’s approach to the political unconscious, the driving force behind supervillainy is identified as ‘ressentiment’ – supervillains blame a corrupt and incompetent elite for the state of the world whereas their true motivation is deep-seated envy and a burning desire for power over others. Hence, efforts to challenge the status quo are always misguided, a message that seems to have gained in urgency in the 2010s amid growing strains on the American Dream and accompanying manifestations of populism.