From the men and women associated with the American Revolution and Civil War to the seminal figures in the struggles for civil and women’s rights, Americans have been fascinated with icons of great achievement, or at least reputation. But who spins today’s narratives about American heroism, and to what end?
In Where Have All the Heroes Gone?, Bruce Peabody and Krista Jenkins draw on the concept of the American hero to show an important gap between the views of political and media elites and the attitudes of the mass public. The authors contend that important changes over the past half century, including the increasing scope of new media and people’s deepening political distrust, have drawn both politicians and producers of media content to the hero meme. However, popular reaction to this turn to heroism has been largely skeptical. As a result, the conversations and judgments of ordinary Americans, government officials, and media elites are often deeply divergent. Investigating the story of American heroes over the past five decades provides a narrative that can teach us about such issues as political socialization, institutional trust, and political communication.