Plot Twist or Plot Hole? Public Debate About Secret Empire and American Identity Crisis
The 2016 presidential election represents a crisis of national identity for many Americans. In 2017, Marvel Comics published Secret Empire, a comics event premised on the fascist corruption of the character Captain America. In light of the coincidental thematic overlap between these two incidents, public discourse around Secret Empire constitutes a microcosm of memory work ignited by crisis, trying to address the rupture in national identity by redefining the site of Captain America. Drawing on discourse in professional cultural reporting and criticism from a range of outlets, I use political discourse analysis to analyze the development of arguments to integrate or abnegate Secret Empire as a Captain America story. In this public debate, Secret Empire became a referendum on American identity and the limits of acceptable counterfactuals to national narrative.