The year is 1943. With two years of the war left, Americans are enduringly waiting for their soilders to return back to the homefront. Women are eagerly entering the workforce, despite their “second shifts” that they must face when they arrive home. It’s a new liberation. A new awakening within a contention. Although, the U.S. is in it’s second world war, there has been new reforms that make women working in the workforce somewhat acceptable. The women are working “for the cause”, as many would say creating airplane wings, devloping machine guns, and working in assembly lines. The first image that pops up in my head is the iconic patriotic symbol of women’s rights is ‘Rosie the Riveter’. As Rosie the Riveter was created in 1942 by J. Howard Miller, I believe that she was inspired by the OG of them all – Uncle Sam. Now, we all can identity who Uncle Sam is. A tall(sih) white guy, with white hair and stringy beard that looks like he could be the knock off Santa Claus if someone let him take it that far. Dressed in his nationlistic red, white, and blue tuxedo that just screams “Merica”, and pointing his finger at the next propspective soilder for the draft, it’s pretty safe to assume that this guy is as American as it gets. The iconic “I WANT you, for U.S. Army” propaganda poster is well known for its politcal, cultural, and chauvnistic influence that it had on U.S. citizens at the time (Figure 1).
James Montgomery Flagg had created the famous poster shortly after the war in 1917. “World War II, the main purpose of this poster was to encourage Americans to enlist to join the army(“Uncle Sam Poster – Propaganda: Influencing America’s War Effort”). The U.S. Army desparetly needed more men to enlist with the upcoming battles with Germany and Japan. The proposed audience for this certain type of propaganda was defintely young men. Though young white men were the main targets, the US did draft a number of minority men as well. Personally, I do believe Uncle Sam was a very effective piece of propaganda. Based on an actual person, Samuel Wilson, Flagg knew what he was doing when he created this. In addition, one can notice all of the norms of society that was typically be viewed as acceptable (a wealthy white man with power). Who can refuse the power of a persuasive white man instrusivley pointing his finger at YOU, telling YOU to join the army at that very second? I would also like to draw upon a contemporary superhero action film based on the Marvel comic Captain America: The First Avenger. Similarily, the fictious character of Steve Rogers begins as just an ordinary millienial of time, who gets drafted for World War II. Ironically enough, he becomes the poster child of patriotic propaganda, dressed in the American flag colors and formally known as “Captain America”. ‘Captain America is among the truest of superheroes. He was born out of something very real and immediate. We were on the cusp of entering World War II and he stood as an answer to the fears of many American children” (Krit). Looking at the propaganda poster tagline: “Cap salutes you! … For buying War Bonds”, draws upon the strong moral ego that Captain America is known for.
The contemporary poster of Captain America takes a new twist on the Uncle Sam motif that lasts as a legend. The modern day use of ‘propaganda’ is used throughout the media as well. I decided to use the filmCaptain America: The First Avenger, because it does such a good job at using a non-fictional character with historical content and events while inviting any audience to come and watch the film. Many millennials use social media as a means of influence through the community. This can be depicted by memes, vines, pictures, and tweets on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. “The growth of the internet, however, has transformed propaganda beyond anything those tasked with its production and spread in earlier generations could have imagined. The internet is a wilderness of information that is, unlike previous methods of disseminating propaganda, near impossible to regulate or officiate” (Kaye).
Kaye , John. “The Internet, Social Media and Propaganda: The Final Frontier?” Scribd, Scribd, 30 Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/document/313272849/Krest.
Kirt. “Captain America and Propaganda: A Four-Day Unit.” Superlessons, 6 Oct. 2015, superlessons.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/captain-america-and-propaganda/.
“Uncle Sam Poster – Propaganda: Influencing America’s War Effort.” Google Sites, sites.google.com/site/worldwariipropagandamoah/audience-for-propaganda/uncle-sam-poster.
Schenker, Marc. “ (Figure 1 & 2) Propaganda Graphic Design: History and Inspiring Examples”. 19 Mar. 2018, creativemarket.com/blog/propaganda-graphic-design.
Kendra Edwards is a Senior undergraduate freelance writer from Old Dominion University, who found her niche for writing in her Sophomore year of college. Since high school, Kendra has always had a fascination in creative writing that has carried throughout her college career and has focused on topics of refugee resettlement and feminist perspective. Currently in May, she created a sensory creative writing piece called ‘A Day in the Life of a Refugee” for a Women’s Studies event on campus. As a fanatical pop culture enthusiast, she also likes to intertwine her think pieces with her love for music, film, and art, creating other short reviews that may relate to gendered or intersectional feminist approaches.