Forging Kryptonite: Lex Luthor's Xenophobia as Societal Fracturing, from Batman v Superman to Supergirl

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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Adapting Superman: Essays on the Transmedia Man of Steel


Lex Luthor: Humanity's Kryptonite

The 2016 United States presidential election has had significant implications for American society. It occurred during a time of expanding customized media, increasing partisanship, and a worldwide escalation in far-right rhetoric and policies, and was centered around overtly racist, sexist, and Islamophobic rhetoric from a candidate-to-president who was supportive of an effort by the Russian government to divide Americans. After the election, hate crimes increased and hateful policies were enacted, such as reducing transgender rights, banning Muslims from entering the United States, and separating families of asylum seekers at the United States border. This environment seeped into the lives of people in the United States to varying degrees, but nevertheless more significantly than previous elections. Scholars began researching the toll on people identifying as LGBTQ, Latinx, Muslim, and living within mixed-status families, on the dominant culture's perception of quality of life as a whole, and on personal relationships with family and friends.

With any societal event, fiction plays a crucial role in helping culture unpack it. This has certainly been true of superheroes. As the first superhero and one with continued relevance, Superman has represented different things to different generations and continues to respond to this process of cultural dialogue. Always first in pursuing the demise of this paragon, however, has been the criminal genius Lex Luthor. As the greatest nemesis of America's greatest hero, Lex has been representative of issues that American society has struggled with.


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