The Socio-politic of Pop Culture Iconography of the Übermensch (or In Search of Hanumān Part 2)

The proliferation of pop culture iconography is all about promoting a favourable, recognizable brand to capture the mainstream audience of cultural and societal sensibilities.

The celebration of Hanumān in pop culture is an example of iconography of the übermensch (“overman”). In contrast to the concept of an Absolute Reality, the übermensch represents the concept of a personal demigod or hero, who embodies an ascetic code of honour and delivers local justice. The iconography of the übermensch offers a universal appeal and a demonstrable capacity for adoption by foreign cultures across national boundaries.

My article briefly remarks on the socio-politic connected to the dissemination of metanarratives about the pop culture iconography.

Jean-François Lyotard (The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1979) articulated metanarratives as false appeals to universal, rational, scientific criteria.

For example:

  • Spiritual dialectics;
  • Truth and justice;
  • Economic rationalism or liberalism.

These are evident in the following examples.

Sun Wukong (derivative of Hanumān)

Changes in Chinese culture affected the narratives about the fictional character, Sun Wukong.

“Sun” implies the monkey origin, and “Wukong” means aware of emptiness.

Mao Zedong, 1893–1976, founder of the People’s Republic of China, used Sun Wukong as a role model, citing “his fearlessness in thinking, doing work, striving for the objective and extricating China from poverty”.

Sun Wukong and Jade Rabbit
19th century Japanese woodblock print was made by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, the last great master of Ukiyo-e


The sovereign Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) of the Florentine Republic was fixated on Herculean iconography to shape the ducal political imagery.

The marriage of Francesco I to Johanna of Austria led to several impressive sculptures in Austria.

Hercules at Hofburg Palace
Pictured is one of the statues of the “Labours of Hercules” by Lorenzo Mattielli (Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria).

The Man of Steel

Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster drew inspiration from heroes such as Samson, Hercules and Moses to create the comic book incarnation of the übermensch in 1933, buoyed by the socio-politic of the vision for space exploration, as well as the rise to power of the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler. During World War II, the iconography of the übermensch was used as a tool of propaganda to present the metanarratives of truth, justice and liberty.

Fans can choose, if they wish, to adorn themselves with the trademarked symbol that represents those ideals.

Man of Steel