Modern mythology refers to characters and images that remain popular and in use in modern writing, entertainment, and popular thought which have gained a mythological stature or nature due to such works. This term is often used to refer to various works in popular culture, such as comic books, as the characters within them often seem to emulate many of the models of heroism and stories found in ancient mythological systems and stories. Modern mythology can also contain people who have lived in recent memory, who may be lifted to a status that seems to fit the heroes or legends of ancient myths and can include folk heroes as well.
One of the main distinctions between modern mythology and ancient mythology is that the events or figures in more modern works remain in circulation or exist today. These characters and stories have typically been created or written about in the last few hundred years, rather than the thousands of years that often separate the present from ancient myths. The characters or events that popularize such myths often emulate modern values or ideas, but do so in a way that still resembles the characters and stories used in ancient myths and legends.
Comic book characters, for example, are often considered a part of modern mythology. The various superheroes and similar characters found in comic books are often compared to mythological heroes such as Hercules or Perseus, with strengths and weaknesses that are frequently depicted as legendary and are emblematic of mythological heroes. Pop culture figures, including celebrities from the past few decades or century, can also be considered figures in modern mythology. Many of these people have lived lives that are somewhat unbelievable, and stories about these people are often exaggerated and expanded upon until they become legendary and turn such people into “larger than life” figures.
There are also a number of folk heroes and characters that are often considered a part of modern mythology, many of which are tied to particular cultural or national tales. In the US, for example, figures such as John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, and even Davey Crocket have become legendary characters whose real deeds and fictional stories become nearly inseparable. Modern mythology is not typically used to refer to religious tales or figures, however, even though ancient myths studied today largely stem from religious movements in the past. The term “myth” indicates that a story is inherently fictional or false and can be extremely offensive when applied to someone’s religious beliefs.