"By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."
Patriotism is an emotional attachment to one's perceived people(s) and homeland(s), though people have used the word differently over time and in various contexts. In the 20th century it was also understood as devotion to one's nation(-state). How patriotism is portrayed in fiction oscillates between two poles.
Patriotism is Good
A patriot is a person first and a national second - they treasure their people, but would never do evil in their name if it could be helped. Individual people have personalities and worth of their own - nations don't. A nation is a collection of people, culture(s) and traditions under a form of government. It is not an individual in itself, at best seen as a collective of elements; only individual people are worthy of care.
Their 'patriotism' comes from a love of their people and way of life, as well as a deep concern for their welfare. They don't necessarily care about their country's image, only insofar as its honor is in relation to those living in it. They want their people to be prosperous and happy - and they will gladly sacrifice the former to ensure the latter. They hate war because of the death and trauma and suffering it entails, since they care about the people caught up in it and want to minimize the harm done to their loved ones and communities - even if that means war.
This is mostly a Forgotten Trope in modern media, though it fluctuates depending on the time period and place. It still pops up occasionally (often subverting nationalist ideas of what makes someone patriotic, ŕ la A Few Good Men, or the other attributes associated with patriotism, ŕ la Forrest Gump). My Country, Right or Wrong usually tends to fall under here.
Patriotism is Bad
A patriot is a national first and a person second - they are loyal to their nation above all else, including their nation's people, and there is no evil they would not do in its name (however reluctantly or gladly). Nations have personalities and worth of their own - individual people don't. Nations in this case are seen as individuals. And as nations are the collective will of the people, only nations are worthy of care at the expense of those actually living in them.
Their 'patriotism' comes from a devotion to their nation and a deep concern for its strength and image relative to other nations. They don't care about their country's people or even their way of life, they just want their nation to be powerful and respected - and they will gladly sacrifice the former to ensure the latter. They love war because it is full of opportunities for their nation to gain power and glory, and because they don't care about the people caught up in it and just want to maximize their nation's gains even to the point of extremes - which often means war. They will often greatly overestimate their nations abilities and end up Bullying a Dragon or causing several countries to gang up on them.
This is a very common trope in modern media thanks to the apotheosis of nationalism in the 20th century and the enduring strength of nationalism to this day. It is usually played straight and embodied by such characters as the Sociopathic Soldier, Colonel Kilgore, or General Ripper. They are often a Tautological Templar who believes that the actions of their country are justified by virtue of being their country.Patriotism is Good and Bad
Every now and then you get a mix, where the blowhard is genuinely loyal and commendable, despite his enthusiasmfor wars with other peoples - though genocidal war-mongerers don't tend to feature in this category. On the other hand, the various strains of nationalism tend to lead writers to portray patriotism towards a certain state (i.e. their own) as good while patriotism towards all others is bad. That portrayal is full of Unfortunate Implications and is an inherently Broken Aesop.
When done right, it can be respectful of other patriotisms and nationalism while providing a more nuanced take of the concept. Done poorly however, this can also be a source of Misplaced Nationalism and Flame Bait.
This basically becomes the Sliding Scale of Patriotism vs Jingoism.
These poles can and often do reflect the personal political philosophy of the writer (and, contrary to what the stereotypes would have one believe, being right-wing does not necessarily make one more jingoistic, nor does being left-wing necessarily make one less patriotic). We can observe, though, that there are sometimes direct relationships between the popularity of a war and the number of noble or oafish patriots portrayed, which leads to the idea that the trope is cyclic. The writer may just be putting up a character in response to the mood of the public. Of course, films like Lions For Lambs, which lambast the war they portray and yet were massive flops at the box office, provide a big counterpoint to that theory.
Regardless of the motives, the Super Patriot is often a General Ripper or the Hero of Another Story.
Captain Geographic often is like this.
It should be pointed out that this is far from being mainly an American idea, however, different cultures have different attitudes toward it. For example in British television, or in fact most other British media published after 1918, Patriotic Fervour is pretty much always an unsympathetic trait, usually played for laughs. Where the line is drawn between regular patriotism and fervor is also very different; what classifies as normal patriotism in the U.S. would be seen as jingoism among most Germans, for example.
See Misplaced Nationalism for the internet equivalent. See My Country, Right or Wrong for when someone allows Patriotic Fervor to convince themselves that aiding an evil leader is their "duty". See My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting for artists who criticize their own country.
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Patriotism is Good
Half of the commercial spots for the Mexican beer Corona (Specially during any of the soccer tournaments that the Mexican soccer team plays) that are aired on national television. The other half consists on Scenery Porn with a dash of Patriotic Fervor.
Chibodee Crockett is a one-man Eagle Land who sees himself as a personification of the American Dream. He wants to win the Gundam Fight to prove to all the downtrodden Americans stuck on Earth that they can make it too, and seeing Americans use cheap underhanded tactics is a Berserk Button for him.
George de Sand is a French knight in SPACE. His motivation for fighting (apart from the fight itself) is to bring honor and glory to France, he's dedicated himself to Princess Marie-Louise, and his family takes pride in still living on French soil rather than Neo-France's space colony.
300: Only to be expected. After all, that was Sparta.
Captain America: The First Avenger: Puts less emphasis on Steve being a super-patriot and more on him being The Cape. He just wants to help people, and the costume and Hitler-punching persona is cooked up by a propaganda machine he'd be a lot happier without. The signs pointing to Steve's patriotism are mostly subtle, the most obvious one being his willingness to serve his country by any means, including the aforementioned propaganda. On the other hand, it's also mentioned that the Captain America persona did eventually grow on him. He also buys very heavily into the fixation with being the underdog that shows up a lot in American patriotism, so it's debatable.
Most of the main characters from Babylon 5, although they are largely a group of ambassadors. While these are the more subtle and serious form, Clarke's supporters in the Earth civil war plot are very much the loud kind.
Reality show Counting Cars is firmly in this camp; show star and shop owner Danny "The Count" Koker is the son of a Green Beret and is a huge supporter of the troops. He enjoys doing jobs for military causes, and will go all out on said projects.
Gottlieb's Spirit Of 76 is completely marinated in this trope. Justified as the pinball was released to celebrate the United States Bicentennial.
Similarly, Gottlieb's Rocky pinball is heavily decorated with the stars and stripes of the American flag, while the bumpers and targets are all red, white, or blue.
Freedom Force - Minuteman and Liberty Lad are American-themed superheroes.
This trope is the backstory for the Korean characters of the Soul Series. Hwang and Yun-Seong are soldiers in the Imperial Navy seeking Soul Edge in order to fight Japan and prove their national superiority. Seong Mi Na is trying to prove that females can be as capable soldiers as male recruits.
Masakado for Shin Megami Tensei. He once was a samurai warlord who tried to overthrow the Emperor, and after his death, his spirit and devotion to the people proved so strong, he became a benevolent protector deity for the Tokyo area. The National Defense Divinities, a handful of Shinto gods, were likewise devoted enough to volunteer themselves into the local Kaiju Defense Force against invading demons.
In Time Crisis 4, Captain William Rush is the very patriotic sidekick of the two VSSE agents assigned to the mission. He is quite upset to find out that the terrorists are a rebellious U.S. military unit, and when he confronts one of their major figures, he lets his wrestling skills loose while he and his terrorist opponent exchange some pretty heated banter.
Matt of Two Best Friends Play loves to shout "America!" whenever he sees something patriotic. Or does something awesome. Or when he does something really stupid but thinks its awesome. This is despite the fact that he's actually a Canadian.
Shortpacked!'sRonald Reagan has the ability to break the legs of shoplifters through patriotic fervor, which also makes him immune to bullets.
Zigzagged in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: While the U.S. edition of the 80s-era cartoon goes hyper-patriotic in its opening credits, theme song and subtitle, the actual content had to keep its Eagleland Fervor somewhat less excessive, as the cartoon was also marketed internationally. Overseas, the Joes were depicted as a multinational anti-terrorist force, albeit one with a lot of proudly-American members.
Patriotism is Bad
Anime and Manga
Played darkly in the Alabasta Arc of One Piece, in which Big BadCrocodile uses this to turn the people of the country of Alabasta against each other. He arranges events so that half of the population becomes convinced that the King is self-serving and out to ruin the country for his own benefit, so they start a rebellion and go to war against the other half who remain loyal to the King. Crocodile's description of his plan?
The difference in US and UK perceptions of apparent Patriotic Fervor is the reason why Captain Britain is pretty much unheard of in his 'home' country, considered equal parts sad and hilarious when people know he exists. Though this is likely due to the fact that his design (a strapping great big muscular guy emblazoned with the Union Flag) caters far more to the American tastes of what constitutes a hero. Brits far prefer their heroes a little more Byronic, cynical and witty — which is why home-grown James Bond and Sherlock Holmes have always been so well received and are the UK's counterpart of patriotic characters.
That line about watering the Tree of Liberty with blood is one of the reasons the author of the Declaration of Independence may be seen as a bit of a jerkass — it could be used to justify things like the French Terror.
The Torture Porn film Territories◊ is about a pair of psychotic super patriot border agents who capture, imprison and torture anyone they deem a threat to America (fuck yeah!).
The same year saw the release of Undocumented, another film about psychotic super patriots killing anyone (but mostly illegal immigrants) they perceive as threats to 'Murrica.
Uncle Sam, a slasher about the title character killing off the unpatriotic (flag burners, draft dodgers, sleazy lawyers, soldiers, and politicians, etc.) But in reality, he's not some super patriot vigilante, just a psycho who likes killing people.
Live Action TV
The 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "Red, White, & Dick" centered on the aliens discovering patriotism. In an effort to be as American as possible, Sally, Tommy, and Harry looked over the Declaration of Independence. They latched onto the phrase "all men are created equal" and ended up creating a Does This Remind You of Anything? version of Commie Land. Meanwhile, Dick discovered that he was Canadian in his phony Earth identity and took the citizenship test (which is weird, since he was able to register to vote in the earlier episode "Dick the Vote").
A FoxTrot strip had Paige claiming to be doing her Freedom homework (instead of "French homework"), to her mother's irritation.
Exaggerated with the Jerkass heel Kurt Angle, who was so patriotic that he wore a starred and striped singlet and insulted Canadian people; and darkly subverted with John Bradshaw Layfield, who merely exploited patriotism as a vehicle to seize power.
A couple of years later, Sylvan Grenier - the third La Resistance member - became the self-appointed Ambassador of Quebec, a heel who kept telling people that Quebec was the best place in the world. This culminated in a Smackdown from Montreal, where he got massive cheers.
Both Dupree and Grenier are actually Canadian, and after a while (perhaps to mitigate hostility among fans in France) they were billed as French-Canadian jingoists. (For context, French-Canadians are often viewed by Anglo-Canadians with even more disdain than Mexican-Americans are viewed in the U.S.) Humorously, Rob Conway was also billed as a Canadian despite being from New Jersey.
Discussed by Chris Rock in Never Scared. He discusses how after 9/11 and at the start of the Iraq War, Americans were extremely patriotic, and there was "accepted racism" towards French and Arabs.
Chris: Then they went to, "I'm American, I'm American, fuck all these illegal aliens." Then I started listening, 'cause I know niggas and Jews is next
The computer, some of the rebellions, and a lot of the players in Paranoia act on a twisted form of this trope.
Fallout 3: LIBERTY PRIME IS ONLINE. ALL SYSTEMS NOMINAL. WEAPONS: HOT. MISSION: THE DESTRUCTION OF ANY AND ALLCHINESE COMMUNISTS. AMERICA WILL NEVER FALL TO COMMUNIST INVASION. EMBRACE DEMOCRACY OR YOU WILL BEERADICATED!
Fallout: New Vegas has Dr. Borous of the Old World Blues DLC, who like Liberty Prime has a psychotic hatred of communists. In his case however, it seems to be a mask for his petty hatred of a high school bully and a girl who rejected him.
The Soldier is often implied to suffer greatly from this in the Team Fortress 2 fandom. A number of his domination lines, though, cement his hilariously over the top jingoism. The fact that he has a grasp on reality that can charitably be described as 'tenuous' only makes it that much funnier.
"Stars and Stripes beats Hammer and Sickle, LOOK IT UP." (Upon dominating the Heavy, a Russian)
"America wins again!" (When dominating the German Medic)
"Your white flag does not stop American bullets." (Dominating the Spy, supposedly French)
The Jack Howitzer commercials in Grand Theft Auto's radio. All of them satirical over-the-top parody jingoism.
Howitzer: I'm an American! AND YOU'RE NOT! SO F***ING DIE!
Bandit Keith in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series is a bizarre version of this, who "apparently likes to remind everyone that he's from America". Every other line that he speaks ends with him saying "in America!" or making references to being American. In a bizarre twist, he's Canadian.
Parodied with "American Eagle" and "USA Patriot Act", two of the metaprodigies at PS238 school. As candidates to replace Freedom Fighter (the Captain AmericaExpy of the PS238-verse) they constantly try to outdo each other in Patriotic Fervor, to the bemusement and annoyance of their teachers and classmates:
American Eagle: Good citizens, can you lend a fellow American assistance? I'm in search of Mr. Alloy's classroom. I wish to further my education in science, so that I might contribute to the innovation that makes our country a leader in the quest for knowledge!
On one episode of Family Guy, Peter is swept up in a wave of pro-Americanism that ultimately leads to a crusade against immigrants, of which he, naturally, turns out to be one.
Peter (wearing a suit made of an American flag: This is how a patriot dresses.
Stewie: You look like the Statue of Liberty's pimp.
Of course, all the Nation-tans of Hetalia feel this way about their countries, since they are their counties; America is just the most open about it.
While good ol' Captain America was originally conceived as essentially propaganda, over the years he's been developed and deconstructed in enough ways to remain sympathetic to foreigners and internationalists.
Many of his contemporary counterparts like the U.S. Agent tend to represent the more extreme side of this trope.
Parodied in PS238: The universe's local Captain Patriotic is getting up in the years, and both the Democratic and Republican party wants his successor to adhere to their party line. Thus, they push their own candidates, both of whom constantly try to out-patriotic the other on-screen. Did we mention both of said candidates are in primary school and none of their classmates understand anything of what they're doing?
Played with in Power & Glory: A-Pex is an all-American Flying Brick hero with blonde hair, boyish good looks, and is an Ideal Hero — but it's all a manufactured persona by the US government as a product of nationalist fantasy.
The second film in the Rambo series is this trope.
The third film. Only than it's Afghani patriotism rather than American.
Considering that Rambo pretty much disowns America at the end of the second film because he's disgusted by the government's attempt to cover up Vietnam still holding American POWs, this trope may not apply to the Rambo films.
Some of Chariots of Fire is about the difference between healthy patriotism and unhealthy. One of the best scenes shows athletes saluting each others flags and giving respect to each others patriotism in a spirit of comradeship-in-competition between idealistic youthful athletes. It gives the idea that for a short time the world was a fellowship of nations.
In Jingo the nobles of Ankh-Morpork have an army consisting of officers with no experience leading troops with no training, yet they expect it to take no more than a day to defeat an army several times larger with years of experience. There's also little old ladies who try to shame the city's police officers for not abandoning their posts to join the army. The set-up is more than slightly reminiscent of the popular image of World War I. The book takes its name from the rhyme (quoted in the book itself) that gave us the word "jingoism".
Reg Shoe is another example from Discworld. In fact, when he actually GETS involved in a Revolution (in which nobody pays any attention to him), in the final battle that is the climax of Night Watch, Reg Shoe is killed by several crossbow bolts. His revolutionary fervor is so great that this doesn't stop him, and he only gets more enthusiastic as a zombie.
26. Never tell a German soldier that "We kicked your ass in World War 2!"
Live Action TV
Major Frank Burns on M*A*S*H was the quintessence of this trope. His Movie version adds religious arrogance to the mix.
Colonel Flagg (U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Division), embodies a jingoistic, paranoid, "Americans are God" straw patriotism that is both funny and deeply disturbing at the same time.
During The Fifties it would not have been entirely unrealistic or entirely Straw to find Flagglike individuals in such a role. And in several other decades as well. And in Real Life they're even more disturbing.
In contrast, Colonel Potter's patriotism is unquestionable, serious, and very downplayed. It's also proven by the fact he's on his third war, and still faithfully serving despite being old enough to have retired.
American Patriotic Fervor was the theme of the musical Strike Up the Band, which had the U.S. starting a war with Switzerland over either cheese or chocolate.
George M. Cohan's name was once all but synonymous with American Patriotic Fervor.
In the number "A Healthy, Normal American Boy" from Bye Bye Birdie, Patriotic Fervor is one device employed to avoid having to honestly answer questions about Conrad Birdie. His fan clubs also pledge their allegiance "to Conrad Birdie and the United States of America, both indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
Street Fighter's Zangief is the poster boy for this trope. AND MOTHER RUSSIA!!
Guile is a subversion. He gives off this vibe, but only makes a couple of quotes about being a man and nothing about being an American. He has an American flag tattoo to mirror patches worn on soldier uniforms, and his backstory is all about finding a missing friend from the military, as opposed to Zangief who usually fights FOR RUSSIA.
Played with in the case of Ulysses of Fallout: New Vegas. In the Old World Blues DLC, you can hear him speak of how he still believes in America despite having been wiped out two centuries ago and his most distinctive physical trait is his jacket with the Fallout setting's version of the stars and stripes. In Lonesome Road however, it's shown that he has a disdain for all the major factions of the Mojave and plans to wipe them out using the nukes of The Divide. Nonetheless, it seems that while he is a devoted patriot, he has no "homeland" to devote himself to, having long since deserted Caesar's Legion and having his would-be home ending up destroyed by the unwitting hands of the Courier.
Inverted with modern day Germany, who's afraid to wave his flag too much for fear of his people becoming too prideful (because bad things happen), and even freaked out when he realized his shirt was a flag.
This is played straight with the main Scandinavian trio, though, since they see the flags as a symbol of joy and happiness, and like waving them around for their birthdays. Or in this case Germany's.