David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines


Short shameful confession: I was actually sorely tempted to get into a Twitterfight with Gail Simone recently over the recent kerfuffle over an issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA. (If you haven't heard, Cap and the Falcon show up at a Tea Party protest and casually diss them, with the Falcon concerned that he'll be attacked because they're clearly a bunch of racist wackos, etc. The Tea crowd took considerable exception, and Marvel apologized and said they'd change the signs in the trade, to take away the link to the Tea Party movement.) Simone spent a good bit of time writing some remarkably harsh stuff on Twitter, some of which actually rather pissed me off. Which is pretty surprising, because Simone tends to be evenhanded and when she isn't she usually makes me *think,* not raise an eyebrow and go, "Wow. Really."

Brendan McGuirk makes an argument at Comics Alliance that Marvel had nothing to apologize for. I wanted to quote some bits of McGuirk's thoughts and add a few thoughts of my own, because I think this article expresses pretty well the nature of (what I see as) the problem. McGuirk's text is in italics.

Marvel Comics are for people of all stripes and creeds, of course, and no one should be made to feel unwelcome for leaning one way or another politically.

I was, quite frankly, *amazed* to read this, because quite a lot of comics pros who reacted to this situation were quite happy to make people -- ie, potential readers, ie, people who might give them money -- feel unwelcome for leaning one way or another politically. This included Gail Simone, whom I admire a ton, and I found it especially surprising coming from her because she's the writer who pitched a Batgirl series that would have seen Cassandra Cain developing a strong and explicitly Christian faith -- IIRC, this because Simone realized that critiques of comics as being generally unwelcoming or condescending toward religious faith weren't off the mark. (Religious authority figures, in particular, are often insane or duplicitous; it's rare you encounter one in comics -- and TV and film, for that matter -- who isn't a hypocrite or hiding something or conning people or outright evil.)

Brubaker, however, has established himself as the preeminent Captain America writer by deftly weaving modern real-world allegory with bombastic superheroics to powerful effect, and so there was something rather disingenuous about Marvel's recant, as it seems to be missing the point; sure, you can remove the "Tea Bag the Libs Before They Tea Bag You," sign, but are you really saying this story isn't about the Tea Party movement? Isn't that what makes the story so interesting?

…er, well, I was under the impression that what makes the story interesting is *Captain America,* but that's just me. That aside, there are, in fact, interesting stories that can be told about the Tea Party movement and movements like it in American politics; from the scene I read, Marvel was more interested in a story portraying them as a racist mob of yahoos. Which isn't very interesting. It's also miles away from the way lefty protests, which draw plenty of their own fanatics, are portrayed. These things pissed the Tea crowd off.

You will note, incidentally, that *the entire thing* is Bullshit Theater 101 on both sides. Here is what happened: 1) Marvel published an issue of comics in which anti-tax protestors, who carried a sign linking them to the Tea Party protests, were depicted as crazy racists. 2) The Tea Party crowd erupted in outrage. 3) Marvel said, "Oh, sorry, our bad. *We'll change the sign.*" 4) Every lefty in creation jumps all over Marvel for bowing to the will of the horrible, evil Tea Party movement, despite the fact that Marvel *is still depicting anti-tax protestors as crazy racists.* They're not changing the dialogue, they're not changing the story, they're changing *one freakin' sign.* Marvel is still shitting on the Tea Party movement. They're just not calling it the Tea Party movement.

That's Bullshit Theater 101 on Marvel's part.

On the other side, the Tea Party is doing the same damn thing. This is what you have to understand: they're not interested in changing minds here. That's not the purpose of public outrage. Public outrage is for doing two things: getting attention, and demonstrating power. The Tea Party knows that the entertainment mainstream views them, and conservatives in general, with contempt, and they don't care. Well, not exactly; they care to the extent that they hate the entertainment mainstream right back and want to punish it, but they're not going into this to be loved, or to be fair; they want to demonstrate that *they have power.*

And they *know* that Marvel's concession is bullshit. Because when somebody gets in your face about something you disagree with, will you back down? No, if it matters to you, you might dig in, or fight. But you can also offer a bullshit concession, something you don't care about, to make them go away. That's what Marvel did, and that's what the Tea Party wanted. They don't care if the insult is still there, because they know they'll be hated anyway; what matters is *that they got a concession,* and people will remember that.

If you think this is how lefty groups operate, you're right. The Tea Party is explicitly about the right taking pages from the lefty playbook.

Back to the article. McGuirk talks about the "evil corporation stories" in comics:

Despite how it may appear, these stories were not strictly about vilifying corporations, or creating stories about "Captain America vs. Corporate America." Instead, what made these stories powerful was their unique ability to achieve resonance with the audience. The stories didn't take pause to qualify that "these companies are good, and these ones are bad." Instead, they drew from real world headlines, and extrapolated the broader lessons the nation had learned.

Well, no, they don't. They draw from the broader lessons that *lefties* have learned. They never draw from things that people on the right learn, and usually go out of their way to point out that things people on the right learn are incorrect, and even in the more rightish moments they try to ameliorate them with lefty platitudes. Think about Marvel's response to 9/11, which saw Captain freakin' America refuse Nick Fury's directive to go to Kandahar because he was working Ground Zero clean-up and included a tribute to the only politician to vote against the declaration of war in WWII. Another example, which I've mentioned before: DC Comics did a Superman story in which Lois Lane was working as a war correspondent. Lois got shot. Superman flew around the world to intervene and take her to get medical attention. The twist, of course, was that Lois Lane was shot by the US Government, because they knew Superman was close to her and that if she were in harm's way Superman would appear on the battlefield, which they could use to scare the enemy into surrendering.

In the real world, meanwhile, Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by fanatics who videotaped him admitting that he was American and a Jew. For these crimes, they sawed his head off.

I would have *loved* to have seen a Superman story honoring some of the real journalists who get killed in the line of duty. But the only version of that story DC chose to tell was the one that took a dark view of the American government. It's at the point now where that's reflexive. And as I've said a number of times, I *don't think that's a good thing.* It's not good that all these conspiracy theory stories have our civilization and institutions represented as the bad guys, and it's not good for our comics to do the same thing to segments of our political body. That's what cable news is for!

I'm not saying that comic books need to trumpet a different line, or espouse my own politics (NATIONWIDE CONCEALED CARRY RECIPROCITY WOO-HOO), but right now there's no denying that comics in general have a pretty wide blind spot in this area. And I think it'd do some good to branch out a little.
Tags: comics

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