?

Log in

No account? Create an account
David Hines [userpic]

that CAPTAIN AMERICA thing

February 13th, 2010 (06:36 pm)
Tags:

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.

Comments

Posted by: Karl Gallagher (selenite)
Posted at: February 13th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
don't tread

The Tea Party is explicitly about the right taking pages from the lefty playbook.

If only it was so well documented. When I was making some protest signs a year ago--which involved a fair amount of trial and error--I was muttering "How come there's never a hippie around when you need one?"

Posted by: Domenika Marzione (miss_porcupine)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
echo

Way back pre-2000, I remember an interview with Mark Millar, of all people, explaining that while he was personally a proper lefty, the majority of comics readers were not and thus he had to keep his politics out of the storylines because it was bad for business. He couldn't piss all over soldiers because they made up a countable percentage of comics-buyers. Funny what a decade will do...

(For the record, I've always sort of been unimpressed by Gail Simone as a writer -- both her storylines and her reaction to anyone who isn't enthralled by them. We butted heads gently back when I was in the comics review thing.)

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
commies

Millar is an interesting case. He cheerfully lies about all manner of stuff for publicity, and markets everything he does to try to maximize controversy and money. My take is that he's fairly amoral; I'm sure he has his ideologies, but his chief ideology is and always will be Mark Millar.

I recall a Toyfare interview from some years ago where he mentioned that his father was actually a Communist; other times he's said that his dad was a union guy with Communist sympathies. That's a minor commentary in and of itself; nobody would ever mention neo-Nazi parents in public.

Posted by: The Weasel King (theweaselking)
Posted at: February 15th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)

I find it interesting that you equate communists with neo-nazis.

From your original:
despite the fact that Marvel *is still depicting anti-tax protestors as crazy racists.*

#1: "crazy racist" is redundant. "Racist" covers the concept nicely without needing an attached synonym.

#2: When you're talking about the Teabaggers, you really can't look at their rhetoric and their actions and their behaviour and not get "racist" without working way the hell out of your way to twist things into a maybe, kind of, if you look at it funny, possibly non-racist context.


Edited at 2010-02-15 02:53 pm (UTC)

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 15th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
commies

"crazy racist" is redundant. "Racist" covers the concept nicely without needing an attached synonym.

Are you kiddin'? I've met some remarkably sane and polite racists. You don't have to be nuts to have irrationally broad dislikes.

I find it interesting that you equate communists with neo-nazis.

I actually find it rather strange that more people don't. Communism has killed close to a hundred million people -- more than half of them in the People's Republic of China alone, thanks to Mao -- and yet somehow maintains a kind of goofy respectability. Flirting with fascism is, and should be, grounds for severe criticism if not complete exile from public life, but Communism? Eh, that's a phase, lots of people go through it.

(I can make and have made polite conversation with Communists and John Birchers at cocktail parties, but there's a certain distance involved.)

Edited at 2010-02-15 09:50 pm (UTC)

Posted by: The Weasel King (theweaselking)
Posted at: February 15th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)

You don't have to be nuts to have irrationally broad dislikes.

Whereas I tend to view "irrational broad dislikes" as, themselves, inherently, "crazy".

You can be polite and racist. You can't be *sane* and racist. The term "racist" precludes sanity.

Communism has killed close to a hundred million people -- more than half of them in the People's Republic of China alone, thanks to Mao

For what it's worth, I think communists are crazy - and at the same time, Communism is, in and of itself, a kind of relatively harmless ideological crazy.

STALINISTS, who were vaguely communist authoritarians, killed millions of people.

MAOISTS, who were communist authoritarians, killed millions of people.

MANSONITES, who were actual-communist nutbags, killed a dozen people. And probably would have killed more, given the chance, but didn't get that chance.

Really, comparing it to Nazism is approximately the same as saying that since Hitler and the Nazi Party were Christians and thought they were doing God's work, that Christianity is somehow "inherently" responsible for the Holocaust.

My point is, "communism" is not inherently a more violent and untrustworthy ideology than Christianity, Libertarianism, Atheism, Liberalism, or Last Tuesdayism. Which is to say, there are degrees in all of those, and the slaughter of those who oppose you or those who are unclean is nowhere inherent in *any* of those.

Flirting with fascism is, and should be, grounds for severe criticism if not complete exile from public life

Oh please. "Flirting with fascism" is the title of the autobiography of BOTH American political parties.

For what it's worth, I'm a white, middle-class, educated, male, straight, and "centrist" Canadian. Were I an American, I would be far too far "left" for the Democratic Party.

And while I think that communists are not in touch with reality, I'm not willing to slot them in as anywhere NEAR as crazy as white supremacists and antisemites.

Edited at 2010-02-15 10:25 pm (UTC)

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 16th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
wtf

Really, comparing it to Nazism is approximately the same as saying that since Hitler and the Nazi Party were Christians and thought they were doing God's work, that Christianity is somehow "inherently" responsible for the Holocaust.

Wow. Um, no, no, really, this is so wrong I can't even *begin* to go into how wrong it is in an LJ comment, but while Christianity certainly has a long history of conflict with and oppression of the Jews, to say that Hitler and his crew were motivated by Christianity gets them pretty much completely incorrect. There were schools of thought that sought to reconcile Christianity with National Socialism, but church membership plummeted ninety percent during Hitler's rule and following the war the Nazis planned to exterminate Christianity in Germany in favor of the National Reich Church and "clear away from its altars all Crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of Saints." If you were going to get married in church, you'd get married next to a copy of Mein Kampf and a sword. As a contemporary observed: "The Führer is deeply religious, but deeply anti-Christian. He regards Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race."

That's from Joseph Goebbels's diary. You'd think he'd know.

Posted by: The Weasel King (theweaselking)
Posted at: February 16th, 2010 05:06 am (UTC)

Also: Bird covers a lot of the issues regarding this specific incident, in detail.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 02:09 am (UTC)
plane

Well, yeah, as it happens I think Sgrena was probably lying through her teeth, possibly to the point of having been complicit in her abduction or at not being too worried about it. She was rather conveniently on the phone with an Italian journalist at the time of the abduction, and the propaganda tape being released the day before an Italian parliamentary vote makes me think she probably provided some suggestions to maximize its effectiveness. It seemed weird to me from the beginning that she was kidnapped in an attempt to force political changes that Sgrena was in Iraq doing activist reporting to try to bring about anyway.

Not that this makes the deaths when her car came under fire for failing to stop at a roadblock after her release any less regrettable. But Sgrena immediately started calling it an assassination attempt, which I do think is a crock.

Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 02:17 am (UTC)

Did the comic portray the protesters as "crazy racists"? I thought it was a single panel with The Falcon saying he wouldn't be comfortable among a bunch of angry white people.

But then, I haven't read the comic, only seen a single controversial panel online.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
donuts?

Not quite. Falc's exact words are, "I don't exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks... if you know what I mean."

Also, he mentions the ralliers and the Watchdogs in the same breath, which is a little harsh if you know your Marvel comics. (The Watchdogs are a combination of every violent right-wing extremist group ever, so the Falcon mentioning them in this context is kind of like somebody looking at an environmentalist demonstration and going, "So, this environmentalist concern goes deeper than the ELF, then?" It comes off as being, to put it kindly, really tone-deaf.)

I should add that while I didn't like the gimmick, and thought it didn't serve Marvel particularly well, it didn't affect me with anywhere near the surprise that Simone's response did.

Edited at 2010-02-14 02:49 am (UTC)

Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)

Well, the Watchdogs thing is uncool. I'm no fan of Tea Party rhetoric and I consider people who cheer Birther speechifying a poison in the country, but Watchdogs were total a-holes (in their purple and gold).

BTW, have you seen this?

I forgot to mention: I missed Simone's comments, since I'm not on Twitter as a favor to Twitterers everywhere.

Edited at 2010-02-14 03:12 am (UTC)

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 14th, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)

Yes! I read Sims's blog.

(Seriously. Purple and gold. Who WEARS that?!)

Posted by: Grey Bard (grey_bard)
Posted at: February 15th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)

Yeah, um. I'm relegating this to the pile of Marvel's lame and horrifying attempts to be political. Of which there are many, stretching back forty or fifty years. Yuck.

14 Read Comments