When I took part in the Transformers newsgroups many years ago (surprisingly it still exists) every election year some putz had to post a variation of the following question: are the Autobots conservative/Republicans and the Decepticons liberal/Democrat, or the reverse: are the Decepticons are conservatives and the Autobots liberals. This to me was intended to gauge the political affiliations of the other posters. Clearly you would try to claim the Autobots as part of your political perspective because they were the good guys (unless you were part of that small group that tried to make the case that the Decepticons were the real heroes–I’m totally serious and so where they). First off, my official political leanings…though I have said in the past I’m conservative with a friend claiming I’m closer to libertarian, but I’ve grown to not care about labels in general…are nobody’s business. They do not affect my affection for Transformers then or storytelling today. Plus, for the record, some Autobots would be liberal, some would be conservatives, some would be moderates, and others apolitical based on their tech spec profiles. Meanwhile the Decepticons, embodiment of the worst aspects of humanity as most villains are and a product of the 1980s, would be fascists, tyrants (Megatron’s tech spec quote is “peace through tyranny” after all), and anarchists, punks, and other criminals. It’s one of the worst questions Transformers fandom has had to put with, and they still argue “Unicron Vs. the Death Star”. (Unicron up close, the Death Star far away. Now stop asking.)
I bring this up because political divisiveness in geek communities is hardly anything new, and as politics have wormed their way into every aspect of our lives, especially our entertainment as of late, claiming a hero for “your side” has also ramped up. I see them now and then on various subjects but someone was “kind” enough to spread an image on Facebook bringing them all together in one happy rant of dumb, and all for the liberal side. Admittedly “author unknown” did get a few things right, but he (or she, I’ll stick with he because that’s one less letter for each time I have to write the pronoun so it’s out of laziness really) also got a whole lot wrong. Since I know some responses will be longer than others I’ve decided to break this down into two parts so this article doesn’t run forever. I hate when sites do that (especially the ones just trying to eek out more ad revenue, none of which I currently get) and this intro has been long enough.
One last thing before I get into this: I’m going to attempt to be as apolitical as possible given that this is skirting away from the usual types of discussions I have here at BW Media Spotlight, where I want to bring everyone together to examine the art of storytelling. However, there are going to be points where my political views will show up in the name of clarifying. That doesn’t mean I’m going to immediately disagree with everything here, nor is this about the right-winger attacking the SJW since as I said before there are things the writer got right. It’s the stuff that he got wrong that brings me here today.
“X-Men is about civil rights. If you didn’t get that, you didn’t get X-Men.”
On it’s own, that one is right. Stan Lee has stated–and you can see it in the first issue–that mutants were and still are allegories for oppressed groups. Mutants are hated and feared because they’re born with powers, though I would make the case that in modern Marvel this is stupid given how many people have superpowers. By now you’d think people would stop caring given how many other ways people gets superpowers. Lightning, radiation, space, space radiation, secret formulas–Marvel jumps through so many hoops trying to continue the superhero fantastic while still remaining “the world outside your window” that they make the citizenry dumb as rocks, and I don’t mean Ben Grimm. There’s a reason I make fun of them a lot.
However, critics on both the right and left (check out Just Some Guy on YouTube for the latter) would argue that the problem is “allegory”. The allegory has been replaced by straight-up bluntness in choices. They want you to know that mutants are a stand-in for a particular racial or LGBT+ group without question rather than present something that speaks to anyone oppressed, even those bullied for not catering to some bully’s idea of a social norm (like a strong imagination and poor social skills–like me). They add gay, transgender, and non-binary characters, or a particular race (usually one of the “approved” discussion races–not that many Malaysian or Hawaiian characters but nobody seems to care) which itself isn’t a problem, but that’s all they are. They have no character, no personality beyond that and are just there to tick off some mark on the token card. When Iceman was suddenly retconned into being gay (not even bisexual despite having been shown attracted to women on many occasions) that became his character under Sina Grace…being gay. A good character can live any lifestyle or be any race you want but a good character is a also person first. If your lifestyle or skin color is the only thing that defines you as a person I’m sorry. Get a life. If it’s part of who you are but not all that defines you, congratulations on being a well-rounded person, which your character should also be and therein lies the problem with the current crop of characters and writing. This is also why people on both the left and the right made fun of the New New Warriors like Safespace and Snowflake. They’re concepts of token minority groupings and that’s all they have going for them. Make good characters and they can sleep with whomever you want or be any skin color you want. Nobody will care except the racists/sexists/homophobes they try to insist every critic is. It’s like they’re using token representation to avoid admitting what they really are…lazy. And I just admitted I chose a pronoun for author unknown so I’d have to write one less letter each time. Storm wasn’t defined by her race but by her powers and upbringing and everyone loves Storm. She even married the next character in the list.
“Black Panther is about civil rights. If you didn’t get that, you didn’t get Black Panther.”
Are you getting that from the name? Because until more recent writers the name was just a coincidence. They even changed his name for a while because Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the two Jewish men who created him and his homeland (for those of you using “Wakanda forever” as some kind of rallying cry–and also if you think Black Panther was the first all-black cast superhero movie look up The Meteor Man or the pilot movie for M.A.N.T.I.S.–and yes there should be more than three), weren’t aware of the group when they named him…because the group you know as the Black Panthers hadn’t started using the name as of yet. They even called him Black Leopard for a while just to distance T’Challa from the group. T’Challa kept Wakanda away from all outsiders, including other African tribes and cities, for the longest time. In fact, them not helping others with their advanced technologies and medical techniques, again a case of fantastic versus “world outside your window”, makes them look like jerks and xenophobes. I haven’t seen it (it’s on the Finally Watched list but the one time it aired someplace I could see it I missed it) but wasn’t that also one of the themes of the movie?
“Captain America literally fought Nazis. He is the embodiment of fighting the alt-right. If you didn’t get that, you don’t get Captain America.”
And here’s our first blatant shot at people on the right. You know, there was a time when evoking the Nazis in an argument on the internet meant you lost because it was so overused. Somewhere in the last couple of presidents that changed and now everybody is calling each other a Nazi, though the far left likes to toss that label out more often. I’m not going to sit here and dissect the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party (the full name of the Nazi party) actions or Nazism versus left/right wing thinking. NOBODY comes to BW Media Spotlight for that and the sooner I get this commentary out of my system the happier I’ll be. Besides you’ve already made up your mind. That’s how we do things now, right? You’re correct and anyone who disagrees should be canceled and you hope they also die horribly. I know many conservatives who also want to fight fascism and are not Anti-Semitic. I know liberals who are very Anti-Semitic and trash the same Jews that created Wakanda. You’re going to have to be more convincing since you don’t believe individuals bypass the political labels. Conservatives and liberals just approach their bigotry differently, though Jew bashing seems to be a universal process among bigots of both sides.
“The Empire in Star Wars is fascist. The Rebel alliance is Anti-Fascist. If you didn’t get that, you didn’t get Star Wars.”
Or you just plain didn’t watch it and are blind as a bat. Like with Cap we’re disagreeing on definitions of fascist or which side actually are fascists. I’ve heard stories about that little zone in Seattle from earlier this year that sounded awfully fascist. The far-left wants to silence any alternate perspective, host the book burnings, and will demand laws and rules they themselves violate. Anarchists think ANY law is fascist. You win nothing with this argument if you’re trying to convince those who disagree with you to sign up. They already think YOU’RE the fascist.
“Doctor Who was about an alien-fighting for all humanity in spite of totalitarian regimes. If you don’t get that you don’t get Doctor Who.”
I’m not sure if this the fault of the unknown author or the unknown transcriber but what’s with the odd hyphen and the sudden switch from past to present tense? Also, this is what the show turned into and even then the Doctor doesn’t always fight for humanity or fight totalitarian regimes or both every episode. Sometimes he (or currently she) will look for a peaceful solution when possible, give the villain every possible chance to change their ways or just stop, then puts them down when they refuse. Sometimes he even learns he was tricked and the other guys are the baddies, none of them really are and one person was manipulating both sides, and other mixes that make the stories interesting. Heck, the first Doctor (Timeless Child my foot!) didn’t care about any of that. He just wanted to explore. His first encounter with the Daleks was because he wanted to explore the city and nearly got himself, the Companions he kidnapped, and his own granddaughter killed by radiation or by the Daleks. He only agreed to fight them because he left an important ship part behind when they escaped, not Ian’s speech to help the Thals. Dude almost killed a caveman just to keep him from following them even though Cavey was out cold. It was only after many years of being exposed to Ian and Barbara and later Companions like Vicki, Steve, Ben, and Polly that he started to fight to protect others, something carried into his later incarnations. So originally it was about a jerk who kidnapped people to save his own skin and couldn’t get them back home until two years later.
One could also question some of the Doctor’s methods, which not only was brought up during Tenth’s time but was a plot point during Twelfth’s run. “Am I a good man?” Well, now you’re a good woman…maybe. I stopped watching the show because it lost the charm of the original series. Yes, I know some of those episodes had social themes, but they were themes, not the emphasis of the whole series or even the serial. “The Green Death” an allegory for environmentalism, could still be enjoyed on its own even if you disagreed with the theme. “The Happiness Patrol” was commentary against then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and was frankly garbage. Not necessarily because of the theme but it sure hurt. William Shakespeare could pull off stories that trash people he hated and keep it vague enough that his works are still enjoyable to this day because of it. I don’t see modern writers pulling that off when every villain is the current President or the embodiment of some critic to the show/comic you’re doing. One comic writer literally just straight up named a villain after one of his critics.
“Deadpool is queer. He’s pansexual. If you didn’t get that you didn’t get Deadpool.”
Oh there are a lot of reasons I don’t get Deadpool but that’s another topic. As far as being pansexual…maybe he is now. I don’t follow the character because I never liked him. However, I’ve only heard about his involvement with women, including his obsession with Bea Arthur until the actress passed away and his on again/off again romance with the embodiment of Death who is also female–and a skeleton. But hey, if you want to claim the insane psychopath hitman made as a parody of DC’s Deathstroke, with worse quipping than Bendis’ Spider-Man, just because the Merc With A Mouth is for some reason I can’t fathom popular, and call him a good example of a liberal character, you can have him! You should be pointing towards Green Arrow (his show was popular until it recently ended because they ran out of story to tell) but there are very few DC characters on this list.
Well, that’s six down and six more to go tomorrow, plus why I’m bothering with this slightly off-topic commentary. Curious what others think about all this…and dreading they’ll tell me. But I knew this topic was dangerous when I decided on it. Hopefully this isn’t the hill I die on and Thursday we’ll return to discussing less political and more fun topics. I promise.