Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Republican Superheroes and Hobbits

Tomorrow's Los Angeles Times features a dandy article about comics and graphic novels for the uninitiated. But today's edition featured one of those op-ed pieces that makes me stop and shake my head -- in disgust, amazement, or equal parts of both.

Brian C. Anderson, author of something called "South Park Conservatives," has written this piece of creative revisionism, in which he asserts that the current downward trend of Hollywood box office is based on appeal to "liberal elites"; and characterizes recent blockbusters as "right-friendly." His four examples are SPIDER-MAN 2, THE INCREDIBLES, the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, and PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

PASSION is a gimme, true, but one can only buy his argument about the others if you accept his swiss-cheese premise that only right-wing folks care about families, doing the right thing, and helping others. He disregards a couple decades of long-haired folk wearing "Frodo Lives" t-shirts when he asserts that the LOTR trilogy's "martial values were long jeered at by liberal Hollywood — values that underline the need to stand up with massive military force to totalitarian evil." In addition to the family values in THE INCREDIBLES, he derives a "master race" theme from it that pleases him: "The defense of excellence (and frustration with the politically correct war against it) is a central theme of 'The Incredibles.'"

And his characterization of Spider-Man as a red-stater is simply beyond the pale. He calls a doctor who tells Spider-Man he has choices an "aging hippy." (God forbid anyone should have free will!) Trumpeting Peter's decision to take up the webby mantle again, he comments, "The movie's message is exactly contrary to the 'just do it' ethos of liberalism and the 1960s: Sometimes you have to do your duty." Seems to me that the ethos of the '60's was more, "Ask not what your country can do for you . . . "

Now, Spider-Man was created by writer Stan Lee and plotter-artist Steve Ditko. Ditko was and is not only conservative, but a dyed-in-the-wool Ayn Rand individualist -- as anyone who has read his "Mr. A" and "The Question" comics can attest. Lee is more of a middle-of-the-road type, equally at home writing the ultra-conservative Iron Man (defending industry from savage communists in armor) and the ultra-liberal Silver Surfer. But if Peter Parker's politics were pinned down, I'd characterize him more in the bleeding-heart camp than the Karl Rove domain. And certainly, the writers who came after Lee tended to be the aging-hippy type.

But ultimately, Spidey isn't left-wing or right-wing. He's a hero. And there's both red and blue in his costume.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOTR was popular here in the '60s largely because its main theme is the triumph of simple country folk living sustainably in nature over the tree-chopping, slave-driving industrial powers. The movies push this home even more clearly than the books.

So if conservative Mr. Anderson really thinks the movie promotes "the need to stand up with massive military force to totalitarian evil," he may want to consider what the story says evil looks like, and perhaps run off to hide in a tower with his corporate friends.