Truth, Justice, and the Anarcholiberalcommucapitalatheofascist Way

27 Apr

Life has been rather crazy around here the last several weeks, hence the lack of posts. I hadn’t been planning to post today, but something interesting popped up in my Twitter feed this morning. It seems that Superman has, at least for the moment, decided to renounce his United States citizenship. This has apparently come about because the Big Blue Boyscout showed up in the Middle East to support protesters in Tehran, and the Iranian government decides that the presence of Supes, being the running dog of America that he is, decides that this is an act of war. The US government gets grumpy with Supes as a result, and he tells them to fuck right off. Okay, he doesn’t tell them to fuck right off, he’s not Batman after all. But he does announce his intention to publicly renounce his American citizenship because “‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way’ — it’s not enough anymore.”

My first question is why he didn’t do this when his archenemy was elected president? I mean if there’s a time for you to divorce yourself from being seen as an instrument of US policy, Supes, it’s when Lex Luthor is the guy running the country.

I should also admit that other than that first question my initial response was to shrug and say, “meh.” I’ve never been big on Supes. He’s a difficult character to write for, and even otherwise good writers often have a difficult time pulling it off on a consistent basis, and that’s even before factoring in the editorial oversight and demands that go hand-in-hand with working on one of DC’s primary breadwinners. So there was no kneejerk fanboy reaction on my part… and there probably wouldn’t have been this post at all if it wasn’t for the kneejerk reaction of various fanboys.

While they were by no means the majority of the comments I read, there were the expected comments about this being a “plot” by America-hating liberals etc. Also the usual comments about how comics shouldn’t be political, and why isn’t Superman punching bank robbers in the head, bitch, whine, cry.

Given that one of the tasks of this blog is to articulate comicbooks as loci for philosophic engagement (that’s the fancy philosopher way of saying “you can learn philosophy from comicbooks even if you’ve never read a philosophy text in your life”), I’ve pretty much no sympathy for those individuals who want comicbooks to be nothing more than mindless entertainment. Actually, I generally have no sympathy for people who want mindless entertainment in general. More to the point, these people have been wrong for a long time now… actually barring a brief period in the “Silver Age,” I’m not sure they were ever right. Comicbooks have long been a venue for political and social messages, some of them rather offensive (if you don’t believe me go and actually read some of the stuff from the early days of comics; not only was Batman a killy fucker, but racist stereotypes were abundant).

As for the people claiming that we are entering the age of  Anarcholiberalcommucapitalatheofascist Superman, I have the following to say: bwa ha ha ha! I mean really, folks, really? First, there’s not the slightest indication that Superman is going to behave at all differently, with the exception that he would no longer be operating under the stricture that he is a symbol of one particular nation and its policies. Second, even if he was criticizing America with this action when, exactly, did that become un-patriotic?

The United States has, quite frankly, been involved in some shitheel antics in the past (a history of racism and misogyny, being the only country to actually employ atomic weaponry, etc.).  As far as that goes it’s involved in some shitheel antics right now (nonsense about Planned Parenthood, continued engagement in immoral military actions, not instantly speaking out in support of people protesting for liberty, and any number of other offenses spring to mind).  Yet if we question this behavior we are accused of being un-American. Last time I checked, folks, stifling dissent, particularly when valid critiques are being made, is pretty much the opposite of what being a “free” society is supposed to be about. I, for one, would cheer if the reason Supes was giving up his citizenship was in public protest of the way America consistently violates the very ideals it claims to uphold. Of course as someone who has suckled at the teat of Nietzsche I’m a big believer that, “He serves the state best who opposes the state most,” and as always I’m not talking about nonsense like demanding to see an elected president’s birth certificate (and it doesn’t matter if I agree with his policies or not).

Of course DC is unlikely to do anything so interesting with the character. That would likely alienate the people doing all the whining, and might hurt their bottom line a little too much. Which is a shame, really, because doing something like having Superman actually start to stand for the values he claims he stands for, and in doing so challenge a status quo that frequently only pays lip service to those values, might actually be enough to get me to read Superman titles on a regular basis again.



Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Activism, Comics, Philosophy, Pop Culture


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2 responses to “Truth, Justice, and the Anarcholiberalcommucapitalatheofascist Way

  1. Bleeyargh

    April 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    America is still the most powerful nation in the world, economically and militarily (for however long that will last). As such, it is able to treat people nicely (by international standards) and not do too many evil things. It’s easier to be nice and helpful if you’re rich on both the micro and the macro scales of things.

    Italy or France, also powerful western countries, frequently do crap that is just as bad as the crap that the U.S. does, but most people shrug (or don’t even notice). Partly this is because you always hate the rich/powerful guy if you’re not him. Partly it’s because America spends a lot of time tooting its own horn and congratulating itself. Partly, though, America is held to a higher standard than many other countries because it generally does behave better.

    The point about Superman’s role as an American symbol/tool has been mocked/attacked in comics before. Even Captain America, who is not a space alien, who is a military man and is known to take some unreasonable orders from questionable superiors, has abandoned his role out of disgust in the past. Kal-El is at least as much of an ideologue as Steve, but this makes him more likely to be disillusioned with a particular nation or group, not less. At least, it’s more likely when his limited social IQ processes some data.

    If anything, I’m surprised that people aren’t saying, “Even Superman knows that Obama is going to be the worst president ev-ar!”

    • Josh Benton

      April 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      I was also quite surprised at the lack of Obama-related comments, at least in the places I checked, particularly since the other news in my Twitter feed was about how Obama had finally released his full birth certificate, because apparently that nonsense still hasn’t died.

      The comparison between Steve and Kal-El is an apt one, though in this case Kal isn’t quitting out of disgust, which is a large source of my disappointment in this case. And it isn’t just over how America behaves on the world stage, though I’m frequently disappointed in that respect, but in how America treats its own citizens. That was one thing I enjoyed about the Authority, particularly the Ellis issues – they weren’t above taking a stand on issues and didn’t bother bowing to what was politically convenient, or upheld the status quo. They said “This is what’s right, so that’s what we’re going to do, and if you’ve a problem with this we’ll stomp on your face until you shit teeth.”

      Not that the Authority is without issues, and I suspect I’ll eventually get around to doing a post that takes a look at both the pros and cons of the book. Presuming my brain is still awake enough that I have a point, I suspect that point is this is a move that seems “edgy,” but ultimately Supes will remain a character dedicated to maintaining the status quo, even when that status quo is at odds with the values he espouses. I’d like to see that change, though as I freely admit in the original post I don’t really see that happening.

      Then again, for me this post was as much about the troubling/annoying/stupid behavior of fans as it was about Superman or the behavior of nations. While some of the comments I read were fine, and a few even insightful… as with “Muslim Batman,” and other topics I’ve covered, there were more than a few that stunk of nationalism disguised as patriotism, and the kind of unreflective bullshit that I try to combat. Whether or not I’m having any effect remains to be seen.


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