[Marxism] The Incredibles
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 10 11:27:40 MST 2004
NY Observer, November 10, 2004
It’s Super Bush!
by Suzy Hansen and Sheelah Kolhatkar
It’s very much in the eye of the beholder, but at the moment, to the
butt-kicked, discouraged liberal team, the Pixar-built shiny,
muscle-bound cartoon characters seem to come very much from the other team.
"And what is The Incredibles?" said Richard Goldstein, author of The
Attack Queers: Liberal Society and the Gay Right. "It’s really a movie
about people sort of bursting out of this model of decency and concern
for others, and all of those values that now get labeled politically
correct, and bursting forth with their true strength and power, like an
animated Hobbes. I guess the bet is that the rest of the world, looking
at this spectacle, will actually just say, ‘Holy cow—we’d better do what
they say!’ And this Hobbesian idea will be proven correct."
"It’s kind of ironic that superheroes now have these fascist, right-wing
connotations," said Ted Rall, the editorial cartoonist for United Press
Syndicate and author of Wake Up, You’re Liberal! How We Can Take America
Back From the Right. "The right has stolen the flag and our superheroes,
Is it simply that, after four years of being beaten up with
good-versus-evil rhetoric and post-9/11 fear, somehow all superheroes
seem vaguely Republican to us? It’s back to Nietzsche for one more shot.
What is a liberal superhero? The last time anyone looked, superheroes
were serving the weak and the helpless, not themselves.
According to Chip Kidd, the co-author of The Golden Age of DC Comics:
365 Days, Superman—created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in Cleveland,
Ohio, in 1938, during the Great Depression—was a liberal hero in his
original incarnation, shy about his abilities and eager to do social
good during the New Deal, when the general ethic sought a strong man
willing to protect the weak, not so much to show off his powers as to
serve the general welfare.
"The charming thing about the basic superhero myth, as it was conceived
during the Depression, was if you’re an omni-powerful being or something
like it, your responsibility is to serve the world, not to rule it,"
said Mr. Kidd. "The United States, as Bush runs it—he probably thinks
he’s doing that, but he’s not. He is trying to rule it, in a way. And
that’s where it differs from what I would call a superhero ideal."
Mr. Kidd may be partisan, but he’s not wrong in the sense that it’s
almost impossible to image Superman as a Republican in the 1930’s or
1940’s. Superman was definitely a Roosevelt man. Batman may have been
more up for grabs; it’s possible Commissioner Gordon was in close
contact with gangbusting D.A. Tom Dewey.
But generally, superheroes have been very strong social workers. That
ethic stretched from the 30’s to the 40’s through the 50’s, when comic
books got in hot water with the right-wing psychiatrist Dr. Fredric
Wertham, whose 1954 study, The Seduction of the Innocent—published the
same year as the Army-McCarthy hearings—saw comic books as vehicles for
spreading dissolute values throughout American society, even suggesting
that Batman and Robin, as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, had a homosexual
arrangement. As if that was a bad thing. The comic-book industry
collapsed into acquiescence, adopting the Comics Code Authority, a
self-policing censorship arrangement that turned the dangerous territory
the superheroes patrolled into an Ozzie-and-Harriet society of well-lit
frames and middle-class non-danger. By the 1960’s, the biggest danger in
Superman’s life was whether he was really going to marry Lois Lane and
answer Jimmy Olsen’s super-signal watch. Zee-zee-zee!
By the 1960’s, Spider-Man showed up, "a poor schlub from a lower
middle-class background who has these powers he doesn’t really want.
He’s called to duty; he doesn’t really want to go, but he doesn’t have a
choice," according to Neal Pollack, comics enthusiast, humorist and
author of Never Mind the Pollacks: A Rock and Roll Novel.
"That’s how a lot of liberals feel," Mr. Pollack explained. "A lot of
those are archetypes that came out of the 60’s: the Incredible Hulk,
Fantastic Four, the X-Men. Things have changed a lot in comics.
Spider-Man is a good archetype for a liberal hero—he wants to give up
his powers, he wants them back, he’s conflicted, he’s trying to hold
down a job, he wants the girl. Whereas a conservative superhero just
wants to fight evil."
And show his own super strength.
The Incredibles’ storyline, not unlike most current superhero
storylines, will warm the hearts of the Republican elite, and also the
scared, ordinary moviegoing folks emboldened by America’s long-time
military prowess. Mr. Incredible could be Dick Cheney himself, or Donald
Rumsfeld, big-bellied and in mothballs during the Clinton years,
watching the world go to hell while nobody needed them, tortured and
beat up by the little people and the bureaucrats all around them.
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