Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Batman Vs. Shameless, Whiny, Scumbag Baby Boomer, Sixties-Generation Spoiled Brats . . . Or Possibly Al Qaeda. [More meta-academic-blogging later. After a long day of responsible grading I needed to lash out. I promise to bring you more questionable categories and half-baked theories about the status and future of academic blogging tomorrow.] The year is . . . some year in Eighties. A tired old man watches a presidential news conference: President: Now it's taken some doing— Old Man: Yeah, some doing. Like repealing the Bill of Rights. President: —but we have arrived. We are at peace— Old Man: Of course we're at peace! We've killed just about everybody who disagrees with us! President: —our children live in a world free of crime— Old Man: Our children live in a damn police state! President: —we are prosperous beyond the dreams of previous generations— Old Man: We're well-paid slaves. WHO WILL STOP ALL THIS. BOOMING Voiceover: My patience is at its end. The time has come. Who booms the end of his patience? Who agrees with the tired old man that peace has been purchased at the cost of thousands of lives overseas and servitude in a police state at home? He does. Examine that page carefully. Look at the artful despair on the face of an aged Jimmy Olsen. Look at the eyes in those center panels—blue and wide on the left and bruised and battered on the right—and tell me that isn't the work of an artist who understands the complex ways contemporary cultural myths resonate with the American public. The graphic novel from which I scanned the above changed the way I thought both about superheroes and cultural mythology. Thinking about the complicated interaction of myth and politics depicted therein forced my fourteen year old brain to consider a picture more realistic than the superheroes-fight-supervillains and larger than vigilante-fights-petty-crime. Sure I could've waited a few years and read Umberto Eco on Superman as defender of property rights and all things status quo. But because of that graphic novel I didn't need to. So needless to say I felt profoundly disturbed when I learned that Frank Miller had nearly finished "a piece of propaganda" in which "Batman kicks Al Qaeda's ass." The man who aligned Superman with Reagan foreign policy has decided to align Batman with Bush's? (Click on that link even if you don't read comic books. It's about as brilliant a panel-to-panel progression as you're likely to see.) Conservatives danced in the street. But consider their logic: If Batman attacks al Qaeda then Miller must've turned Dennis Miller's corner. He must now believe in the conservative way of life because . . . no liberal would approve of a vigilante going to Afghanistan and finding and fighting Bin Laden. Now I have no idea whether Miller will reverse the symbolism of the above panel and align Batman with The War President and The Global Struggle Against Extremism . . . but isn't it strange that conservatives can't imagine how Miller sending Batman to Afghanistan might constitute a criticism of the current administration? How can...

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