Over the holiday weekend Salon.com published another in its long list of fine columns aimed at dissecting pop culture trends through the lens of the liberal viewpoint and thusly criticizing them. In Richard Cooper’s excellent and understated piece, “Superheroes Are a Bunch of Fascists,” the writer laments the ways in which today’s comic book movies are hailed by critics and audiences despite being almost entirely about superior beings who dominate the average through extreme physical strength, super-powers, or wealth turned into weaponry. The sub-headline of Cooper’s column asks, pointedly, “Where are the left-wing superheroes?”
Maybe one day we will see a superhero movie championing something other than fascist or hypercapitalist values: a superhero movie in which it isn’t physical superiority that saves the day. Maybe one day we will get the hero we need: one who challenges rather than reinforces the status quo.
Hear hear. I admit that I’ve often pondered this subject as well. The fact that we live in a country where Superman with his powers and Batman with his gadgets can be held up as models of heroism but comic books and Hollywood have never given America a truly liberal superhero is, I’m sorry to say, deeply problematic. It’s because of this that I would like to suggest a few potential ideas for any artist, writer, or producer willing to shrug off the bonds of the conventional and provide us with a superhero actually worth looking up to.
1. Doctor Occupy
Powers: Ability to withstand freezing cold for weeks at a time. Superhuman tolerance of public humiliation. A miraculous feat known as the “human bullhorn.”
Weaknesses: Soap and water. Lice. 4:20. Organization.
Archenemies: The NYPD. Aaron Sorkin.
2. The Green Wald
Powers: Misdirection. Double-speak. Petty vengeance. Titanium ego and sense of self-righteousness. Updates. Can bury his enemies under a pile of lengthy, pedantic articles or a shitload of legal motions, depending on what the situation calls for. Also, uses tweets like Japanese throwing stars.
Weaknesses: The striking blue eyes of Edward Snowden.
Archenemies: The U.S. and British Governments. Himself. The truth.
Powers: Ability to spot patriarchal “dudebro” privilege or the perceived perpetuation of rape culture anywhere on the internet at any time and respond swiftly with weaponized outrage. Can create a Change.org petition with a single key stroke and suck all the joy out of life at 100 yards.
Weaknesses: “I see what you’re doing here! None of this is funny!” (Also, HBO’s Girls)
Archenemies: Stand-up comics. Everyone else.
4. The Noam
Powers: Ability to literally bore the entire planet to death.
Weaknesses: Ovaltine. Bedtime.
Archenemies: Anyone who has something better to do than listen to an 84-year-old intellectual just go on and on and on.
Powers: Ability to create chaos and drive New York Times editors insane simply by announcing that he will, from now on, be known as “she” — or vice versa. Ability to draw and focus the wrath of thousands onto the person who makes the mistake of referring to his or her (or “zis”) new personal gender identity incorrectly. Can slowly give Bill O’Reilly a heart attack.
Archenemies: The cisexual, heteronormative orthodoxy.
6. The N-Word
Powers: Say his full name and you’ll soon find out. Can instantly reduce any intelligent adult to sounding like a six-year-old.
Weaknesses: None — pretty much invincible.
Archenemies: Mel Brooks
Now these are just a few ideas that I’m spitballing. I realize that the problem with most of them is that they are, in fact, liberal and therefore by their very nature can’t really be counted on to accomplish much. But again, we must cast off the chains of the status quo, which has dictated for far too long that superheroes should be able to, you know, do stuff. This is a paradigm we as liberals need to shatter, since we are of course the only ones who can do it.
It should also be noted that when I refer to liberals here I’m speaking only of real liberals. I’m not talking about those pernicious “pragmatists” willing to accept progress in increments and who sacrifice their ideals in the name of political and cultural realities. I’m talking about those who understand that anything which diminishes the utopian vision that a tiny segment of the population alone is intelligent and sophisticated enough to imagine and attempt to bring to fruition cannot be tolerated and must be met with the full force of our pious rage. This is what society needs. Every offense against the better world we will strong-arm our way to — or slight against our brand of political correctness — must draw the same level of outrage.
In fact, that may be the best idea of all for a liberal superhero. He would be known only as “Perfect.” His only enemy — “Good.”