Comic Books Discussion Fuel Politics Pop Culture

An Open Letter to Bill Maher

"You suggest that comic books and superheroes stunt our emotional and intellectual growth, but you do so with the confidence and arrogance of those that have tried (and failed) to stamp out the medium for decades."

Bill,

As someone who will often paraphrase you in debating the current status of liberalism with other liberals, because our soft underbelly needs to finally toughen up and we simply must stop taking the bait on everything, I’m disappointed and disgusted that you would take the opportunity to troll the death of an American icon.

I can usually defend your words and actions to other liberals, but this is indefensible. Now, you might take a cursory glance at my profile and see that I am obviously a comic book fan, leading you to immediately dismiss my opinions on the subject. However, when attempting to suss out the source of Trumpism and the galvanizing of our political spheres, you must realize that the dismissal and denigration of others based on their preferences is a major component of the engine of divisiveness.

I know that most liberals have moved well beyond their ability to forgive and desire to even live beside those who voted for Trump, so you might think that some people deserve to be mocked because of what they believe in, and, to an extent, you are correct. However, and this is where you and I do not see eye to eye on religion, either, you fail to assess the worth of a sub-culture’s mentality by weighing the benefits against the drawbacks.

You suggest that comic books and superheroes stunt our emotional and intellectual growth, but you do so with the confidence and arrogance of those that have tried (and failed) to stamp out the medium for decades. Say what you will about the commercial aspect of the comic book industry and the encroachment of Disney’s monopoly on entertainment, but the most important impact of comic books is the art form’s ability to shape the worldview of kids everywhere.

You might think that it’s wrong to give kids the idea that they can grow up be heroes, but that’s a concept that is undeniably American.

I could write you a thesis on how comic books have bucked the critics and tackled some of the most significant subjects of the past 100 years, and some have churned out essays and books doing just that. If you weren’t so busy looking down your nose at the legacy of a literary titan, you would know the medium grew from simplistic power fantasies and evolved until it became engrained in the minds of all true comic book fans that might does not make right, the strong protect the weak, knowledge must be tempered with humility, and power and responsibility go hand-in-hand.

It would serve you well, as a satirist, comedian, and, in cases like these, an uninvited agitator, to remember what it felt like before you had your own premium cable show and be told that, not only that you were personally incapable of contributing to the American dialogue, but that stand-up comedy itself was an ineffective tool to frame the uncomfortable topics gnawing at the minds of our society. But you kept working at it and marketed yourself as someone worth listening to because you had something to say that people needed to hear.

So hear me now, on behalf of all comic fans, Bill Maher: on this topic, you got it so wrong that you should be ashamed.

Comic books taught me how to stand up to bullies and hold the line against social injustices, and I seem to recall you inviting Milo Yiannopoulos on your show and spending more time agreeing with him and dodging the opportunity to demonstrate your values. You let Larry Wilmore take the lead in squashing Milo and then tried to take credit for it. I don’t know if you were scared or simply felt you had a commercial stake in remaining more impartial, but neither are adequate excuses for how you shrunk from the moment. If I were you, I wouldn’t be so quick to underscore the underachievement of one American art form, because, in both this instance and your televised encounter with Milo, you undeniably failed to reinforce the worth of late night comedy hosts.

And so, you should spare the pop culture scene any sense of moral or intellectual superiority, because comic book fans don’t require your validation to be who we are and live according to our individual values.

In closing, to reinforce the fact that I am both a fan of yours (albeit less so now) and a fan of comics, I can only reply with what a fan of both would on your ignorant statements and ill-conceived attention grab:

Go fuck yourself, Bill.

– True Believers

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