TIME Magazine’s Grotesque Attack on Superhero Entertainment

Time’s published a grotesque article proving there’s those on the left who really do have a rock bottom view of superhero fare (which we can see in how much it’s been artistically destroyed over the past 20 years), where Eliana Dockterman, who was among those attacking Marvel for using Milo Manara’s illustrations for a Spider-Woman cover is now attacking the genre for respecting authority figures. Some of her claims are downright flawed and exaggerated:

 

In the past several weeks, as calls to defund the police have gone mainstream, pop culture critics and fans have been reconsidering how Hollywood heroizes cops. Legal procedurals and shoot-em-up action movies have long presented a skewed perception of the justice system in America, in which the police are almost always positioned as the good guys. These “good cop” narratives are rarely balanced out with stories of systemic racism in the criminal justice system. The “bad guys” they pursue are often people of color, their characters undeveloped beyond their criminality.

In this period of reckoning, the long-running show Cops and the widely-watched Live PD have been canceled. Actors and writers who contributed to police procedurals are criticizing their own work and donating money to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Parents are protesting benevolent portrayals of canine cops in the children’s television show Paw Patrol. And Ava DuVernay’s film collective ARRAY is launching the Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP) to highlight stories of police brutality and counteract a biased narrative.

 

She puts words in the mouths of “fans” she won’t even identify clearly, and doesn’t have the courage to admit she’s speaking for a leftist crowd that despises heroism. One of the ugliest lectures I’ve ever seen in such a propaganda magazine. Time’s long been a cesspool for the worst of liberalism, and this is no different. There have been plenty of police TV series over the years where whites comprised a huge amount of the criminals pursued by the stars in law enforcement, and the funniest irony is that quite a few of the villains could easily have been metaphors for conservatives (I remember a crooked county sherriff in the 1988-95 series based on In the Heat of the Night being depicted as a right-winger). If there’s any TV show where the writers otherwise sought to avoid making minorities the criminals too often, it’s Law & Order, which, over the years, took on more of a stark liberal stance.

When she turns to superheroes proper, she’s just as sloppy as before:

 

Superheroes have dominated popular culture for the last decade—they are fixtures of the highest-grossing movies and icons to more than just our children. They are beacons of inspiration: protesters dressed as Spider-Man and Batman have turned up at recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations. And yet what are superheroes except cops with capes who enact justice with their powers?

With a few notable exceptions (more on those later), most superhero stories star straight, white men who either function as an extension of a broken U.S. justice system or as vigilantes without any checks on their powers. Usually, they have some sort of tentative relationship with the government: The Avengers work for the secretive agency S.H.I.E.L.D.; Batman takes orders from Gotham police commissioner Gordon; even the villainous members of the Suicide Squad execute government orders in exchange for commuted prison sentences. And even when superheroes function outside the justice system, they’re sometimes idolized by police because they are able to skirt the law to “get the job done.”

 

Simply hilarious. The Avengers are far from operatives for SHIELD like Nick Fury is. And Batman is far from taking orders from Jim Gordon; in many instances, Batman investigates and fights crime on his own. Also, is something wrong with criminals like those appearing in Suicide Squad repenting by carrying out challenging missions to fight crime on the government’s orders? In Dockterman’s case, apparently yes. All that aside, it’s clear she’s against superheroes, because they fulfill a role similar to police – that of a crimefighter. And in today’s stridently PC world, that’s simply unacceptable.

 

In fact, real-life police officers sometimes adopt the symbolism of these rogue anti-heroes. The Punisher, a brutal vigilante introduced in a 1974 Spider-Man comic who also starred in a 2017 Netflix series, has become an emblem for some cops and soldiers—to the point where Marvel felt the need to address this idolatry in the pages of its comics. In a 2019 story, a group of police fanboys run up to the Punisher and say, “We believe in you.” One shows off a Punisher skull sticker on his car. The Punisher rips the sticker off and says, “We’re not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don’t do what I do. Nobody does.” Another cop replies, “Like it or not, you started something. You showed us how it’s done.”

The Punisher is representative of a larger problem in superhero narratives. When Batman ignores orders and goes rogue, there’s no oversight committee to assess whether Bruce Wayne’s biases influence who he brings to justice and how. Heroes like Iron Man occasionally feel guilt about the casualties they inflict, but ultimately empower themselves again and again to draw those moral lines.

Well it looks like Gerry Conway, in his modern example of a liberal almost entirely disowning his past writings, the Batman stories he wrote in the late 70s-early 80s included, has influenced somebody. The worst part is that this feels like the time when the Acts of Vengeance crossover came out in late 1989, and Mr. Fantastic appeared before a Washington D.C. panel discussing whether to regulate superheroes and their powers, to convince them otherwise. Such a story wouldn’t pass muster under today’s increasingly communist entertainment industry. I can only imagine what side the Time columnist would take if it were published today. And it’s phony to say Batman always followed orders from authorities to the letter. This claim wouldn’t work even with Superman. But what’s really disgusting is the implication IM’s literally ever killed anybody. *Ahem* Tony Stark – certainly before the turn of the century – usually avoided killing criminals outright, and if he did, it was in self-defense, something Daredevil usually restricted himself to as well. Taking everything out of context and without citing clear examples from any era must be a lot of fun for these real life Bethany Snow wannabes, huh?

 

Most of the blockbuster Marvel and DC comics movies skirt the issue of who should define justice for whom. Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice briefly float the idea of superhero oversight but both devolve into quip-filled CGI fistfights. (In fairness, the Civil War storyline in the Marvel comics more thoughtfully plumbs the depths of that socio-political debate.)

What’s more, given that the creators and stars of these movies have historically been white men, it’s hardly surprising that so few reckon with issues of systemic racism—let alone sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bigotry embedded in the justice system or the inherent biases these superheroes might carry with them as they patrol the streets, or the universe.

I think what’s telling here is that it makes little difference the Cap movie drew from 2006’s insulting Civil War crossover – Dockterman still dismisses the film as not going far enough. And it makes little difference the producers/writers/directors of these films are as far-left as she is – she still turns against them. Of course, until recently, it’s not like they went full-on SJW mode, as they look to be doing now with their adaptations of Eternals and such, though they were certainly getting close. Dockterman conveniently ignores that some of the fistfights were the result of disagreements over government regulation. As bad as Civil War is, was she expecting a full-fledged enforcement of the position unquestioned?

Though she may not do so directly, Dockterman’s also damning the comic creators as well, like Stan Lee. To people like her, he’ll never be valid, and this pretty much proves it.

 

There is some history of reckoning with policing in Black superhero films. Blade, the 1998 Wesley Snipes superhero movie, launched the superhero movie boom we’re still in today, giving Marvel its first box office smash. The movie, written and directed by white men, references tensions between Black communities and the police. In one scene, two cops walk in on Blade fighting what is clearly a monstrous vampire and begin shooting at Blade instead. Blade turns around and asks, “Are you out of your damn mind?” It’s played as a throwaway moment, but one that rings true decades on. (Marvel announced last year that two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali will star in Blade reboot.)

More recently, racial injustice has become the centerpiece for some superhero films. The clearest example of that shift is Black Panther, Ryan Coogler’s 2018 superhero movie that takes as its main subject the oppression of BIPOC people worldwide. In that movie, Black Panther, a.k.a. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), rules over Wakanda, a secluded, scientifically-advanced African country unfettered by colonialism. He faces off against a would-be usurper named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who argues that Wakanda must abandon its policy of isolationism and help combat systemic oppression across the world.

T’Challa eventually discovers that his own father and Killmonger’s father had a similar debate in the 1990s. When Killmonger’s father was deployed to America as a spy, he became radicalized by the racism he saw there. He smuggled weapons from Wakanda to help Black people suffering in America. When T’Challa’s father confronts Killmonger’s father, the latter argues, “Their leaders have been assassinated. Communities flooded with drugs and weapons. They are overly policed and incarcerated. All over the world, our people suffer because they do not have the tools to fight back.” Killmonger’s father eventually loses his life for his political stance.

T’Challa’s arc is to realize his nemesis is right: While Killmonger and his father broke laws and enacted violence for their cause, their conviction that people of color have historically lacked the tools to fight systemic oppression was correct. T’Challa eventually comes to represent a compromise between these two viewpoints: He uses his relative privilege to empower people who have been held back by colonialism and racism but finds non-violent methods to do so.

 

She’s politicizing the Blade scene (even the Punisher’s been pursued by the police far more than Blade ever was), yet she does hint why the BP movie could be overrated. It seems to take a “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” form of moral equivalence, and while this premise may have worked if set in south Africa during the apartheid era when corrupt white politicians were in charge, it doesn’t work well in a country where a Constitution was developed to defend the rights of all citizens, regardless of race and skin color. Does this mean there should’ve been a new civil war in the US where innocent people could be wiped out by weapons provided by a criminal to renegades? Still, if this were to bear any meat, why do leftists always get excused for the racism they could’ve caused in past decades?

Of course, while the racism in south Africa was a very bad period in the past century, it doesn’t excuse that Nelson Mandela was a communist, and both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan considered him worrisome because of his associations with the commies on the continent. But is that who the BP movie took as an example for a metaphor? Good grief.

 

It’s not just that superheroes act like members of law enforcement; sometimes they interact with them directly. Spider-Man has long had a complicated relationship with the NYPD. Last year’s Spider-Man video game received some pushback over what many critics called “copaganda.” In that game, Peter Parker is a fan of the police, even fantasizing about being “Spider cop.” He spends much of the game fixing surveillance towers for the NYPD.

But the introduction of Miles Morales, who made his debut in the comics in 2011, could offer opportunities to explore the contentious relationship between New Yorkers and police. Miles, who is half-Black, half-Puerto Rican, is the son of a cop. In 2018’s animated Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Miles’ father doesn’t know his son’s secret identity. Miles spends much of the movie trying to reconcile his father’s love for him with his dislike for Spider-Man as a vigilante.

 

Given that Morales is the product of a line mostly overseen by Brian Michael Bendis, this should be no surprise the character emerging from the Ultimate line (which Dockterman conveniently ignores) could embody a PC vision.

 

But the superhero property that most directly engages with corruption in policing is Watchmen. In Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel, vigilantes who believe they have the right to fight and live by their own moral codes often prove themselves despicable bigots or megalomaniacs. One particular image of so-called heroes confronting a riot looks an awful lot like the recent videos we’ve seen of police officers shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.

 

I’ve often thought Watchmen was overrated, and this’ll only enforce my belief.

 

If Hollywood is to do better in telling these stories, more creators of color need to be given the reins to tell them. It’s worth noting that while Lindelof employed a diverse writers’ room, it likely took his name and cache as the creator of Lost and The Leftovers to get such an ambitious story greenlit. Similarly, while the director of Spiderverse, Peter Ramsay, became the first Black man to win an Oscar for animation, Sony initially approached the two white men (who ended up producing the film), Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with the opportunity to make an animated Spider-Man.

Writers must also shake the notion that they are bound by the strictures of outdated intellectual property. These days, few big-budget projects move forward unless they are based on existing IP. But the success of Watchmen suggests that creators can snatch up those familiar characters and still weave a new story, with new politics and a new perspective, using only fragments of what came before. Just as the Watchmen series is a radical departure from a dusty Reagan-era graphic novel, both Black Panther and Into the Spiderverse borrowed the names and backstories of their main characters from the comics but took those characters in new and ambitious directions.

 

Well I was aware the Thor movie already set the path for diversity-pandering when characters like Heimdall were changed to black and Asian, and this is beginning to tell more of what the BP movie’s approach could really be about. If the columnist had paid better attention to comicdom proper, she’d notice that the comic depicting police outfits as corrupt the most happened to be Nightwing’s solo book from 1996, written by a right-winger, Chuck Dixon. But of course, because of his politics, he doesn’t count. Dockterman takes a position that if you’re not a POC, you don’t comprehend anything about the issues, and that’s just pure insult to the intellect. By the way, isn’t Watchmen an existing IP, contrary to what she says?

Dean Cain, notable in the mid-90s for his TV take on Superman with Teri Hatcher, Lois & Clark, gave an interview about this to Fox News:

 

A recent and controversial Time Magazine article calling for a cultural reckoning of the depiction of superheroes amid the national debate over law enforcement makes claims that are “totally untrue” and reveals the left’s “cancel culture” agenda, actor Dean Cain said Thursday.

In an interview on “Fox & Friends” with host Ainsley Earhardt, Cain — former star of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” — said he found writer Eliana Dockterman’s piece to be “insane” and hypocritical.

“This is insane to me, though, because these people will scream anti-police rhetoric all day long but when their life is threatened and they need a hero, they will dial 9-1-1 and a police officer will show up,” he pointed out. “Because police officers are heroes.”

Cain conceded that while there have been some “bad situations” and “bad apples” in departments, “99.9 percent of all police officers” aim to serve and protect their communities and “do a fantastic job.”

“This whole ‘cancel culture’ thing that we’re living in right now is crazy. It’s like an early version of George Orwell’s ‘1984,’” he said.

“And, what this article does in Time Magazine, what they talk about, I mean…from the very beginning…the author of this article makes a bunch of claims that are totally untrue,” Cain said.

 

Personally, I’m wondering if Time intends to continue giving positive reviews to any future movies about police, let alone superheroes. Or, do they intend to take a mandatory line to pan every movie where good triumphs over evil from this point onward?

 

“Then she says Hollywood heroizes cops and you can destroy that in just a list of titles: ‘Training Day’, ‘Serpico,’ ‘The Departed,’ ‘The Wire,’ ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ ‘Rambo.’ I mean, the list goes on and on because a bad cop is a great villain because they’re not supposed to be bad,” Cain told Earhardt. “So, this stuff all just drives me insane. I promise you that Superman — I wouldn’t today be allowed to say: ‘truth, justice, and the American way.’

 

The 2006 movie starring Brandon Routh deliberately avoided using the phrase, so that’s one example of where PC madness came about. There was a rumor a new Superman live action might come about after all, but if PC takes precedence over talented writing, it won’t be worth the effort.

 

To make matters worse, the disgraceful Tom King rudely attacked Cain over his argument, claiming he’d used the phrase of the American Way in a Superman tale he’d written…except it was a soldier using it in 1st person narrative. And King was foul-mouthed about it. His excuse was Cain complaining he had to wear a surgical mask to guard against Covid19 while flying an airplane, as though most liberals actually want to wear it either. I’m sorry, but either way, what King did was pathetic, explaining perfectly why he’s not suited to work in entertainment. Just like Dockterman’s not suited to be a commentator. Only Cain’s offered the best argument here.

Time’s really scraped the bottom of the barrel with this dumb op-ed of theirs, that eschews the importance of talent for the sake of political agendas. They may as well stop reviewing movies if this is what they think makes for a valid viewpoint.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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