This is probably one of the most stressful columns I’ve ever had to write. It will be published on November 9th but was written prior to the election results being released. Very rarely do I normally stress about the future; I just take it in stride. Writing this is a different story. I yearn to get past the election, to know the results that you already know. You are so lucky.
Since last week I wrote about my ways to avoid the election strains. This week I am going to write about a woman breaking barriers throughout the world. That’s right, I’m talking about the new Wonder Woman trailer. It looks fantastic… and that terrifies me.
So when they announced Wonder Woman was finally coming to the big screen, it was a mix of hope and fear that filled my core. Both trailers captured the excitement, action, and female empowerment that I wanted to see in the first live action Wonder Woman film.
This film was literally decades in the making. Every time someone wanted to make a female-led superhero flick, they pointed to a few flops (including other DC films) and said nope to the risk. It didn’t matter that women-driven films started to become more common. It didn’t seem to matter that superhero films developed in quality drastically. And for a very long time, fans’ wishes for female-led films were ignored.
DC’s movie universe hasn’t been stellar. Or great. Or particularly good. And at times, not even coherent. So I’m scared. If this film isn’t good, will studios be able to stop female superhero films again?
With everything happening in the world, this step for women is important. We have a woman as a serious candidate for one of the highest offices in the country. We need geeks to have that equal representation on the big screen.
So people of today’s future, there you have it. I can only hope that when I catch up with you, we have a strong leader ready to enter the White House and not a tire fire. Until then, I’m going to keep my hope alive for. It’s Wonder Women – Hillary and Diana.
Addendum. After Election, Wednesday Morning
I am flabbergasted and distraught at the results of yesterday’s election. A significant portion of the country’s population has spoken and in doing so, validated the wave of hate that is sweeping throughout the country. In short, a rebellion occurred and it feels like we had no warning. The polls failed to convey anything like this. I attended the official Hillary rally in NYC and I felt the mood change from exuberant to despondent and confused. I don’t know what happened last night but I know what we need to do now.
I may have been a little lighthearted about Wonder Woman when I wrote this, but the truth is we all need to be superheroes now. We need to stand up together against hate and inequality. Wonder Women and SuperMen need to unite right now. We need to protect and take care of each other, not because of our race or gender or religion or sexual identity. We need to protect and take care of each other because we are members of the human race. We are all equal and deserve basic human rights and respect.
Time to stop living through superheroes on the pages of comic or on the silver screen. Now it’s time to embody those unshakable morals and ethics ourselves.
Deep inside a bunker, equidistant from MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and Univision, the remaining candidates vying for President of the United States secretly meet. Please note they do this every couple of days.
Lowly PA: Sirs, Madam, I wanted to bring this item to you, as you may be handed some softball opinion questions in the next news cycle. That is if Donald hasn’t spouted off something racist that needs to be covered.
The Donald: Not this week, you loser.
PA: Thank you, sir. May I have another sir? Anyways… So, Nick Spencer – a comic book writer – has penned a recent issue of Captain America wherein Steve Rogers has turned out have been brainwashed by Hydra for decades. This rewrites whole swatches of his origin, potentially. But I should note the story has only just –
The Donald: Weak! Pathetic! What a loser. I mean, look, are there some great yuge stories about Steve Rogers? Yes. But none by this guy. Who, not that I’m saying anything wrong here… but Spencer is a Mexican. I personally gave over 12 million dollars to Marvel to stop this. But I think they are being run by… well… the guy is named “Alonso.”
Hil-Dawg: *Cackling Laugh* Oh, Donald, you slay me! But I think we should all take a minute or two to come to a consensus about how we’ll react to this.
Comrade Sanders: Hilary, Donald… I think this is indicative of the fat-cat Wall Street Mickey Mouse Militia out to push an agenda to usurp more powah’ for the one percent! Furthermore –
Hil-Dingo: Just so you know, it actually doesn’t matter what you answer. I’ve already won. This opinion question. The nomination. And the Presidency. But I recognize your right to continue…
Bernie waves an angered hand from his rumpled Men’s Warehouse Special towards the Secretary of State.
Don Juan DiRacist: Look. I love Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics loves me. That they could let this baddy bad badness to occur is just another reason we can’t have Crooked Hilary or Crazy Bernie in charge. Steve Rogers should be a Trump University graduate who fights ISIS and beats them. You’ll see that when I’m President.
Hil-Django: It’s a nice thought. But just like tickets on Trump Airlines, I’m not buying it. I think the smart money says we stay conservative about this Captain America issue. When my husband and I were President in the 90’s, Captain America was an unwavering success. It’s clear that this is just another attempt by the GOP to get in the way of the rights for characters to have retconned background stories for the sake of new fiction.
Burning Man Sanders: Mista’ Trump? Steve Rogers is from Brooklyn. Like me. He fights for the 99%. Miss Clinton? In the 90’s, you’ll denote I wrote many a’ bill to try to stop things like Captain America’s laser shield, Heroes Reborn, and several other complete mishaps during the time President Clinton should have been reconsidering Glass-Steag –
Hilary pulls out an air horn from her purse and honks it angrily at Senator Sanders.
Lowly PA: Gentlemen, Mrs. Clinton… We really need to come to a consensus here. Meet the Press is going to ask each of your communication directors about your stance on this topic in just an hour or two! And the people of America are screaming bloody murder! Some people are livid that there would be such a retcon to a seminal staple of the American spirit. Others are just casually awaiting the arc to end before jumping to conclusions.
Drumpy-Dumpty: Nate Spicer is a Mexican. When I’m President, we’re going to destroy these copies of the book, rewrite the backstory, and make Captain America great again.
Feel The Burn: I think Mr. Spencer is a good writer. Would I have taken such a drastic step in the first issue of a long arc? Potentially. But I think it’s key that we hear the complete story, and work togetha’ to ensure that Captain America doesn’t allow Wall Street to be too big to fail!
Hilarious Clinton: It’s clear to me now, that I feel the same way as any woman would at a time like this. When the country needs to still be this divided over a male-centric issue? It’s a shame. And one that I’ve been fighting against for years. And I’ll fight it more… over the next four years. When I finally take my throne as promised.
The three candidates get up from their seats. They exchange pleasantries and perform the ceremonial secret handshake. Donald Trump then puts on his traditional Latverian tunic, finger-extending gauntlets, and sorcery-empowered armor. He seals his craggy orange facade behind the mask of Doom, and flies out of the cave, to an awaiting mass of white supremacists. I mean… Latverians. Hilary Clinton gets into her Goldman-Sachs’ LexCorp Power Armor™, hugs an awaiting Loki, and promptly teleports back to her secret Harlem think tank. Bernie Sanders tears away his Robert Hall Special revealing a more frumpy Mervyn’s, and plinks away at his 2005 Blackberry. He calls to ensure his greyhound tickets are in order, and takes the stairs towards the street-level shelter to await his bus back to California.
Nick Spencer remains secluded in his own private bunker while the baby boomers all get their death threats in order. He reminds himself that it’s just fiction, he does have an editor who approves his scripts, and, thanks to Doctor Doom, the compelling feeling that there really is no bad publicity anymore.
My esteemed colleague, Mindy Newell, recently noted that our current president is a big ol’ comic book nerd. We knew that. Way back when this site started up, we ran the photo of Obama in Metropolis, Illinois, striking an iconic pose next to the Superman statue.
Last week, as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month, our Geek-in-Chief invited Marvel Comics’ Sana Amanat to the White House to celebrate. Amanat presented the President with a copy of Ms. Marvel.
While this is not the first time super-heroes have had an official White House Moment (indeed, I was there for the launch of the anti-landmine comic DC created for UNICEF, and if I could find it, I’d post the picture of me with Hillary Clinton), it is perhaps the most heart-warming. To have a person who is not only female but also Muslim and Pakistani-American with the President to represent comics is an enormous change.
It helps that Sana does brilliant work on great comic books. I mean, really, look at how cool she is. Still, I think that she could have been every bit as talented twenty years ago and never received the attention she has, or been able to take advantage of the opportunities she deserves.
So, just when I was feeling like my beloved comics community was growing up, I read this announcement that the Comics and Cola blog was shutting down. I confess that I didn’t tune in there that often. The woman who ran the site, Zainab Akhtar, is an English Muslim, and her perspective (check this outfor a taste) is quite different from mine, which I love. I should have tuned in more.
Apparently, the last straw for her was best expressed in this post by Kim O’Connor. O’Connor saw her work dismissed by a white male comics critic based on nothing more than his entitled perception that her opinions didn’t matter. He’s a white man in his 20s, so obviously no one is qualified to reasonably disagree with him.
(That is much too simplistic an analysis, I know. Read the link. It’s great.)
As a straight cis white woman, I’m very much aware that I miss a lot of subtle bigotry. I can watch an entire night of television with stories about white people (who might have sassy black friends) without noticing how skewed that is. When a protagonist’s race and gender are not specified, I often assume that person is male and white.
It’s a habit from my 60+ years in the culture. It’s a bad habit, and one I struggle to change. Not only is it wrong ethically and morally but, more important, it limits my enjoyment of the world.
The President gets this, even if 20-something white boys don’t. But then, we no longer assume that the President can only be a straight cis white man.
ComicMix comments upon pop culture and entertainment and, in this silly season of primaries, politics qualifies as entertainment. Sometimes perverse entertainment, I grant you. I’m from Chicago and I was raised during the reign of King Daley the First so I know from political entertainment. As Studs Terkel said many long years ago, “Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It’s the most theatrically corrupt.” So that’s my standard.
I was raised Republican but, on reaching voting age, I became a Democrat because that was the only way to vote in a mayoral election that counted in that city – the Democratic mayoral primary. The last Republican mayor of Chicago was “Big Bill’ Thompson was booted out of office in 1931. There is no Republican Party to speak of in Chicago.
So I know from political entertainment, although currently it’s hard to decide to laugh, cry, or go screaming into the night.
Let’s start with the Democrats, the apparent adults in the room. In the New Hampshire primary this last week, Bernie Sanders got 60% of the vote and fifteen delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Hilary Clinton’s share got her nine. However, as Larry Wilmore pointed out on The Nightly Show, the Democrats also have something called superdelegates and all six of those went to Hilary. So, despite Sanders clearly winning the popular votes, they both left New Hampshire with fifteen delegates each. Now there’s Common Core math for ya!
The real entertainment, though, was over with the Republicans where an actual reality show star topped the field in the GOP version of the New Hampshire primary. Donald Trump’s numbers, as he himself might say, were huuuuge. He got 35% of the votes and that was more than twice the numbers posted by his nearest competitor, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. (All together now – “Who?”) Even the GOP leaders don’t want Trump. His nearest competitor is Senator Ted Cruz and the GOP higher-ups don’t much care for him, either. I understand most of Cruz’s fellow senators are not fond of him.
In addition to Trump, there are two other Republican candidates seeking the Presidential nomination who have never served in public office – Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, although Fiorina dropped out of the race after New Hampshire. Their main appeal to the voters seems to be that they have never been politicians. The distaste for Washington seems so deep that some voters will take someone who has zero experience in politics and give them the most difficult, most challenging job in politics.
Before this whole brouhaha started, the presumed nominee was going to be Jeb! Bush, brother of former President George W. and son of former president George H. W. Bush. That flamed out pretty fast. He now has his mother stumping for him as well as his brother, not known in most circles as the best Prez of the U.S.A., will also be on the election trail. One of the saddest things I’ve seen was Bush pleading with a sluggish audience to applaud. And then there was the moment in the Republican debate when Bush interrupted Trump only to be shushed by the real estate tycoon.
You have to say that Trump is the real star of the show. He gets the attention, the audience, and the best (or worst) lines, He reminds me of Captain Boomerang when I wrote him in Suicide Squad. Every time you thought he had gone as low as he could, he’d find a new level to which to sink.
Here’s a sample of Trump:
“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc”
“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.
On unemployment numbers: “5.3 percent unemployment – that is the biggest joke there is in this country… The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s a 30, 32. And the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent.” (Note: during the Great Depression, unemployment peaked at 25%.)
About his daughter, Ivanka: “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…”
Trump has been generous in providing fodder for Noah Trevor, Larry Wilmore, Bill Mahar, John Oliver, and now Samantha Bee (whose new show is great) as well as all the late night broadcast folks and comedians and satirists across this great country of ours. That’s added to the entertainment value. Still…
Can you seriously see Trump with the nuclear codes? Can you see Trump at an international conference and talking to our allies who might not be our allies afterwards? Can you see Trump nominating a Supreme Court Justice and maybe more than one? Can you see Trump “negotiating” with Congress and maybe telling them all that they’re fired? Some people can and that cheers them. Me? I don’t know if it’s a comedy or a horror story.
I had reason a week ago to watch Ken Burns’ classic documentary The Civil War – part of the research for Kros: Hallowed Ground, now fully funded at Kickstarter, thank you very much.
Briefly, the series mentioned Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the famed novel written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852. It was the most popular novel of its day and is credited as a cause of the Civil War. Lincoln supposedly told Ms. Stowe on meeting her after the war started, “’So this is the little lady who started this great war.’” The story is apocryphal, according to most historians.
Pop culture has the ability to change the society of which it is a part. Mind you, that’s not always its intent or even aim. Sometimes a comic book is just a comic book. And maybe it doesn’t change things as overtly and dramatically as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I do think, however, that pop culture has considerable power.
Pop TV, by featuring black characters and, later, gay and lesbian characters, helped normalize the unknown to the wider audience. People who didn’t know (or realized they knew) or were friends with anyone who was black or gay or lesbian now welcomed them into their living room. Part of the sense of betrayal that people feel with Bill Cosby is that they thought themselves friends with Cliff Huxtable. It was as if they suddenly didn’t know him.
Roots also had a profound effect on the American audience at large. White people found themselves identifying with generations of African-Americans. The show was a phenomenon.
Hillary Clinton, in a semi-private discussion with members of BlackLivesMatter, recently said, “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts, and change some systems, and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them.”
In many ways, I admire what she said. I thought it was far more direct, far more candid, than what you ordinarily hear from presidential candidates.
However, I disagree with it.
I think you do change hearts with the arts and especially pop culture. A show, a song, a movie, a play may reach people and open up their minds a bit because it first opens the heart in ways that arguments, sermons, speeches and so on cannot. In those cases, we’re a bit more guarded. We anticipate our thoughts, our beliefs, our biases being challenged and we may have our defenses up. These days, I post far less political stuff on my Facebook page, not because I believe in certain things any less but because I don’t see any of the discussions/arguments changing anyone’s mind – not mine and not with the person with whom I am having that discussion/argument. That becomes, to me, a waste of time.
I think the way to change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate is by opening the mind and that is done by first opening the heart, by creating a groundswell of demand within the population for that change. Pop culture can do that by skirting the defenses; after all, it wants to entertain us. It must do that first in order to have a right to speak its mind. Our defenses may be lowered and we may be more receptive.
I’m not saying that Pop Culture is the most important agent of change. It’s not Rosa Parks, it’s not the March on Selma, it’s not the Stonewall Riots, it’s not Harvey Milk, or any of a thousand other events that changed our world. However, it is a part of that change or, at least, can be. Sometimes. It reflects where we are, it shows where we can go. To make a change you first have to imagine and visualize that change.
As I said, Pop Culture doesn’t always do that and often, it’s not trying to do that. Sometimes, however, it can. Mrs. Clinton’s view is very pragmatic but, if she wants to win, if she wants to govern, she needs to engage our hearts as well as our minds. She needs to take a few lessons from Pop Culture.