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Sep 04 2013

Republicans and Pop Culture

Bill Whittle, a conservative blogger and screenwriter, gave a talk at RightOnline, a conference for the right wing blogosphere, that was simply one of the most ridiculous diatribes you’ll ever hear. Watching Superman, he declared, makes you conservative and pro-American; watching Family Guy turns you into a liberal traitor who hates America.

”Any audience of people that grew up with classical Superman automatically love this country, because Superman is about the best America we can be. When Superman was all over the pop culture, we were a nation that loved this country. Now, twenty years after the peak of Superman‘s popularity, along comes Gilligan’s Island. That’s pretty neutral in terms of politics. Really about the only message you can get from Gilligan’s Island is if you want to get off the island all you have to do is kill Gilligan.”

He further added, “But if you’re a young person out there today and you can finish the theme song from Family Guy, then all the anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Christian, anti-morality messages of Family Guy are in your head as completely and thoroughly as that theme song is.”

Wanna bet that he’d rail about those evil communist SOBs who protested the Vietnam War? Guess what they were raised on? Yep, Superman. So much for that moronic theory.

47 comments

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  1. 1
    Rip Steakface

    I wonder if this guy realizes what exactly Superman was doing just about twenty years ago in the only medium in which he was relevant at the time (since there were no Superman movies or TV shows on in 1992 or 1993).

  2. 2
    iknklast

    I grew up on Superman, and I don’t recognize myself in his description. It’s possible a person could take a different message from Superman than the one he obviously takes, which seems to be the strong should beat up on the weak. Some people might be able to find a message about social justice.

  3. 3
    schism

    Really about the only [political] message you can get from Gilligan’s Island is if you want to get off the island all you have to do is kill Gilligan.

    Oh, that’s all, just kill people who aren’t of value to you and your preferred group. Must be popular in Whittle’s house.

  4. 4
    Chiroptera

    …along comes Gilligan’s Island. That’s pretty neutral in terms of politics. Really about the only message you can get from Gilligan’s Island is if you want to get off the island all you have to do is kill Gilligan.

    Huh. Overly simplifying problems so they can be solved through violence against a convenient scape goat? That actually sounds very much like contemporary conservative politics to me.

  5. 5
    chilidog99

    Isn’t Superman an illegal alien?

  6. 6
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    Not to mention that the early Superman comics were VERY populist.

  7. 7
    d.c.wilson

    Ironically, conservatives would deport Superman for being an illegal alien.

  8. 8
    Mr Ed

    Superman is an undocumented, illegal alien. America was at its best before women and minorities had the chance of being equal. Those 1950′s sure were a swell time, especially with rose colored hind sight.

  9. 9
    tripencrypt

    Mr. Whittle says Superman “…is about the best America we can be”. I wonder if he is aware Superman’s parents sent him here illegally without going through immigration. That doesn’t seem like conservative values. This guy must be a plant from our reptilian, muslim, fascist, communist, death-panel-havin’, judicial activist President. Thanks, Obama.

  10. 10
    Captain Mike

    You have to kill Gilligan to get off the island, because he’s invariably the one that fucks up whatever plan they have this week. I suppose tying him up somewhere would also work.

  11. 11
    Abby Normal

    If we’re talking about the emotionally crippled/creepy stalker Superman from Singer’s movie, the more America moves away from him the better.

  12. 12
    bahrfeldt

    Whether fronting for a supposed all powerful super-duperman or a trio of all powerful dieties, this creep wants us to pretend to have a quick answer to all our problems, with no effort needed on our part except to send him lots and lots of hard to trace cash.

  13. 13
    Ace of Sevens

    Early Superman had stories like him intimidating slumlords into fixing up their properties.

  14. 14
    Big Boppa

    I was about 7 when Superman was on TV. The only thing I remember about it is that it struck me as odd that Superman would puff himself up and smirk whenever the bad guy would pump bullets at his chest and then duck when the guy threw the empty gun at him. Thinking back on it now, it seems to me that the stories were simplistic and one dimensional – not unlike the typical right winger today.

    The only lesson I ever took from Gilligan’s Island was ‘Which one? Ginger or Mary Ann?’ The lesson, of course, was Mary Ann….fuck yeah!

    I find Family Guy to be sophmoric, vulgar and quite often hilarious because they are equal opportunity satirists.

  15. 15
    Modusoperandi

    So we should wear our underwear on the outside?

  16. 16
    dickspringer

    Asan 83-year-old I remember the fifties well and Superman well. In the fifties there was a popular psychiatrist named Frederic Wertham, whose stock in trade was warning America of the menace of comic books, which were corrupting American youth. My mother, among others, was persuaded.

    On second thought, maybe Bill Whittle WAS corrupted by comic books.

  17. 17
    Big Boppa

    @15

    So we should wear our underwear on the outside?

    Interesting you should ask that considering you look so much like Clark Kent…….

  18. 18
    namowal

    If “Superman” were a popular show today I suppose it would get blamed for “messing up society” too. As in “OMG! A guy in tights standing next to our flag! And why does Superman always rescue people? What happened to personal responsibility? Blah blah blah… :D”

  19. 19
    Synfandel

    Big Boppa wrote:

    I find Family Guy to be sophmoric, vulgar and quite often hilarious because they are equal opportunity satirists.

    You succinctly summed up exactly how I feel about that show.

    Mr. Whittle has his causality backwards. I never got into Superman, because it’s preachy and simplistic. I do sometimes watch Family Guy, because it’s funny and it lays bare the stupidity that’s all around us.

    There appears, on surface, to be a correlation between political outlook and sense of humour, with the left-leaning having the latter and the right-leaning lacking it. Perhaps it’s because a good sense of humour requires a capacity for empathy, which tends to be lacking on the right. Further research (and of course funding) is naturally required.

  20. 20
    Big Boppa

    If “Superman” were a popular show today he’d be played by a 35 year old British actor trying to pass as a California high school student. And he’d spend all his time fighting vampires and werewolves.

    I guess the writing today is pretty simplistic and one dimensional too.

  21. 21
    lofgren

    I’m sure that people who read about Superman during the height of his popularity loved America because of Superman, and not because of the constant stream jingoism and propaganda vomited forth by the department of war.

  22. 22
    Modusoperandi

    Big Boppa “@15…Interesting you should ask that considering you look so much like Clark Kent…….”
    Only if he ate his feelings.

  23. 23
    lofgren

    You guys do realize that Superman had a popular TV show until 2011, right? It’s not like we have to resort to elaborate hypotheticals to figure out what it would be like. (Basically Big Boppa is correct.)

  24. 24
    CSB

    I’m just waiting for hin to decide that he’s better off pointing to Captain America as the new conservative icon. Because there’s nothing that speaks to the GOP like a comic book superhero who can be quoted as calling America “nothing” and “a piece of trash”.

    (Worth checking out that link for a writeup of the specific comic in question. Plus the comments section includes a post by the actual writer, which is always neat to see.)

  25. 25
    Gretchen

    Any audience of people that grew up with classical Superman automatically love this country, because Superman is about the best America we can be. When Superman was all over the pop culture, we were a nation that loved this country.

    I would like to borrow Bill Whittle’s country-love-o-meter and get a reading on exactly how much Americans loved America in, say, 1983 as opposed to how much they love it in 2013.

    And then I’d like to take it apart and figure out where the hell that measurement comes from.

  26. 26
    lofgren

    Also interesting thing about the early Superman comics was that he spent a lot of time fighting the government. Before the Comics Code made it against the rules to portray anything critical of the government, a typical story would involve Superman investigating some crime and then tossing the gangsters who committed it around a room until they gave up the corrupt politician who orchestrated the whole thing.

    Also Superman had a zero tolerance policy on spousal abuse and once threw a man out a window for beating a woman.

    Not that early Superman was all that progressive. It followed the fascistic outlook that strength is derived from proper morals, so if you’re the strongest guy around then you must also be the most moral, so anything you feel like doing must be the most moral course. (Hey, he was called Superman for a reason.)

    But people who think that Superman is preachy and simplistic have probably never been exposed to anything written since 1975.

  27. 27
    grumpyoldfart

    Preachers make their money by telling their parishioners what they want to hear.

    Somehow I’m not surprised to find that his parishioners are getting life lessons from cartoon characters.

  28. 28
    tfkreference

    Following on Big Boppa’s comment, I’ll give him the Superman TV series. Much like the republicans, when imaginary objects (bullets from a prop revolver or voter fraud), Superman stood strong. When a real object came at him ( the crook throwing the spent pistol at him or rational arguments against their position), they both duck.

  29. 29
    tfkreference

    Same comment on two blogs with the same typo.

    “when facing imaginary objects…”

  30. 30
    Dennis N

    Superman’s is a journalist in the liberal media and his arch-nemesis is a corrupt corporate CEO.

  31. 31
    eric

    Any audience of people that grew up with classical Superman automatically love this country, because…

    …”in the ’50s it was predominantly white middle and upper class people who could afford TVs.” I mean seriously, the racism is like 1 inch below the surface.

  32. 32
    D. C. Sessions

    Superman’s is a journalist in the liberal media and his arch-nemesis is a corrupt corporate CEO.

    Ah, but the Superman of ages gone by wasn’t human and came to the Earth to save us by “peace through superior firepower.” And his arch-nemesis was a scientist — which certainly fits well with the christofascist scheme of things.

  33. 33
    Nomad

    I listen to the superman old time radio show now. Sure its cheesy, but the thing is it had a super strong narrative of social justice. Sure America is assumed to be the best, but for reasons. It gets preachy, but it was aimed at kids, its basically intended to be educational. Plots involve the characters fighting against groups that want to stir up hatred between different races or religions, and that kind of thing. Clark gets an extended monolog to talk about the importance of the writ of habeous corpus, comparing it to the evils of nazi germany where a man could rot in jail for years without ever seeing a lawyer. Yeah, something tells me that superman would be doing something about guantanamo right now.

  34. 34
    chilidog99

    OK, I’m totally stealing this from Tragic Monkey at JREF, but as to killing Gilligan, it wouldn’t work. There is only Gilligan, he is institutionalized and the episodes are just part of his delusions. All the characters are just manifestations of aspects of his personality.

    The Profesdor is intelect. Ginger is sex. The Howels are the distant, aloof parents, the Skipper, his crippling self doubt, and Mary Ann, his lost innocence.

  35. 35
    Wes

    Yet another example of conservatives claiming they always supported something that they actually used to attack. If this were 1954, Bill Whittle would have been one of the sanctimonious assholes who were saying that comic book superheroes are a bad influence on children and they should be banned. American comic book readers were saddled with the odious Comics Code Authority for 40 years because of people just like him.

  36. 36
    Wes

    OK, I’m totally stealing this from Tragic Monkey at JREF, but as to killing Gilligan, it wouldn’t work. There is only Gilligan, he is institutionalized and the episodes are just part of his delusions.

    Actually, Gilligan’s Island is part of the massive crossover network that leaves him existing only in the mind of Tommy Westphall.

  37. 37
    lofgren

    Plots involve the characters fighting against groups that want to stir up hatred between different races or religions, and that kind of thing.

    Hell, Clark spent 16 episodes undercover infiltrating the KKK. Some KKK historians believe that the series had a significant effect on Klan recruiting, because having their rituals and codewords exposed by Superman made them seem like, well, cartoon villains.

  38. 38
    D. C. Sessions

    Some KKK historians believe that the series had a significant effect on Klan recruiting, because having their rituals and codewords exposed by Superman made them seem like, well, cartoon villains.

    Why make up an unbelievable cartoon villain when you’ve got the real thing and no imagination required?

  39. 39
    dingojack

    I remember reading a Batman graphic novel in the ’90′s that Superman appeared in (briefly). Superman was portrayed as a conflicted stooge of American Imperialism. The senile Prescient (who looked a hell of lot like St. Ronnie Ray-gun) was so pleased with his efforts to stand for the ‘American Way’ he wanted to pin a medal on Superman, any medal.

    Yep all those glorious, exceptional American ‘values’.*

    Dingo
    ——–
    * Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

  40. 40
    Ichthyic

    Watching Superman, he declared, makes you conservative and pro-American; watching Family Guy turns you into a liberal traitor who hates America.

    and watching Murphy Brown turns you into… Dan Quayle?

  41. 41
    dingojack

    ‘Senile Prescient’ – hee hee. Perhaps the spell-check knows more than I do.
    :D Dingo

  42. 42
    lofgren

    I remember reading a Batman graphic novel in the ’90′s that Superman appeared in (briefly).

    It’s called The Dark Knight Returns and it was actually written and takes place in the ’80s, so that was indeed Reagan. What’s amazing about DKR is that the whole story is about the limitations of violence as a force for urban renewal. The author, Frank Miller, recognized the fascistic elements inherent in the Batman character and was horrified as an adult by the character he had idolized as a kid. Then after 9/11 Miller became an arch-wingnut. He wrote a sequel whose message is basically, “The terrorists are badasses who are willing to do what we are not, so we should step up and do it to them first.” It also contains a lot of fanservice for all you Bush Jr. lovers out there.

  43. 43
    birgerjohansson

    I think Bill Whittle is mistaking Superman for The Homelander, in Garth Ennis’ “The Boys”.
    A mentally unstable, murdering, raping corporate puppet who in public is presented as the greatest American hero.
    — — — — — — —
    Chilidog, so Gilligan’s Island is a Philip K. Dick- inspired TV series?

  44. 44
    Dr X

    White hats, black hats and omnipotent fantasies: developmentally suited to the capacities of young children.

    Satire and parody: developmentally suited to more complex processing of teens and adults.

    So…

  45. 45
    caseloweraz

    Lofgren: You guys do realize that Superman had a popular TV show until 2011, right? It’s not like we have to resort to elaborate hypotheticals to figure out what it would be like. (Basically Big Boppa [#20] is correct.)

    Indeed, I happened across an episode of Superboy (I guess the series was called Smallville) in which he was seduced by a vampire. When she saw him lying on the floor paralyzed, she said “Even Superboy is not immune to the supernatural.”

    Which may mean he’d better stay away from British Columbia.

    (Not to worry; Man of Steel fans; he shook it off.)

  46. 46
    keithm

    Superman: illegal alien, award-winning journalist, works well with and respects people (and the odd not-really-people) of assorted backgrounds and beliefs, makes a point out of staying out of conflicts where he doesn’t think he can do any good, doesn’t use guns, usually tries to work things out peacefully before breaking out the superpowers, believes in second second chances and redemption, doesn’t kill unless there’s absolutely no other possibility (and it disturbs him greatly when he forced to).

    Yeah, sounds exactly like an American Conservative.

  47. 47
    caseloweraz

    Watching Superman, he declared, makes you conservative and pro-American…

    My first thought was, “What does Whittle have against Wonder Woman?”

    Wikipedia: Wonder Woman is a fictional DC Comics superheroine created by American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston. She first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (cover-dated Jan. 1942). The Wonder Woman title has been published by DC Comics almost continuously except for a brief hiatus in 1986. [***] Created during World War II, the character was initially depicted fighting the Axis military forces, as well as an assortment of supervillains.

    Then I though some more.

    Her depiction as a heroine fighting for justice, love, peace, and sexual equality has also led to Wonder Woman being widely considered a feminist icon.

    My concluding thought on the matter was, “Oh: Right.”

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