Monday, February 15, 2010

Captain America Tea Bags Libs Before He Tea Bags You

In what has to be one of the most surreal controversies about comics ever, a recent issue of Captain America has enraged the Tea Party Movement for its depiction of anti-tax protesters as white supremacists. While it never explicitly names the Tea Party (the protesters in Captain America No. 602 belong to a group known as "The Watchdogs"), someone noticed the signs in the comic were strikingly similar to those seen at Tea Party protests. Since then, Marvel Comics has apologized and explained that they used signs from anti-tax protests not to draw a parallel between The Watchdogs and the Tea Party Movement, but to add a sense of realism to the comic book. I'm not going to discuss whether or not these answers are genuine or not, as there are plenty of other blogs out there that have already done so; rather, I'm going to underline the absurdity of this entire situation.

Comics have long used current events as the basis for their plots and story lines. In the 1950s, Superman revealed his secret identity to McCarthy to dispel doubts that he and the Justice League were really a Communist group seeking world domination. Though the paranoia and absurdity of that situation certainly parallel the political climate during McCarthyism, it could hardly be called realistic; this is, after all, the same medium where getting bit by a radioactive spider or covered in toxic waste leads to superpowers instead of cancer.

This is not to say that comic books haven't portrayed certain groups of people in a negative way; plenty of books have been written on how comics perpetuate gender and racial stereotypes, and many of those comics are still on the market. For example, in one of the issues collected in Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Volume 1, Aquaman states, "While we don't have a permanent chairman--when it comes to cleaning time, we all agree Wonder Woman is the boss." Still, this isn't as much of a blatant attempt at misrepresenting women as it is a reflection of the sexism of that era, just as Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow run reflects the political conscience of the 1970s by addressing topics such as environmentalism, the American Indian Movement, and drug abuse. Likewise, the protesters in Captain America No. 602 represent the disillusionment with the United States Government that so many have felt in the last decade; namely, how it spends its tax money.

The Tea Party's claim that they're being misrepresented hinges on the ability to identify the slogans in Captain America No. 602 as belonging to the Tea Party Movement. If the reader can't do so, then the audience is reading a comic book where Captain America clashes with white supremacist, anti-tax protesters. Even if you can identify them, you have to believe this is a conscious, subliminal attempt to defame the Tea Party Movement. Since we live in a era where accuracy in the news is less important than pushing a political agenda, it seems more plausible that Marvel would outright identify the group if they wanted to push anti-Tea Party propaganda

The only thing that even makes this comparison between the Tea Party and The Watchdogs possible is Marvel's admittance that they borrowed political slogans from actual Tea Party protests. Other than that, The Watchdogs have about as much in common with the Tea Party as Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds does with World War II. The people who are seriously enraged by this comic are of the same mentality as those who boycotted Tarantino's movie because it didn't accurately represent history. In both cases, that was never the intention; the author picked a historical event and then deviated from the facts to tell a story. To take such obvious fiction seriously is as absurd as trying to interview some protesters you saw in a comic book.




Washington Times


note: It's interesting that the Fox story uses this as a launchpad to attack Captain America writer Ed Brubaker's politics, since he's not the one who made the decision to include the Tea Party signs.

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