Comedian and television host Bill Maher is one of those personalities you either love or hate. And let’s be honest, your feelings for the liberal political commentator likely align with your political views. Personally, I’m a fan of Maher, and Real Time with Bill Maher is one of the few show I make sure to watch every week.
On the May 19, 2017 episode of Real Time, however, Maher presented an argument I couldn’t help but shake my head at: The public’s growing love of superheroes is to blame for the rise of Donald Trump.
Typically, the last point in Maher’s “New Rules” segment is meant to blow your mind and serve up a heavy dose of reality. But this time around, it was a flimsy argument tying comic book film and television properties to people’s willingness to put their faith in Trump. Effective for casual fans of superhero films and shows, maybe, but not for longtime fans like you and I.
Maher’s thesis is that:
“Superhero movies imprint this mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a fucking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses,” Maher said. “Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investment – we just need a hero to rise.”
And that, apparently, is how we got President Donald Trump, or “Orange Sphincter,” as Maher refers to him.
Uh … no?
Long before I could vote, I loved superheroes and the comics, movies and TV shows that featured them. But not once did I confuse the fantastical Marvel Universe with the real world around me. Yes, Superman could toss every nuclear weapon on the planet into the sun and put our fears of atomic armageddon to rest, but … Superman isn’t real. I know that. Just like I know when a loved one dies, no one will be there with a cloning machine to ensure a happy ending.
Maher’s argument is condescending, not just to fans of superheroes, but to all Americans.
“So how does this superhero story end? What is the fate of Orange Sphincter? Well this one is a little bit tricker because in this one, the superhero is the villain. And that should make us all remember, in this fight for America, we need to be our own superheroes.”
Oh, thank you, Bill. I had no idea how terrible a president Trump has been up until this point, because I was under the impression that he, like … uh, Star-Lord (?), was entirely focused on saving us all.
Look, the “superhero is the villain” point is cute, and obviously designed to blow your mind – if you’re someone who’s never read a comic book, I guess. Any rational American who isn’t in the tank for Trump knows he’s a terrible president, doing terrible things to the U.S. on a daily basis. It’s called staying informed and reading the news – and not screaming “Fake News” the second you hear anything that doesn’t gel with your worldview. It’s possible to do that and also buy a ticket to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. One is reality and the other is escapist entertainment.
Well, actually, a film about a power-hungry and terribly misguided father named Ego trying to convince his child that his way is the right way does remind me of two real-life individuals…Anyway, we need to be our own superheroes. Yes, of course. President Trump works for us. That’s how government works. And plenty of people have been exercising their right to free speech since Trump took office. I don’t know about you, but I don’t view Trump as my savior, the same way I didn’t put President Barack Obama – who I voted for twice – on a pedestal.
Ultimately, Trump is a polarizing figure who manages to alienate swaths of Americans every time he tweets. But when figures like Maher, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, make flimsy arguments, it can be just as insulting – even when you typically agree with his points.
(That last point is important, Republicans, it’s OK to disagree with someone you support from time to time … or, in Trump’s case, all the time).
I’m not sure how deep Maher’s knowledge of comic books goes, but there are so many better arguments he could have made if he wanted people to be their own saviors. Rather than insulting fans of superhero cinema, why not use characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine and Batman as role models we should strive to emulate.
Let’s take Spider-Man, for example. Peter Parker was selfish, using his amazing powers for personal gain. He made a mistake that cost him his beloved Uncle Ben and defined the rest of his life. To this day, no matter how many times he gets knocked down, he gets back up again and fights for what’s right. Sounds like a great role model for any American who put their faith in candidate Trump and now regrets casting that vote. No red and blue tights required. Simply voicing their dissatisfaction at town halls or even just in a Trump supporter’s living room could make a difference.And Batman – let’s forget for a second that Bruce Wayne turned personal tragedy into the ultimate motivator – and admit that Batman is just the type of hero we need in the age of Trump. Look, if Batman was real, we’d have Trump’s tax returns by now. The Dark Knight gets things done, and everyday Americans need his determination to stay motivated during these bleak times.
The point is, beyond being great stories – superhero comics can be inspiring. They’re not a Hollywood trend to hate on and blame for the world’s woes. Really, Maher could have made his flimsy point with any guilty pleasure, from reality television to junk food.
So, yeah, Bill, speaking on the behalf of all superhero fans and creators who never supported Donald Trump, or viewed him as every member of the Avengers and Justice League rolled into one exercise-hating, Twitter-addicted, justice-obstructing savior of mankind – don’t pin his rise on our enjoyment of Captain America: Civil War (a film, by the way, about standing up for what you believe is right!).
And Bill, read some comics to see how important superheroes can be. From Marvel’s Dark Reign epic, which was like a preview of the Trump administration, to the current Champions series, you’d quickly see how superheroes done right are a valuable weapon in the fight against the more ignorant and detrimental aspects of American culture and human nature.