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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member boots's Avatar
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    Default Thread Drift: Spider-Man and Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by gregpersons View Post
    Well, right.... I mean, yeah, that's what I'm saying! Being an actor/model does not preclude MJ from also writing. It's neither inconsistent with her character, nor unbelievable. Since Peter is already kind of a "gig economy" sort of person, it stands to reason that MJ could be, too.



    On that front, I'm curious how conservative fans reconcile liking a character who is literally a social justice warrior. Like, I can understand liking characters who only protect their self-interests like Venom or Punisher, but... Spider-Man is purely about selflessly helping other people, so how does that square up? (Edit: I mean, I know Ditko was famously libertarian, and there's a certain amount of that in the character, but it's not his dominant theme)

    It's gotta be the eyes. Everybody loves the Spidey eyes.

    Edit:
    i’m with you there. there’s some absolutely awful people who seem to love spider-man (and superman for that matter) and i have to wonder...what the hell is it that attracts them to a character who stands for everything they hate?

    are they just cherry picking what they like (he’s got mad cool powers) and ignoring the rest (his general sense of inclusion)? idk, maybe the fact that superheroes are literally vigilantes that take the law into their own hands and solve problems through violence is appealing?

    then i found this impressive display of olympic level mental gymnastics on the inter webs and it all made sense:
    https://westernfreepress.com/greates...-soldier-2014/
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    Quote Originally Posted by boots View Post
    i’m with you there. there’s some absolutely awful people who seem to love spider-man (and superman for that matter) and i have to wonder...what the hell is it that attracts them to a character who stands for everything they hate?

    are they just cherry picking what they like (he’s got mad cool powers) and ignoring the rest (his general sense of inclusion)? idk, maybe the fact that superheroes are literally vigilantes that take the law into their own hands and solve problems through violence is appealing?

    then i found this impressive display of olympic level mental gymnastics on the inter webs and it all made sense:
    https://westernfreepress.com/greates...-soldier-2014/
    That essay is very much picking the cherries... but I guess I can see it from that view, kind of... you could look at superheroes as comparable to soldiers, wherein Spider-Man / Superman / Batman / Captain America are "freedom-loving patriots" more than "SJWs"... plus, there's Iron Man's pro-registration side in Civil War personifying the fear of an intrusive "big government"... I suppose there are probably lots of examples of how one could slant the stories that way.

    But on the other hand, this is a genre of characters created by liberal Jewish socialists. It's obviously a power fantasy, but these characters are compassionate with their power. They're inclusive and philanthropic. "With great power comes great responsibility" sounds like it could've come from Karl Marx as much as Uncle Ben... but on the other hand, conservatives think of themselves as the side of "personal responsibility."

    The stories are usually vague enough -- intentionally -- to allow for cherry-picking either way, and I suppose that's the beauty of it. Sometimes I think superheroes are one of the few things that demonstrate people can find common values again... but that's really living in a fantasy world!

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregpersons View Post
    Separate from the Overton window political spectrum, it's interesting to read about the impact Judaism specifically (edit: particularly American East Coast Judaism) had on superheroes -- Superman, Batman, and the Lee/Kirby characters. "Up Up and Oy Vey" is one book in particular I'd recommend, written by someone who was a hardcore comics fan, then got in touch with his Jewish heritage, became a youth pastor or something, and then wrote about it from that point of view. If you grew up Jewish, it may all be obvious! If you didn't grow up Jewish -- I didn't -- it was pretty eye-opening. I was of course generally aware that the creators "happened to be" Jewish, and I'd read Kavalier & Clay and other things, but... well, it's just interesting when you look at the comic heroes from a broader social context.
    Remember that Jewish people are all across the spectrum too and comics in general didn't actually openly have Jewish characters until Chris Claremont introduced Kitty Pryde. Kitty is the first overtly Jewish superhero in American comics. And of course Claremont, who is also Jewish, made Magneto into a Holocaust survivor. Fun fact: everyone knows that the Thing is Jewish but it wasn't until the 2000s that it was openly acknowledged in Fantastic Four comics that Ben Grimm is Jewish. And Stan Lee from all I read was secular Jewish, i.e. non-practising. He certainly never wanted Spider-Man to identify with any faith in page. If you read Spider-Man and MJ's wedding whether in the Annual or the newspaper strip, the word "god" is not to be found anywhere, and it was a ceremony at City Hall.

    I don't think the intent was to make Peter look selfish, but the relationship does look one-sided, when the only thing that seems to matter is HIS work. Of course, from the reader POV, the only thing that DOES matter is the Spider-Man work... her stuff IS a side story and it IS largely unnecessary to the main narrative.
    I don't know, to me there's a certain poignancy in the fact that MJ can't really walk entirely in Peter's shoes. And she needs to represent something human and mundane to contrast against Peter. There's one comic where MJ feels insecure about the fact that her work seems so unimportant and trivial compared to what Spider-Man does. Them being co-workers would make them another version of Reed and Sue and other superhero/superhero couplings.

    Anyway, I think there are a lot of ways to make lateral moves so you can combine both ideas. And always keep in mind, MJ feeling or being more "essential" or "relevant" and so on is secondary to the larger question of her marriage with Peter or if she was suited. Even if she was...Marvel would have gotten rid of the marriage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Remember that Jewish people are all across the spectrum too and comics in general didn't actually openly have Jewish characters until Chris Claremont introduced Kitty Pryde. Kitty is the first overtly Jewish superhero in American comics. And of course Claremont, who is also Jewish, made Magneto into a Holocaust survivor. Fun fact: everyone knows that the Thing is Jewish but it wasn't until the 2000s that it was openly acknowledged in Fantastic Four comics that Ben Grimm is Jewish. And Stan Lee from all I read was secular Jewish, i.e. non-practising. He certainly never wanted Spider-Man to identify with any faith in page. If you read Spider-Man and MJ's wedding whether in the Annual or the newspaper strip, the word "god" is not to be found anywhere, and it was a ceremony at City Hall.
    It's true. Only more recently have (some) comics creators openly acknowledged the Jewish origins of superhero comics. Stan Lee and other early creators wanted their characters to be successful, so they of course would never have coded anything too specific in any of the characters aside from a perceived "standard" audience (ie, young hetero white man).

    Point being that, regardless of the denominations characters are given in the story context, the Jewish influence is intertwined in core aspects of superhero stories -- in everything from dual identities, the "-man" suffix, and so on -- and just that it's an interesting lens to look at the characters through. (It also makes it even more ridiculous when racist fans react to casting changes or new characters with "Spider-Man is white! Superman is white!" -- it's like... no, not really.)

    Several books have been written on the subject that explain it better than I can; I'm just recommending it! Here's a free article though for anyone curious.

    I don't know, to me there's a certain poignancy in the fact that MJ can't really walk entirely in Peter's shoes. And she needs to represent something human and mundane to contrast against Peter. There's one comic where MJ feels insecure about the fact that her work seems so unimportant and trivial compared to what Spider-Man does. Them being co-workers would make them another version of Reed and Sue and other superhero/superhero couplings.
    Oh, I totally agree! It's why "Renew Your Vows" doesn't totally scratch the itch for me. I don't think Peter should be coupled with a fellow superhero, just that there are distinctly human ways to be a hero, and I like May and MJ best when they embody those ideals in more grounded, humanistic ways.

    (May running FEAST, for example, is a direction for the character that I adore)

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregpersons View Post
    Point being that, regardless of the denominations characters are given in the story context, the Jewish influence is intertwined in core aspects of superhero stories -- in everything from dual identities, the "-man" suffix, and so on -- and just that it's an interesting lens to look at the characters through.
    Perhaps. It's pretty interesting that Bill Finger was quite explicit about the fact that Bruce Wayne (which he entirely wrote and created on his own) was supposed to be a patrician with ancestry dating to the American Revolutionary War. Finger of course was Jewish. So for him it was a conscious literary choice. He saw Batman as a New England aristocrat. So I don't think Finger intended Batman as a metaphor for passing or was especially conscious of it.

    In the case of Spider-Man, you have the fact that Steve Ditko and Stan Lee worked with the Marvel Method and most of the heavy lifting on plotting and characterization was done by Ditko, who wasn't Jewish (he was Slovakian descent, and philosophically an atheist). Yet at the same time, Ditko also worked on Dr. Strange and according to Blake Bell and Romita Sr., Strange was more autobiographical for Steve than Spider-Man was. I mean Stephen Strange lives all alone and is reclusive in his New York apartment but in his mind, or his imagination, he visits great realms and so on, so that's a good autobiographical framing of how Ditko saw his life, living alone but making a living with his imagination and living his study with his reference books and so on. That entire Eternity Saga, has Strange being hounded by this global conspiracy by Mordo and so on, and there's a paranoia there and fear of people and interactions that Ditko probably had.

    (It also makes it even more ridiculous when racist fans react to casting changes or new characters with "Spider-Man is white! Superman is white!" -- it's like... no, not really.)
    One of things people forget, and this is something that really happened when Ditko left Spider-Man, is that Spidey was very popular among African-Americans because they related to someone who was on the police and media's s--tlist. Spider-Man's experience of being misunderstood, scapegoated, and hounded by trigger happy cops, and constantly being worried and paranoid about how his actions might cause him trouble and so on, is close to the black experience. The difference is that Spider-Man has superpowers and so survives. When Ditko was around, he actually showed police as competent and capable. Like the Crime Master 2-Parter has the cops arresting the bad guy, the Spider-Man and HT fight with Sandman, ends with the two teen hotheads fighting each other, and Sandman being brought down by cops. The police are ironically shown more critically after Ditko left, ironic because Stan Lee initially had Captain George Stacy embody the duty-driven police officer and noble type, basically a second Uncle Ben. And then Captain Stacy dies, and the cops go apes--t on Spider-Man and then you have the 2-Parter Sam Bullitt story (ASM #91-92) where Spider-man is aligned against white supremacy, and explicitly identified and stated as such. Stan Lee of course introduced more diversity in the Romita era, so you had Robbie Robertson, his son Randy (a campus radical who in the Drug Trilogy got all in Norman Osborn's face), and of course the Prowler, the first Non-Peter to wear the Spider-Man costume.

    there are distinctly human ways to be a hero, and I like May and MJ best when they embody those ideals in more grounded, humanistic ways.

    (May running FEAST, for example, is a direction for the character that I adore)
    That's true. Mary Jane helped Peter bring attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants during Conway's second run on Spectacular.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Perhaps. It's pretty interesting that Bill Finger was quite explicit about the fact that Bruce Wayne (which he entirely wrote and created on his own) was supposed to be a patrician with ancestry dating to the American Revolutionary War. Finger of course was Jewish. So for him it was a conscious literary choice. He saw Batman as a New England aristocrat. So I don't think Finger intended Batman as a metaphor for passing or was especially conscious of it.
    Right! And it's worth remembering too that we're trying to parse through what the creator was conscious of, and what the writer/artist may have been expressing in their work through their subconscious. One's cultural upbringing is only one aspect of "subconscious influence" that ends up in the work — and of course we can never precisely "know" these things — but one of the fun things about art, IMO, are the things within the art that the artist may not have necessarily intended, yet is still "there." Even before Superman, Captain America, and Batman literally fought Nazis, these characters were still being created in the "Hitler era." Was Batman created with Kristallnacht in mind? It maybe wasn't literally in the thoughts of Bob Kane or Bill Finger... But did the terrifying tone of the news have an impact? I think it's clear. Or, more conservatively, I think it's at least as plausible as the influence of, say, the Reagan era in Frank Miller's work, or the Bush era in Mark Millar's (although those creators had the luxury to be more explicit about it, you can see the era's influence on their work even where they don't nominally cite Reagan or Bush).

    Take the concept of a boy sidekick — Robin and Bucky. Why are they there? Well, we know some of the repeated lines about them -- they were placed in the books to make the stories more relatable to younger readers, which makes sense, and usually that's enough of an answer to suffice. I think it makes even more sense when looked at through the lens of Judaism (both creators were Jewish here, too), where the concept of young boys being mentored into adulthood is a more prominent part of the cultural tradition. Or, perhaps it owes more to the time period when it was more acceptable for young boys to be in the workforce. Or maybe it's a mix of both.

    I, again, would only point to the various books on the subject by Jewish scholars who make the case for the things I'm referencing (I read "Up Up and Oy Vey" but there's several books by many authors). I think reading them is especially interesting to readers who, like me, didn't grow up in a Jewish household, and so there are certain concepts I wouldn't have necessarily connected. I always knew that, yes, a lot of early creators were Jewish, but for some reason, rather than admitting the obvious -- that those identities might influence their work -- I instead ignored it as mere trivia... which is sort of how the culture at large tends to view such things. But everything is more interesting, IMO, from a view of the broader context... because, for as universal and timeless as these characters are, they are also, at the same time, extraordinarily specific.

    That they can be both is the beauty of it, I think!

    In the case of Spider-Man, you have the fact that Steve Ditko and Stan Lee worked with the Marvel Method and most of the heavy lifting on plotting and characterization was done by Ditko, who wasn't Jewish (he was Slovakian descent, and philosophically an atheist). Yet at the same time, Ditko also worked on Dr. Strange and according to Blake Bell and Romita Sr., Strange was more autobiographical for Steve than Spider-Man was. I mean Stephen Strange lives all alone and is reclusive in his New York apartment but in his mind, or his imagination, he visits great realms and so on, so that's a good autobiographical framing of how Ditko saw his life, living alone but making a living with his imagination and living his study with his reference books and so on. That entire Eternity Saga, has Strange being hounded by this global conspiracy by Mordo and so on, and there's a paranoia there and fear of people and interactions that Ditko probably had.


    One of things people forget, and this is something that really happened when Ditko left Spider-Man, is that Spidey was very popular among African-Americans because they related to someone who was on the police and media's s--tlist. Spider-Man's experience of being misunderstood, scapegoated, and hounded by trigger happy cops, and constantly being worried and paranoid about how his actions might cause him trouble and so on, is close to the black experience. The difference is that Spider-Man has superpowers and so survives. When Ditko was around, he actually showed police as competent and capable. Like the Crime Master 2-Parter has the cops arresting the bad guy, the Spider-Man and HT fight with Sandman, ends with the two teen hotheads fighting each other, and Sandman being brought down by cops. The police are ironically shown more critically after Ditko left, ironic because Stan Lee initially had Captain George Stacy embody the duty-driven police officer and noble type, basically a second Uncle Ben. And then Captain Stacy dies, and the cops go apes--t on Spider-Man and then you have the 2-Parter Sam Bullitt story (ASM #91-92) where Spider-man is aligned against white supremacy, and explicitly identified and stated as such. Stan Lee of course introduced more diversity in the Romita era, so you had Robbie Robertson, his son Randy (a campus radical who in the Drug Trilogy got all in Norman Osborn's face), and of course the Prowler, the first Non-Peter to wear the Spider-Man costume..
    Don't really have anything to add here except that these are interesting examples. Thanks for sharing!
    Last edited by gregpersons; 04-18-2019 at 10:24 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregpersons View Post
    Sometimes I think superheroes are one of the few things that demonstrate people can find common values again... but that's really living in a fantasy world!
    "game of thrones" would be another. i've seen house stark = democratic party articles as well as ned stark is donald trump memes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregpersons View Post
    On that front, I'm curious how conservative fans reconcile liking a character who is literally a social justice warrior. Like, I can understand liking characters who only protect their self-interests like Venom or Punisher, but... Spider-Man is purely about selflessly helping other people, so how does that square up? (Edit: I mean, I know Ditko was famously libertarian, and there's a certain amount of that in the character, but it's not his dominant theme)

    It's gotta be the eyes. Everybody loves the Spidey eyes.

    Edit:
    You're unfairly painting conservatives with a very broad brush.

    For starters, "social justice warrior" is a sarcastic label. It's applied to people who think they're freedom fighters, so smugly self-assured and proud of themselves that they'd think of themselves as some kind of grand warrior when really they range from someone retweeting the popular hashtag of the week to a protestor screaming hysterically about some perceived slight. Someone who is an actual social justice warrior, like Spider-Man, is not the issue.

    Furthermore, it's typically conservatives who are pushing the law and order issue with greater support for police departments. A vigilante like Spider-Man who is able to cut through the red tape and kick criminal ass has great appeal to a conservative audience. It's part of why superheroes were able to survive the CCA in the first place.

    And above all, having conservative values has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you believe in the goodness of helping other people, or on being able to relate to an upstanding working class citizen like Spider-Man. It's apolitical, unless you ascribe to the ludicrous notion that people with different political beliefs are all automatically immoral monsters salivating at the thought of ruining the world, in which case I would recommend growing up.
    Miller was right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregpersons View Post
    Well, right.... I mean, yeah, that's what I'm saying! Being an actor/model does not preclude MJ from also writing. It's neither inconsistent with her character, nor unbelievable. Since Peter is already kind of a "gig economy" sort of person, it stands to reason that MJ could be, too.



    On that front, I'm curious how conservative fans reconcile liking a character who is literally a social justice warrior. Like, I can understand liking characters who only protect their self-interests like Venom or Punisher, but... Spider-Man is purely about selflessly helping other people, so how does that square up? (Edit: I mean, I know Ditko was famously libertarian, and there's a certain amount of that in the character, but it's not his dominant theme)

    It's gotta be the eyes. Everybody loves the Spidey eyes.

    Edit:
    Many conservatives aren't against characters who want to do the right thing. The criticism of social justice warriors isn't that they want to help people, but that they're not effective at it, and that there are serious tradeoffs to what they want to do.

    Spider-Man comics don't really deal with the tradeoffs, aside from what Peter agrees to give up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    The criticism of social justice warriors isn't that they want to help people, but that they're not effective at it, and that there are serious tradeoffs to what they want to do.
    Mets, whilst that certainly is a criticism, do you really think that's the primary motivation the people who throw that term around the most? Do you think that's the motivation when outlets like Breitbart use the term?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    Mets, whilst that certainly is a criticism, do you really think that's the primary motivation the people who throw that term around the most? Do you think that's the motivation when outlets like Breitbart use the term?
    For the most part, yes.

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    In regards to the OP, I've found that opponents of so-called "SJWs" or the incorporation of such themes in fiction tend to have poor critical thinking skills and an utter lack of self-awareness.
    Doctor Strange: "You are the right person to replace Logan."
    X-23: "I know there are people who disapprove... Guys on the Internet mainly."
    (All-New Wolverine #4)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    For the most part, yes.
    So Breitbart isn't a far-right outlet, they just wish the "social justice warriors" were more effective at accomplishing their goals? Is this really what you believe?

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    If Spencer can have the one and only Captain America pull up at a Pride parade, then so should Spidey.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    So Breitbart isn't a far-right outlet, they just wish the "social justice warriors" were more effective at accomplishing their goals? Is this really what you believe?
    yeah, that’s a huge stretch

    usually the people using sjw are also against “sjw’s” politics, not just their individual effectiveness. you can’t always cite the origin of a term as to how it’s commonly used (eg “cuck”)
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