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  1. #1
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    Default Are Superheroes Fascist By Modern Standards?

    I found this interview with Eric Kripke, the showrunner for The Boys, where he made this argument.

    THR: I was thinking about that as I watched the show's Nazism themes boil to a head this season. Does any of The Boys come out of personal experience? And speaking of Supermen, where does Homelander lie on the spectrum of white nationalism?

    Kripke: A few things: The myth of superheroes themselves — though often created by young Jewish writers in the '30s and '40s — doesn’t really apply as cleanly today, because there’s these undeniable fascist underpinnings to it. They’re there to protect white, patriotic America. That’s what they were designed to do, that’s what they do. They’re protecting the status quo. When the status quo is problematic, suddenly they become adversarial — not your hero. And I think it was written by a lot of people who at that time were trying their level best to fit in and vanish within white, American society.

    But we just don’t live in that time anymore. So the myth of the superhero taken straight, that’s where it starts to become fascist. Because they’re protecting a world that doesn’t and shouldn’t exist. Superheroes are inherently MAGA. In terms of Stormfront, there was nothing specifically personal behind it. It was just, I hate Nazis. I hate alt-right white nationalism. I hate racism in all of its forms.
    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/li...zeitgeisty-hit
    Last edited by Agent Z; 10-19-2020 at 08:02 PM.

  2. #2
    Amazing Member Adam Allen's Avatar
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    The showrunner also says this:

    People might be surprised to know this, but I’m actually a fan of the Marvel stuff. The filmmaking is often impeccable. I actually really enjoy the humorous tone that a lot of them are written in. They’re snarky and fast and glib and I like that style. My issue with them are not the movies themselves, but that there’s too many of them overall.

    I sort of believe it’s dangerous, not to overstate it or be overdramatic, but it’s a little dangerous to train an entire generation to wait for someone strong to come in and save you. That’s I think how you end up with people like Trump and populists who say, "I’m the only one who can come in, it’s going to be me." And I think in the way that pop-culture conditions people subtly, I think it’s conditioning them the wrong way — because there’s just too much of it. So I think it’s nice to have a corrective, at least a small one in us, to say, "They’re not coming to save you. Hold your family together and save yourselves."
    Which, this part here reminds me of a conversation I was a part of a long time ago, I guess as superheroes were beginning to become more mainstream like with the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies, because it was with some non-comics-fans explaining how this was what they didn't like about superhero comics: it's a fantasy about some hero swooping in to save you, which encourages people to be passive.

    I think that's a fundamental misunderstanding of superhero comics, and can really only come from someone looking at the genre from the outside, because people who love superheroes don't love the idea of being saved by heroes, but of being the heroes. Superhero stories don't focus primarily on the people at threat from some villains, with the heroes just showing up as background characters doing the saving ... they focus on people who recognize a danger and step up to face it, because it's the right thing to do. They focus on the heroes.

    Accordingly no, I don't think superheroes are fascist, I think Kripke just doesn't really dig the concept. Which is fine. I mean, I noted a top fan review of The Boys claiming this show is so much better than like the Marvel movies, because if people had super-powers in real life, you'd get the supes in The Boys, not heroes like you get in the Avengers movies. Which sure, that's one particularly cynical view of human nature, and they're welcome to it.

    But no, I don't think superhero stories at base are really about the people with powers protecting the status quo. I think the general background/world setting of comics generally always reflects the real-world status quo because that's the only way for the stories to retain any sense of being relevant or grounded ... but, I also think the general overall story is about people using their individual power to protect others from people who would abuse power. Which again no, is not fascist.
    Last edited by Adam Allen; 10-17-2020 at 03:47 PM.
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  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Zelena's Avatar
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    Few days, on the radio, after Trump recoved, several journalists said that Trump was feeling like a super-hero now, some compared him to Captain America, others even to Phoenix…

    People can use and instrumentalise easily super-heroes, they cannot object and said: “This is not what I’m fighting for.”

    I mostly saw them saving people in comics, Black and White people and stopping criminals; they weren’t doing politics. But yes, it’s worrying when people is waiting for a saviour in real world. It rarely ends well…

  4. #4
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    It's an interesting take but I wouldn't say that it's a "modern" take. People have been suggesting that superheroes are inherently fascist since at least the 50's. It a common criticism of Frank Miller's version of Batman, Fredrick Wertham suggested that Superman fascist in his book Seduction of the Innocent, hell...there's even an issue of Black Panther where he called the Avengers "gaudily dressed fascists."

    As far as superhero being dangerous because they train people to wait for someone else to come save you...again, not a new take. nor is it something unique to superheroes. It common in most adventure fiction to say nothing of many religions.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Largely agree with ed2962 here, though the question is rather complex.

    First, superhero comics are really diverse, even more so when looked at historically. One can certainly find elements that fascists can latch onto in characters like Batman or Punisher, but that's one thing that real-world fascists do continuously: claim other cultural expressions for their own. But there is very little of fascist thoughts or world-views in characters like Spider-Man or original Superman.

    Second, one should remember that superheroes are fictional constructs. If they present fascist thoughts it's because they are written that way, and it is the writer that expresses thoughts.

    Also, there is a flip side to the interpretation of Superman's creation. Rather than being there to protect white America, Superman can be viewed as a fantasy of passing as white, but still with the awareness of being outsider in America. Also, a lot of Superman was about giving an example and call for America to live up to its promises and improve itself. It's more about protecting the idea of America than protecting the status quo.

    Now, one can of course pick elements from various characters and end up with the fascist minimum as defined by Griffin: a palingenetic ultranationalistic populism. But it requires one to cherry-pick elements from different characters and combining them.

    Rather, a lot of the early superhero tales were power fantasies of helping people.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  6. #6
    DC Comics Forum Mod The Darknight Detective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Allen View Post
    Accordingly no, I don't think superheroes are fascist, I think Kripke just doesn't really dig the concept. Which is fine.
    Heh. It seems like sometimes "fascism"="something I just don't like" in the national conversation.
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  7. #7
    The Undead One The Chou Lives's Avatar
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    Super heroes are fictional, it depends on the story and who is writing it.

    Fascism is a ideaology in which authority and state are supreme, the party running the state “is the state” in the mentality. Blind worship is key and if you go out of line, your killed or taken to jail without a trial. Also it is covered by you can vote, but obviously limited options. And fascists group gain power by controlling and regulating information and fact. Literally writing reality in a social means to justify their actions.

    1984 and the comic book V are pretty much best describes it. When Thatcher was amp of. Ritalin, yeah it was basically like that to a degree ( V was inspired by politics of that time in England)

    So yeah it’s more than Nazs, and crazy stuff like that. It’s about dictating what is desirable and eliminating what is not. Y force or manipulation.

  8. #8
    The Cyborg Sage Jeremi's Avatar
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    It's the showrunner of the Boys. Of course he'd think superheroes are facists.

    Man Garth Ennis is not the person people should be emulating for superheroes...

  9. #9
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    I sort of believe it’s dangerous, not to overstate it or be overdramatic, but it’s a little dangerous to train an entire generation to wait for someone strong to come in and save you. That’s I think how you end up with people like Trump and populists who say, "I’m the only one who can come in, it’s going to be me." And I think in the way that pop-culture conditions people subtly, I think it’s conditioning them the wrong way — because there’s just too much of it. So I think it’s nice to have a corrective, at least a small one in us, to say, "They’re not coming to save you. Hold your family together and save yourselves."
    Selective evolutionary pressure created that not superheroes.

  10. #10
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    This comes up every once in a while. It would be true of most action heroes. It's really people dreaming of being heroes. A huge number of super heroes today are portrayed as being officially accepted by and working with law enforcement. Yet the ones who don't are sometimes the most popular because it's human nature to want to be vicariously free of the rules.
    This is what courage looks like.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Z View Post
    I found this interview with Eric Kripke, the showrunner for The Boys where he made this argument.

    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/li...zeitgeisty-hit
    No...

    1) If superheroes were fascist than they would have disposed of the democratic process along time ago and installed a dictatorship

    2) If superheroes were protecting an inherently evil society predicated on white nationalism, than superheroes would have punched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's head all the way to France by now, but I'm sure Oliver Queen is donating to her campaign.

    3) Kripke is embracing a fringe left theory that holds as about as much credence as fringe right theories. I'm sure there is a right wing nutter out there asking "Are superheroes Communist by Modern Standards?" This argument could be so easily flipped on its head, its not even worth examining.

    I imagine superheroes are like any other citizen, some of them vote Democrat and some of them vote Republican, but I very much doubt that any of them "outside of maybe the Punisher?" are wearing a MAGA hat.

    A more interesting question would be, which superheroes vote Democrat or Republican?

  12. #12
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    I think superheroes have fascist, authoritarian underpinnings the same way heroes as a whole, as a concept have fascist, authoritarian underpinnings to them. The Nazis were big on Richard Wagner and Karl May novels and other pop culture junk of its time. They were big into the cult of the hero, i.e. the regular hero and nost just the superhero. So whether it's making heroes of cops, soldiers, kings, emperors, and so on and so forth, any time you create a heroic myth, you are falling into that. The thing about superheroes is that they originated as children's entertainment became over time these new pop-culture merchandise juggernauts and mass media empires owned by big corporations.

    As for Kripke's point. One interesting thing he brings up:
    Kripke: A few things: The myth of superheroes themselves — though often created by young Jewish writers in the '30s and '40s — doesn’t really apply as cleanly today, because there’s these undeniable fascist underpinnings to it. They’re there to protect white, patriotic America. That’s what they were designed to do, that’s what they do. They’re protecting the status quo. When the status quo is problematic, suddenly they become adversarial — not your hero. And I think it was written by a lot of people who at that time were trying their level best to fit in and vanish within white, American society.
    What Kripke says there is in essence accurate. The Jewish creators of Golden Age superheroes and Golden Age comics as a whole for the most part (Kirby was an exception) for the most part weren't religiously observant, didn't really have a sense of Jewishness, and were much into assimilation into American society. A lot of comics scholars and research has borne this out. Jack Kirby was an exception for having a sense of Jewishness and being religiously observant. Stan Lee was very secular and assimilationist. The Jewishness of comics creators from Claremont to Bendis, that's a new and recent thing altogether.

  13. #13
    Astonishing Member Killerbee911's Avatar
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    No,because very few superhero stories have the most obvious thing happen. Superheroes seem Facist because they operate outside of the rules. Superheroes don't seem facist when they simple work for the government like cops,firefighter and emts. And other than Cops in real life and we can have whole another discussion on that,You never look at Firefighters and Emts as they are omg they are trying to be dicators and facists. They are just trying to save people and that is the essence of superheroes.

  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Killerbee911 View Post
    No,because very few superhero stories have the most obvious thing happen. Superheroes seem Facist because they operate outside of the rules. Superheroes don't seem facist when they simple work for the government like cops,firefighter and emts. And other than Cops in real life and we can have whole another discussion on that,You never look at Firefighters and Emts as they are omg they are trying to be dicators and facists. They are just trying to save people and that is the essence of superheroes.
    Let's look at it this way, imagine if cops or vigilantes without powers and so on are presented and treated as superheroes, would you give that a pass? Because look at The Punisher, he's a character embraced by the police as "their guy" and is becoming quite a problematic character.

    I think what separates superheroes from heroes as a whole is the obvious fact...superheroes don't exist.

    In real life, westerns as a genre with its glorification of the cowboy, the sheriff, the lawman became outdated when people came to terms with its ties to manifest destiny, to genocide, to imperialism. The reason is that however fantastic the Hollywood western was, ultimately it was tied to a real time and a real place, however tangentially, it was connected to real figures or real groups of people, so it became harder to make a reality. Making cops into heroes and glorifying that in cop movies and cop shows now become harder to accept after the George Floyd protests, because again the fictional cops are propaganda cloaking the real cops. Cops exist in real life. Whereas there's no Superman or Wonder Woman or Spider-Man in real life. I mean actual people with superpowers going around and fighting crime don't exist so there's no real danger these characters and stories pose to people as a whole.

    In real life superheroes are owned by corporations and are corporate brands, so that is where you have dubious issues come in. People's fondness for Marvel heroes turns into a fondness for Marvel branding which becomes a fondness for Disney and so on, despite the fact that Disney sponsors and supports a lot of free market and libertarian ideas, has retarded the public domain laws. The current President of Marvel, Isaac Perlmutter is a vocal and major donor of Donald Trump. These superhero companies are notoriously and defiantly anti-union and exploit creators and underpay them like no tomorrow. Disney is also hand in glove with China a totalitarian oppressive government currently conducting campaigns of ethnic cleansing and annexation, and you have Spider-Man in the comics and Iron Man in the movies doing business in China and so on. Fan enthusiasm and so on cloaks all those issues. People are more loyal to the character and brand than the people who create them.

    Check out this inter-office birthday card given to DC chief (and former gangster) Harry Donnenfeld.
    Donnenfeld DC Party Card.jpg

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    I think superheroes have fascist, authoritarian underpinnings the same way heroes as a whole, as a concept have fascist, authoritarian underpinnings to them. The Nazis were big on Richard Wagner and Karl May novels and other pop culture junk of its time. They were big into the cult of the hero, i.e. the regular hero and nost just the superhero. So whether it's making heroes of cops, soldiers, kings, emperors, and so on and so forth, any time you create a heroic myth, you are falling into that. The thing about superheroes is that they originated as children's entertainment became over time these new pop-culture merchandise juggernauts and mass media empires owned by big corporations.

    As for Kripke's point. One interesting thing he brings up:


    What Kripke says there is in essence accurate. The Jewish creators of Golden Age superheroes and Golden Age comics as a whole for the most part (Kirby was an exception) for the most part weren't religiously observant, didn't really have a sense of Jewishness, and were much into assimilation into American society. A lot of comics scholars and research has borne this out. Jack Kirby was an exception for having a sense of Jewishness and being religiously observant. Stan Lee was very secular and assimilationist. The Jewishness of comics creators from Claremont to Bendis, that's a new and recent thing altogether.
    Superheroes were just conceived as fun, light fare for young kids, but that kind overly simplistic world view from comics is also pretty deeply rooted in most fascist movements. Superheroes represent an ideal vision of how we'd like to see ourselves, and comparing them to the deeply flawed individuals we see in the real world there definitely is an immediate impulse to look down on modern society as corrupt and degenerate next to some nostalgic version of the past. And where I feel like fascists split from reactionaries is that they actually recognize that their conception of a pure society never actually existed in reality, but that rather than simply trying to adhere to traditions as they actually are, they want to forcibly remake society along the lines of what they believe it should have been all along. And superhero comics have always been a great outlet for these sorts of impulses, because the presence of superpowered individuals naturally helps you get around any logical obstacles or contradictions that would make your ideal society unworkable in practice.

    So far at least, this hasn't proved to be all that problematic because superhero comics were always dismissed as tripe for kids and sweaty basement dwellers, and not to be taken seriously. But now that superheroes are very much mainstream there is a whole generation of people growing up totally unashamed to wear their fandom as a badge of honor and to celebrate comics as these masterworks of storytelling whose themes have applicability to the real world, and while there may be a handful of stories out there that are thoughtfully written and challenge their readers to question everything they see, the vast majority of comics, particularly the ones that get adapted into films, foist a pretty simplistic world view where problems ultimately get solved by big muscle dudes punching them really hard. And if that kind of ideology really takes hold among the public then we might be in trouble.

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