This is a follow-up to a series I started last week, which begins here but is not for the faint of heart. This post as well is not for the faint of heart. The series, if you’re interested, began here.
Okay, so, as a non-American… how does gay marriage threaten religious freedom in America?
Seriously. Set the histrionics aside, the screaming and shouting and wild eyes, and explain it. Because, frankly, unless “religious freedom” means “forcing everyone to follow [your] religion,” it doesn’t.
Is religious freedom equivalent to having everyone’s religious beliefs legislated? No, obviously not, because religious values conflict even within, say, the Church of Mormon. (One example of many.)
Is religious freedom equivalent to having the majority’s religious beliefs legislated? No, obviously not, or Mormons wouldn’t be fighting for it — they’re not the majority.
So what is religious freedom equivalent to? As far as I can tell, it’s equivalent to a secular unfreedom. It’s a misnomer, but not an accidental one. Religious conservatives have cynically taken the word “freedom” and glued it onto something else — onto the claim they feel that they have on how others live.
Which raises another question: is there an American comic book about a gay superhero, who goes about fighting for his people’s rights? You know: hunting down and defenestrating politicians (real or imaginary) and religious figures (imaginary or, preferably, real) who spread hate about homosexuals, catching groups of gay-bashers and stringing them up by their necks, that kind of thing?
If there isn’t, why isn’t there?
I was thinking about this when I got told a story recently. I could tell the whole thing, but basically, it was that a woman was attached by some and guys fended them off, but also held onto one of them when the others fled. She held on long enough for neighbors to identify him, and it turned out he was the local Chinese food delivery kid. (Big surprise. Not.) Apparently, the woman’s brother and father (with whom she lived) went out one night and paid the little shit back for the trauma he caused. I can only hope he is unable to walk again. I can only hope that he walks in fear every night, just like this young woman almost certainly does when she is alone.
I have to ask: where is the female superhero who acts as an the avenger for women like this, who goes around catching those pricks and stringing them up, when the law won’t do it? Where’s the comic about the team of women who castrate violent men who are “drunk” and can’t stop themselves from assaulting children? Where’s the analogue to Wonder Woman who goes about stopping those boy/girl fights we’ve all seen on the sidewalk (I see them with depressing frequency in Korea, anyway) and punches the boyfriend into oblivion, and then takes the girl to a psychiatrist for evaluation when she defends him against the superhero? Not, I should clarify, not necessarily because anyone sane on the left thinks that women ought to be forced to get psychiatric care when they stay with abusive men, or that rapists ought to be castrated or any of that, but because it introduces into the mainstream discourse a critique of The Way Things Are.
Certainly, Superman started out as something vaguely like this: he was a guy who went out and fought to defend orphans, tenement dwellers, and exploited workers, in the beginning. He didn’t become a nationalist figure, or rather, a metaphor for American military power and the defense of Pax Americana until later: at first, he was about the closest thing one could have to moderate American socialism not just embodied but also given big fists and big muscles and the power to crunch the rich and powerful if need be…
In short, Superman grabbed The Way Things Are by the lapels and held it out a window saying, “Really? Really, are you sure you wanna Be That Way?” He did it on a regular basis and he did it in front of teenagers, and some of those teenagers followed his example. Some of those teenagers marched in protests, rode in freedom rides. Some of those teenagers worked for social justice. And few could really continue to ignore the problems that Superman confronted — though, yes, he failed to confront them all. Superman didn’t beat up Jim Crow Law-enforcing sherriffs. (As far as I know.) He didn’t catch up a pack of KKK members and drop them in the ocean. But I think to some degree the kids reading about his adventures got the point.
There was a social ethics to early Superman which I’m not sure we see in the contemporary translation of comic book characters to film. Mainstream fictional superheroes are no longer kicking in doors, punching out slumlords, cracking down on crooked businessmen, or holding corrupt politicians out windows by their toes, not anymore. The superheroes I’ve seen lately have seemed more caught up in self-reflexive doubt about the vigilante enterprise which the superhero trope has become, or in defending the status quo, as cruddy as might be.
Even Kick-Ass, which I really enjoyed, had the heroes stopping petty criminals (okay), drug dealers (sigh), and crimelords (whom everyone hates except those who aspire to crimelordery, I suppose, or who kiss the asses of crimelords).
Of course, if we look to Hollywood, we’ll probably never see this kind of superhero. But I am wondering how many alternative comics tell this kind of story: a story that is explicitly political, that breathes life into the politics of the left. It seems it would be a useful response to the kind of apathy that the mainstream seems to have been jaundiced by, to the point where apathy is presented as some sort of political position. There might be tons, there might be none. I don’t know anything about it.