It has been quite a week for political geeks.
Easily, the biggest geek event this week was the release of the new Star Wars trailer. It introduces two new heroes; but to the outrage of racists, neither is a white guy. Said racists have declared that this is advocating “white genocide” despite a) the new heroine being white and b) the return of most of the original white cast members. Update: Harrison Ford is still Caucasian, albeit a bit grizzled. I checked.
And since Lando Calrissian is not in the trailer and Mace Windu is dead, this likely makes the new hero the token black guy in this trilogy. Nevertheless, the racists see this as an unprecedented new intrusion which ruins the franchise – as if Ewoks and Jar-Jar Binks had not already accomplished that.
Likewise, these racists had similarly missed the fact that the storm troopers in Star Wars are a cross between klansmen and, well, storm troopers. If the standard issue armor was too subtle, the snow trooper armor should have been an additional hint. What do they need to see it? The Confederate battle flag? Also, the Empire's black uniforms look like they were designed by Hugo Boss.
So what is their brilliant strategy? How will they resist this mongrel, alien invasion? Why, by duplicating the immense success of the Mad Max: Fury Road boycott, of course! Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) epically failed to grasp that the Mad Max movies had critiqued toxic masculinity and blasted the film as “feminist propaganda.” Of course, their campaign actually backfired spectacularly.
But that was not the only reactionary reinterpretation of Star Wars this week. As if on cue, Neo-Con pundit Bill Kristol defended the Empire as a desirable form of government. Because of course he did. Sure, they are a fascist regime that casually practices genocide, but that does not make them the bad guys.* But, hey, at least he knows what side he is on and is honest about it. That's more than I can say for National Review editor Jonah Goldberg.
And today I hear that Conservatives are upset that Captain America is now a black progressive. Steve Rogers, the WWII era Cap., is retiring and handing the shield over to his partner in fighting crime, the Falcon, who had fought alongside Cap since 1969. Neither of these things should surprise.
First, in comics, there is ample precedent for white characters passing their mantle to black ones. And yet each time it happens conservatives are shocked. John Stewart joined the Green Lantern Corps in 1971. James Rhodes first donned Iron Man's armor in 1983 when Tony Stark was battling alcoholism.
Second, Captain America has always fought for America's liberal traditions of liberty, equality, and democracy. He understood the difference between patriotism and nationalism and battled a false Captain America who did not. The false Cap was a jingoistic McCarthyite who had discovered the super-soldier serum after the original Cap was lost at sea in 1945. Later, in 1964, the Avengers found the original Cap frozen in ice and revived him. The two Captains clashed and the original one won. Thereafter, the character has frequently been a vehicle for looking at America's inner conflicts. This predictably meant political issue-oriented stories that critiqued bigotry and nationalism.
What is the difference between patriotism and nationalism? Patriotism is a loyalty to the aforementioned three ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy. By contrast, nationalism is anchored in some territory or ethnicity. Consequently, patriotism is not marked by hostility to foreigners. Nor does it adore authority and hierarchy, as nationalism so often does. As I noted in my book, the American and French Revolutions were, by definition, internal conflicts rather than external ones and American and French patriots cheered each other's revolts. In 1776, an Anglo nationalist would have sided with the crown. While patriotism encourages freedom, nationalism breeds fascism. And we all know where Captain America stands on those.
And, seriously, what are the odds that those who loathe Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal are going to simultaneously understand and admire Captain America?
Combining all of the above with the Hugo Award imbroglio and Ted Cruz garbling Star Trek, conservatives have repeatedly proven that they simply do not understand the things they think they love - neither Geekdom, nor America either. Their willful - even militant - misunderstanding is simply epic, which makes my job of picking off their arguments too easy.
It's just like Beggar's Canyon back home.
* Star Wars fans have made humorous imperial recruitment posters for years. This one copies James Montgomery Flagg's famous 1916 WWI "I Want You" poster, substituting Darth Vader for Uncle Sam. But this was not limited to fandom. Indeed, in the original Star Wars role-playing game there was a two-page spread fake ad that parodied the Army's 1980s "Be All that You Can Be" campaign. I never imagined that a famous pundit would ever take the idea of praising the Empire seriously, but politics imitates satire.