I’m experiencing a weird mix of conflicting emotions today and for an almost entirely stupid reason. I’m not one of those people who gets offended by everything. In fact, those people generally annoy the fuck out of me. I firmly believe that a good portion of the globe’s population needs to grow a set and just ignore what others are saying.
Then my regular weekly programming was interrupted by one of my favorite people shitting all over comic book fans for something he doesn’t (and doesn’t care to) understand.
Each Friday night, I faithfully tune in. Part of it is because I’m still in a place where I need regular assurance that I’m not the only one who thinks this world has gone batshit crazy. For a while, it felt like one of the few sane places on cable. A place where you could tune in and laugh at the absurdity of what’s happening here in the United States. I’ve even stuck with it after catching him bending news stories or cherry-picking small pieces (like three-to-five words) from a story to fit his narrative. While I understand the show is satire, he presents his version as the whole story quite often. As a fan, I had to learn to always read the original news story from the source before buying into whatever he was trying to convey by reading off a quarter of a quote from one line of a ten thousand word article.
Back in November, comic book legend Stan Lee passed away and Bill Maher took the opportunity to take a shot at Stan Lee’s fans. The blog post (titled Adulting) is a short piece in which he said (paraphrasing) anyone who reads comics is wasting their smarts on stupidity. At time, I found it shitty but I don’t read comics so I shrugged and moved on. To his credit, the piece was about the people who read comic books and a LOT of followers went off on him for taking a shot at Lee, which is not what h did. Then the blog post came back as the editorial at the end of the latest episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.
He doubled-down and expanded on the blog post. Here’s the transcript of his rant:
And finally, to every person on social media who’s asked me since November ‘Bill,, what do you have to say about Stan Lee?’ and every paparazzi outside a restaurant who is still shouting at me ‘Bill, what about the Stan Lee thing?’, okay, your day has come. Tonight’s editorial is about Stan Lee, who, if you missed it, died in November. And a few days later, I posted a blog that was in no way an attack on Mr. Lee, but took the occasion of his death to express my dismay at people who think comic books are literature and superhero movies are great cinema and who in general are stuck in an everlasting childhood.
Bragging that you’re all about the Marvel universe is like boasting that your mother still pins your mittens to your sleeve. You can, if you want, like the exact same things you liked when you were ten, but if you do, you need to grow up. That was the point of my blog. I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead. I’m sad you’re alive.
And by the way, if someone says that you’re being childish and you react by throwing a temper tantrum, you’re not Iron Man. You’re irony, man.
Well, let me tell you, people were pissed about this post. I wasn’t even aware that I had ruffled so many capes until I saw that forty thousand Twitter followers unfollowed me like that [*snaps fingers in the air*] to which I say good riddance. Follow Yogi Bear.
Director Kevin Smith accused me of “…just taking a shot when no shots are fuckin’ necessary.’ Except again, my shot wasn’t at Stan Lee. It was at, you know, grown men who still dress like kids [zoom out to a full-length picture of Kevin Smith wearing a backwards hat, hockey jersey, and jean shorts].
One comment said that Stan Lee “…has inspired children to believe in something bigger than them…” and then added “congrats you’re a cunt, on the same level Ann Coulter is a cunt.” Boy, did you pick the wrong night to tune in. Other people tweeted things like ‘I learned about social justice and racial intolerance by reading comic books.” Okay? But now you have pubic hair. Read James Baldwin. Read Toni Morrison. Read Michael Eric Dyson. Even a book as dumb as the Bible gets this. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” including my X-men bed sheets.
Can we stop pretending that the writing in comic books is so good? Oh, please. Every superhero movie’s the same thing: a person who doesn’t have powers gets them, has to figure out how they work, and then has to find a glowy thing. Justice League, glowy thing. Ironman, glowy thing. Spiderman, glowy thing. Captain America, glowy thing. Glowy thing, glowy thing, glowy thing.
And again, there is nothing wrong with a man writing comic books. There is something wrong with adults thinking they’re profound. The folks at Stan’s company, Team Stan, wrote an open letter to me and said “…you have a right to your opinion that comics are childish and unsophisticated. Many said the same about Dickens, Steinbeck, Melville, and even Shakespeare.” No, they didn’t! No, no one ever said that! They never said King Lear and Moby Dick was childish and unsophisticated. If you ever read a book without pictures, you’d know that. Team Shakespeare should write you an open letter. Yes, Howard the Duck, Hamlet, same diff. To thine own self be true, meet Hulk Smash.
Comics are for kids. That’s why they sell them next to the Pokeman cards and not on the aisle with the condoms and the lube. I’m sorry, but if you’re an adult playing with superhero dolls…I’m sorry, I mean collectible action figures, why not go all the way and drive to work on a big wheel?
Grown ups these days, they cling so desperately to their childhood that when they do attempt to act their age, they have a special word for it now: adulting. ‘Hey world, look at me, I just made my own eye appointment. #adulting’ ‘Eating vegetables. #adulting’ Today I wiped my own ass. I guess I’m turning into my dad.
Marriages have been destroyed because the husbands, adult men, can’t stop playing video games. When your wife wants to have sex and can’t come to bed because you’re about to level up in Fortnite, don’t be surprised when your relationship does this. [the words GAME OVER flash over the graphic]
He also did an interview with Larry King Now after the blog post in which he clarified his words, only making himself sound like a bigger asshole about the whole thing:
“But talk about making my point for me: Yeah, I don’t know very much about Stan Lee and it certainly wasn’t a swipe at Stan Lee. Yeah, fine. I am agnostic on Stan Lee,” Maher said. “I don’t read comic books. I didn’t even read them when I was a child. What I was saying is, a culture that thinks that comic books and comic book movies are profound meditations on the human condition is a dumb f-cking culture. And for people to get mad at that just proves my point.”
I reread Adulting this morning to see if there was another side to his argument. There isn’t. He really just takes issue with adults reading comic books and appreciating comic book movies. Unless they’re strapping him down to a chair with his eyelids pinned open forcing him to read said comics, I don’t see why he gives a fuck but I digress. The blog post appears to be rage porn click bait and nothing more. He saw the flood of mourning fans on social media and thought it would be a good way to get the hit count up (maybe not coincidentally, the show had just gone on their winter break when the blog post went live…).
With the exception of a brief period of time during my early teens when I picked up X-Men for about six months, I don’t read comics. I have nothing against them, it’s just overwhelming. There are decades worth of content already published and the continue to churn out content at a crazy rate. It’s like randomly trying to dive into watching soap operas. I didn’t want to spend half my reading time researching past plot lines to understand current ones. Because of this, I can’t speak to comic book story lines outside of the ones I know from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe films. However….
If you’re a writer who enjoys the MCU films, you can attest to what I’m about to get into. Iron Man (3 movies), Captain America (3 movies), Black Panther (1 movie), Thor (3 movies), Spiderman (1 movie), Ant Man (1 movie), Dr. Strange (1 movie), Avengers (2 movies), Guardians of the Galaxy (2 movies), and the Hulk (1 movie). All of these films were woven and tied into a two-part finale in which all of the storylines from all of those different franchises converge into one—an epic fcking feat. According to Bill, these movies are meant for kids. The first movie, Iron Man, released ten years ago. So, if one was fifteen at the time, they’re twenty-five now. Does crossing the magical adulthood line at eighteen mean you’re going to stop loving the story you fell in love with at fifteen? Of course not.
I think part of the problem might be that Bill Maher is not a storyteller. Some stand up comedians are but that’s not what he is. Never has been. Bill Maher has always been a political satirist who enjoys picking fights with religious people. His career is built on cracking jokes about headlines someone else has already written. The hard part is done, he just has to come up with a punch line. And that’s totally fine. His comedy is why I love him so much but his brand of comedy has apparently left him with no love for fiction with imagination powering the story. His entire career has been built around non-fiction. Maybe it’s years of interviewing the writers he chooses for his show and having to read their books beforehand. I went through a phase where all I read were memoirs because I was fascinated by the life stories but I eventually wandered back to my usual preferences—urban fantasy, horror, supernatural suspense, paranormal romance, and epic fantasy.
Look back at his rant. In response to a Twitter user saying that Stan Lee taught them about social injustice and racial tolerance, he immediately jumps to recommending the writings of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Michael Eric Dyson, all of whom are very accomplished writers who obviously work from a desire to shape and influence society. There is nothing “fun” about their books. It’s all business. They’re meant to make you think long and hard about social and racial inequality, and they do a fine job at it, but they don’t do much else. They’re literary fiction authors and that’s totally fine…..if that’s what you’re into. I personally find most literary fiction writing dry, boring as shit, and reading a LitFic book distinctly feels like homework. I don’t enjoy it. I thought The Catcher in the Rye sucked like a Hoover and To Kill a Mockingbird might as well be printed tranquilizer. Boring and pretentious, both of them. Wanting to read or watch fantasy doesn’t denote low intelligence. Some readers just enjoy a little action, adventure, intrigue, and maybe touch of romance and humor while they’re absorbing the deeper meaning behind it all. Some of us occasionally like to read for the simple pleasure of disappearing into another world to escape the shit one we live in. I don’t like to drink my fiction straight. I like there to be something more to the story than the grand lesson I’m supposed to take away.
Oh, and his comments regarding the Team Stan open letter to him after the initial blog post went live, Bill, you’re a little wrong. Shakespeare was told by close peers that while he had no rival in the writing of comedy, he possessed only a mediocre understanding of language (the dude made up words when he didn’t know what to use lol), next to no adult judgement in his characters’ decision making abilities, and his plays were extensively rewritten to make them more refined because they were completely unsophisticated. That was more than three hundred years ago so what we know of Shakespeare today is much different and more grown up than what was being performed in England in the late 1500s. Dickens was hailed by his contemporaries as imaginative (to an almost hallucinatory degree) but lacking in real depth or mature thought. John Steinbeck’s history is a fucking dumpster fire so we’ll slip right on by him (his 1962 Nobel Prize was bullshit, just saying….) and Melville’s critical response was all over the map. Team Stan wasn’t saying that the assessment of those authors still stands but it did at the time that they were publishing their works. We view these people as great writers…….now.
Regarding the movies, I would seriously open a vein if my only cinematic choices were Oscar winners like the one about a chick who fucks a fish. Films are supposed to be about escaping into the visual representation of a story for a few hours. In a time when half the country hates the other half, isn’t a series of movies that preach teamwork and helping those weaker or less fortunate than yourself exactly what every adult should be watching? Bill Maher needs to stop running under the assumption that every person who reads comic books is doing so in a bed sheet fort by flashlight clothed in Superman PJs (complete with a cape, apparently). I know folks who hold a master’s degree and still run out on opening night to see the latest MCU flick. They’re adulting just fine while still loving the stories they discovered as children.
And the video game thing? Come on. First, the argument was about comic books but… If a guy is passing up dipping his wick in favor of a video game, either A) more than likely, the relationship was already in trouble when the game entered the equation, or B) he may have addictive personality issues which, if left unchecked, will doom the relationship anyway.
Maybe Bill Maher is just turning into an aged curmudgeon who simply doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand any age group beneath his own.
This is what I think: ignore him. If you love to read comic books, keep doing so. I think this world could use a lot more people who, regardless of how old they are, believe in perseverance, the power of love, and doing what’s right no matter the cost.