Tuesday, February 5, 2019

On Maher On Adults Reading Comic Books

Maher on adults reading comic books: https://bit.ly/2Tyjw7v


Maher's particular form of arrogance is hard for me to stomach, so I may be having a difficult time separating the man from the opinion here. But I think he's off-base.

I haven't read a comic book since I was about 14, but I used to like them a lot. Things have changed since I read comics as a kid though, and certainly since Maher did. The simplistic nature of the superhero genre isn't so simplistic anymore. There are lots of authors who have reinvented and reinterpreted these heroes, and had them struggle with more complicated and contemporary problems. Moreover, they aren't all written for kids.

Maher, I think, has simply transferred his simplistic view of religion - fairy tales that only dumb adults or children believe - and applied it to comic books. 

It's hard to see Maher's logic, though. He's choosing a random example of someone online (sans age, gender, etc.) who said they were grateful for Stan Lee's contribution to their life. And from that he's extrapolated that (a) comic books are for kids; (b) intelligent adults should not read them; (c) that adults think they're important suggests one important reason why Trump is president. He insists we're not getting dumber, and that neither is our entertainment, but still, you know, Donald Trump.

It's just kind of a mess, honestly.

Tales of extraordinary people (Hercules springs to mind), are old and enduring in much the same way that classic fiction is. It isn't obvious to me that because some adults enjoy comic books, they can't think deeply about current events or politics. If you're interested, you can see a Bloggingheads that was recently done about one of what Maher might call pseudo intellectual professors talking about Stan Lee and his legacy.


First off, I share your dislike of Maher: he puts me off big time, so much so that he’s an inspiration to the upward movement of my viscera.

I’ll take your point about comics, graphic books and the like having evolved. Maybe they do have artistic merit sufficient for mature interest. Maher should have taken that into account and so should I. I’m a forced agnostic on the point, “forced” because I have to cop to sharing Maher’s intuitive distrust of them having that merit. But really I don’t know and, so, my forced agnosticism. 

But, two big buts (and without any surgical enhancement.)

One, if I can judge the question of merit by the small slice of flicks I’ve seen, Wonder Woman, and a few I took Max and Roxy too, then I’m with Maher. They’re not worthy of mature attention and pretend to that worthiness by nods to faux sophistication with a bunch of self deprecating and like types of one liners that give off a comic effect and effect the subtext, to my mind, “Don’t worry. We the movie makers are hip enough, just like you the audience, to know that this is all silly: we don’t take it too seriously. We’re so hip in fact that we distance ourselves from this foolishness by joking at it at its expense. It’s our sly subversion.” 

Two, if my one has any substance, then I think the speculation that Maher’s pooh poohing on comics is an extension of his outraged atheism is just that, a piece of speculation no better than many others and ultimately unknowable. If one has substance, then his put down arises from the evidence of the genre itself.

And a third but as well, on Maher’s logic: if like the small sample of superhero movies I’ve seen, Stan Lee, the reverence for whom is Maher’s pivot into his argument, exemplifies the form, then Maher’s point is well taken. (This May well be met by the evolution of the genre.) If Lee’s work is that exemplification, then I suggest my first two buts get corroborated. Not for nothing, but it *is* hordes of adults who are celebrating the greatness of Stan Lee. 

So a counter to your reading of Maher’s logic might be: a lot of adults are revering the memory of Stan Lee; his output was for kids; look at it; but adults are taking it seriously; they shouldn’t; it’s crude stuff; it’s for kids; the general public is dumb; hence Trump. 

Me, subject to my forced agnosticism, I’m on board that reading of his reasoning but I get off at the station before “the general public is dumb” etc. Those two points remind me why I can’t stand Maher.

I’m not likely going to listen to that Bloggingheads—though I might give it a try for a few minutes—but your last paragraph raises another but-like point. The thrust of the answer shouldn’t be to give in to the dumbing of ourselves down but rather should be to keep trying to offer, in education particularly, better alternatives to the dumbness. Less of the low brow comics and more of, say, higher brow comedy, even if not the highest. 

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