Bill Maher is awesome. He’s hilarious, poignant, and gets on peoples’ nerves. He’s been a consistent critic of Trump since day one. However, Mr. Maher is human. With this latest New Rule monologue, he’s proven his fallibility. In essence, his argument comes down to the fact that superhero movies have conditioned society into believing that we are powerless. He wants the audience to believe that since Superman is virtually indestructible, we as people have no agency and don’t need any.

Bill Maher Scapegoats Comics

The monologue, while having some good points, blames the popularity of Trump partially on his simple policy ideas. Instead of a serious discussion on the sad state of our immigration policy, Trump just wants to build a wall. Maher points to this longing for simple solutions as a symptom of society’s love for heroes. Society likes that superheroes can solve problems and disagreements in a simple and clear cut fight. Bill Maher falls into the trap of blaming popular culture and entertainment for real societal problems. This is almost exactly like blaming violent video games for violence in society.

Bill Maher
Bill is no stranger to controversy, bringing on to his show some questionable panelists.

Simple Causes for Complex Problems

Life is complicated. Even seemingly simple issues such as crime are nuanced. After decades of study, most experts will admit they still haven’t completely determined what leads to criminal activity. Similarly, politics is a tricky subject to master. The talking heads on TV notwithstanding, political science is in many ways a contradiction in terms. Therefore, trying to find straightforward solutions to complex questions can many times be impossible. When one finds a “miracle cure,” it’s a very good idea to read the fine print and disclaimers. Bill Maher and his writers when creating his monologue, “Orange Sphincter to the Rescue,” forgot that even Trump supporters don’t believe he has super powers.

READ: Want more on social issues in pop culture? Then read our review of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE!

A Brief History of People Blaming Pop Culture

Calling out popular culture for promoting what society deems “deviant” behavior is nothing new. Hell, even blaming comics themselves have a deep history. Politics is directly intertwined with said history. In 1954, the seeds of what would become the big generational gap exposed in the 1960s were starting to show up. In order to investigate this “juvenile delinquency,” the United States Senate convened a special subcommittee. The official title was the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Estes Kefauver famously spearheaded this subcommittee. Said subcommittee’s investigations found a great cause to blame the increasing independence of teenagers: comic books. If you’re interested in learning more, head over to thecomicbooks.com and read its thorough detailing and transcriptions of the three-day hearing.

Estes Kefauver
Senator Kefauver on a bad day

Later on, when television became the most popular form of mass media consumption, attempts were made (and are still being made) to blame its depiction of violence and crime on youth misbehavior and (later) school shootings. This, of course, isn’t even getting into how much flack video game franchises like GRAND THEFT AUTO get for promoting crime. For some reason, people of authority don’t want to think about how their own role as parents in teaching their children might affect their behavior. Similarly, they ignore how spending time with them might help.

No, it’s easier to blame Hollywood or Marvel Comics or Electronic Arts. It’s much simpler to blame others. The more difficult task is to think about what you yourself are doing to teach your children about the world. Similarly, TV personalities such as Bill Maher blaming superhero TV shows and movies for promoting adoration of Trump is flat wrong.

Strong Men Can Do No Wrong

A perfect example of how Bill Maher’s theory is wrong is the most notorious dictatorship in history: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. The land north of the 38th Parallel has been a place few would called great ever since the de facto conclusion of the Korean War in 1952. There is mass starvation, virtual slavery, and even more income inequality than Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia combined. To add to all that, Kim Il Sung’s offspring haven’t been known as the most enlightened despots our planet has witnessed.

Kim Jong Un
The latest in a line of crazy North Korean Dictators

READ: We count down 5 time Marvel Comics Mirrored Real Politics!

From making up myths about themselves to releasing strange videos showing nuclear missiles blowing up Washington DC, even most dictators wouldn’t claim the Kims have much in the way of sanity. However, why haven’t the people risen up and taken over control? It’s called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, after all. The answer: brainwashing. No, not that type of brainwashing. This type of brainwashing. From almost birth, North Korean children are fed lies and falsehoods daily by everyone. This includes their parents, their teachers, and their friends. In short, everyone brainwashes everyone in the DPRK. This mass psychosis helps explain why Kim Jon Un is still in power.

Some People Just Won’t Listen

This manner of propaganda explains the appeal of fascism. Believing that someone or something has all the answers is what helps con men succeed. A loudmouth with simple solutions to complex problems can amass a large following. When one feels powerless, seeing someone just (or seemingly just) like them have all the answers to their problems is refreshing. However, believing in the simple solution of handing over one’s power to a strong man is a terrible idea.

All you have to do is look at any fascist state. You see the power struggles. In Nazi Germany, the Party told the courts what to do. In constitutional democracies, it is the other way around. Donald Trump can’t simply tell the Supreme Court what is and isn’t constitutional. Not even the President is above the law and that’s how it should be. The fallacy that problems can be simplified and solved through straightforward, easy to understand answers is what makes dictatorships weak.

People who already distrust the government and are more prone towards hate and ignorance of “others” readily discard facts that are uncomfortable. These individuals latch onto the lie that climate change is a liberal hoax. They readily believe that minorities are all on welfare because they are lazy and don’t like working. Mr. Maher should have paid more attention to his own New Rule monologue. If he did, he’d know that there is a large percentage of people in the world who just like fascists. They like authoritarian figures, whether elected or not.

READ: Our political section details how the Democrats should rebuild after Trump’s election!

How Comics Can Do Good

First off, in defense of comics, I can never do a more eloquent job than ComicsVerse’s founder Justin Alba did in his open letter. That being said, I’d like to add some additional notes having more to do with Bill Maher’s latest monologue. Comics show the best humanity is capable of. Comics can show us a world where regular people stand up for what’s right and just. For example, heroes banding together to save the countless alien invasions of Earth. Additionally, comics show positive representations of minorities and women. Overall, comics show us that normal people, with or without super powers, can change the world.

Tony Stark could easily have taken his Iron Man suit and did what he did with the rest of his company’s products. He could have become richer, but Stark chose instead to use both his money, influence, and armor to help make the world a better place. Another rich tycoon, Bruce Wayne could have sat on his laurels. Wayne could have let his parents’ company bleed Gotham Citizens dry. As pretty much everyone knows, Bruce didn’t. He almost single-handedly kept Gotham from imploding. Hawkeye and Black Widow both are completely powerless. Yet without them, The Avengers would never have succeeded.

Comics show us what happens if we put our differences aside and use our talents for the good of all. Real and positive change happens as a result. Comics and their TV or movie adaptations don’t promote loss of agency. These works of art promote the opposite and are a call to arms for all those who want to fight injustice and hate everywhere.

LISTEN: ComicsVerse details the positive steps Marvel has made in portraying Muslim superheroes!

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