Social Justice Warrior
Geeks Should Argue Politics. It's Good For Us.

Ross Lincoln | 3 Jul 2014 19:00
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To dig out a very old example, if you pretend Frank Miller is an apolitical writer, then his seminal works, especially The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City lose all but the most superficial meaning. Miller made his views on gender, sexuality and U.S. politics absolutely crucial to those stories, so much so that with a couple of decades between us and their initial publication, a lot of what he wrote is jarring. You might not personally have a problem with a mincing, gay stereotype as The Joker, but you can't ignore the thousands of people who do. Furthermore, how can you even grasp the point of TDKR if you completely disregard Miller's clear view of Federal authority, or his low opinion of the socio-political changes associated with the 1960s?

Likewise, ignoring Alan Moore's sexual politics and intense distrust of authority obscures the whole point of Watchmen. Why bother reading such a dense, difficult, challenging work if the only meaning you're going to get out of it comes from figuring out which famous superheroes he based his characters on? Why bother reading through that story's complex supplementary material if you ignore his exploration of the fascistic undertones of the Superhero ideal?

Both Moore and Miller are difficult, provocative writers who demand their readers be challenged, who practically beg people to argue about their work. You do them a lot more respect by hashing out agreement or disagreement with their points than you do by pretending that it's crass to inject politics into the discussion.

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On a less controversial level, even Fables - my current favorite ongoing comic series, incidentally - a decade-long story about living fairy tale and folklore characters, becomes a richer reading experience when you realize what creator Bill Willingham's politics are. For the record, I'm certain Willingham and I would find little common ground were we to ever get into a political discussion. He leans firmly right, while I'm probably to the left of if Sweden and San Francisco had a baby. But I don't have to agree with everything he says to recognize his brilliance. And really, the fact is that certain story elements only make sense when you are aware of his views on issues like Israel, the war on terror, or abortion.

Disagreeing about complex and controversial works isn't injecting politics where it doesn't belong, it's demonstrating that your love of an art form - any art form - is more than just surface-level loyalty to a brand name. We're going to disagree about stuff all the time. Better that we realize it, and embrace the discussion head on. In short, we're better than simply picking sides between Pepsi and Coke.

Likewise, the world we all actually live in isn't apolitical at all, never mind the art we consume. The idea that being "geek" means something equivalent to the concept common in American political rhetoric that "politics stops at the water's edge" ignores all that. But more importantly, geeks already argue about everything anyway. We argue about whether or not Superman should ever kill, whether or not Han fired before or after Greedo was able to get off a shot of his own, even whether or not two superheroes from different universes could beat one another in a fight. I see no reason why our arguments can't also be substantial.

Even if anyone who disagrees with me is clearly wrong and awful.

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