I had the chance to read through some of the posts at the much-hyped Big Hollywood web site, the creation of conservative writer/web mogul Andrew Breitbart (the man who helped launch both The Drudge Report and Huffington Post).
Conservatives like Breitbart have a history of decrying art and entertainment for not having a solid core of American conservative political belief and therefore are instead guilty of destroying the moral fiber of the nation. Yawn.
At least he's not calling for a return of congressional hearings into comic books (like that led by Tennessee Democrat Senator Estes Kefauver) and the movie industry -- not yet anyway, but I get the feeling some would love such a thing. Those events were dismal, dark days in our history, allowing for hysterical Inquisition-style theatrics which destroyed lives and celebrated ignorance.
I suppose this is a continuation of the so-called culture wars in America, as if the body politic needs to alter the creation and distribution of works of art and the imagination so that it conforms to a single perspective. Yeah, we so need an anti-imagination campaign. Because, well, conservative ideas are all mangled by art and media whose only goal is to express America-hating and commie-loving views. (Conservative political Myth Numero Uno.)
I stumbled into Big Hollywood after reading about a column by comic book writer Bill Willingham published there. Willingham is moaning that we are in the age of "superhero decadence" and longs for a return to the days when all comic book superheroes were ... well, just better:
"Old fashioned ideals of courage and patriotism, backed by a deep virtue and unshakable code, seem to be… well, old fashioned."
"It’s time to make public a decision I’ve already made in private. I’m going to shamelessly steal a line from Rush Limbaugh, who said, concerning a different matter, “Go ahead and have your recession if you insist, but you’ll have to pardon me if I choose not to participate.” And from now on that’s my position on superhero comics. Go ahead and have your Age of Superhero Decadence, if you insist, but you’ll have to pardon me if I no longer choose to participate.
No more superhero decadence for me. Period. From now on, when I write within the superhero genre I intend to do it right. And if I am ever again privileged to be allowed to write Superman, you can bet your sweet bootie that he’ll find the opportunity to bring back “and the American way,” to his famous credo."
Robot 6 has a good discussion of Willingham and his views on comic books.
But really, as a lifelong comic book fan, the superheroes usually were the least impressive creations. Basic storylines tend to follow a simple formula: Good Guy Encounters Bad Guy and Big Fight Follows. There are many, many instances in real life of just plain heroic - not superheroic - acts and individuals. Most recently, the pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III of the airliner which was forced to land in the middle of the Hudson River yesterday is a bona fide hero - maybe the only person in the world who could have landed that plane in a river without any fatalities.
And if Willingham feels he needs to inject conservative politics into his superhero fantasies, well that's fine by me. I wish him the best. But drama - good drama - requires some kind of conflict, and a character with flaws is more interesting than those without. Let's face it - a multi-millionaire Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, who decides to wear a mask and attack criminals is really just a vigilante who is making an end-run around the law and courts in order to exact immediate justice which only he defines.
I enjoy the movie "Dirty Harry" but in real life I do not want a policeman to act like Harry at all.
Reading through Big Hollywood all I found was a giant whine-festival - Hollywood is evil, media is evil, good moral values don't exist in art enough to satisfy me, etc etc etc.
I like some ambiguity in the fiction or movies or TV I see -- not everyone does, and with hundreds if not thousands of options available to us, we can all find something we like. And that ambiguity allows me a chance to ponder on the tale I am reading or watching - to react to it and weigh it and think about it. A work of the imagination is most often about the rejection of confinement.
Discussion and debate about the fictions of heroes and superheroes might best be started with Joseph Campbell's "Hero With A Thousand Faces" rather than the blather of conservative blogs. Your mileage may vary.