Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Shifting Winds (mild spoilers for 24 and recent comics)

It's an interesting time to be a connoisseur of both pop culture and politics. You can get a sense of where things are going by looking at the stories people tell -- and those stories have been changing significantly of late.

It's particularly apparent in 24, always a fine barometer of attitudes towards "muscular America". Last year was a neocon's wet dream -- the bad guys were an Arabic family living in America who turned out to secretly be terrorists out to destroy the country with nukes, and the hyper-liberal character was the unwitting patsy of the villains. This year, by contrast, the crisis was precipitated by extreme neoconservatives overreaching themselves in their anti-terrorist moves, featuring a president who is both foolish and weak and a vice president who is manipulative, Machiavellian and possibly (we're about 2/3 of the way through the season at this point) Just Plain Evil.

The same trends are showing in comics as well, even in the straightforward superhero stuff. On the DC side, they've been setting up a new series pitting the *blatantly* nasty government superhero team ("SHADE"), vs. the new incarnation of The Freedom Fighters, led by Uncle Sam. (One of the most deliberately iconic characters in the DC mythos.) At the same time, Marvel is running their Civil War storyline, which is a bit subtler and more nuanced, but still pulling in many of the same themes -- the superhero community is split by a new law requiring registration of all superheros. It's conspicuous that Captain America comes down as the leader of the anti-authoritarian crowd. The comic book industry has long had an implicit distrust of authority, but it's getting both more obvious and more confident lately.

For several years it's been a truism among both the left and the libertarians that creeping authoritarianism was one of the greatest dangers facing the country. It's fascinating (not to mention encouraging) watching that finally beginning to really permeate into pop culture. The meme of "we need to be tough if we're going to be safe" is gradually losing ground to "authoritarianism is *wrong*". That's not the whole game by any means, but it's damned good to see.

(Now there's a service that would be fascinating to have: a memetic weather map. Some sort of public site that lets people track major memes, and contribute opinions about where cultural works are pointing. Deliciously meta...)
Tags: media, politics

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