Bill Maher, a.k.a that guy I keep begging my parents not to watch anymore, is back with another edition of smarmy elitist drivel. This time, he’s targeting superhero movies and shows for helping make Donald Trump president— presumably because he hasn’t bothered watching any of them.
In a long “New Rule” rant on Real Time With Bill Maher, Maher bemoaned the surge in superhero films and TV shows, saying they’re responsible for the attitudes that helped get Donald Trump elected President of the United States. He said it’s because superheroes encourage people to idolize god-like figures as the solution of all their problems, instead of taking matters into their own hands. Not surprisingly, this is typically his defense against most organized religions, including some very Islamophobic rants.
“If you’re asking, ‘What’s the problem?’ the problem is superhero movies imprint this mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a fucking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses,” Maher said.
Look, I’m not denying there’s a lot of counter crush when it comes to the plethora of comic book content on the small and big screen, but it’s clear Maher and his all-male writing staff have no clue what they’re talking about (Real Time is the only late-night show without female writers, 2017 says “fuck you”). Comic book films and shows aren’t always about supernatural vigilantes who are worshiped by the masses as they ignore the law to save the day. Those characters exist, especially in Zack Snyder’s world, but one of the reasons superheroes work as well as they do is because they’re varied.
Let’s look at some of the films and shows Maher bitches about during his rant, and how they directly contradict some of his claims. Maher complains that superheroes work outside of the law and don’t need the government... yet Captain America: Civil War is specifically about the need for superheroes to be regulated by the government, and how that’s not a bad thing in many of the heroes’ eyes. He dismisses superheroes as solitary figures who reject diplomacy, yet just about every major superhero series nowadays has crossovers, including the DC/CW event and Netflix’s upcoming The Defenders... proving these characters work better together.
And Maher’s claim that superheroes buck the need for “hard work” is especially full of shit, as many of them are humans who toil for years to achieve their full potential, overcoming obstacles like heart failure and systemic racism. There are even superheroes with disabilities, like Lion Forge’s upcoming Superb (about a hero with Down’s Syndrome). They’re examples of American self-actualization, something Maher says he admires.
I get what Maher is trying to do, which is mainly have an excuse to deliver a bunch of dumb superhero puns about Trump and his team. I also get what Maher is trying to say, that a lot of people put their faith in Trump as the one man who could “fix it.” And that’s true, a lot of people did. But, Maher is grossly misguided in where he places the blame. Trump didn’t get elected because American audiences like Superman, they elected him because our democratic system is damaged. There are a lot of reasons why, and they differ depending on who you ask, but the fact remains our system is riding on decades (nay, centuries) of discrimination, division, and conflict.
Maher is right about one thing: In order to make our democracy better, we have to make it better. Whether it’s standing up for the right thing against all odds, being a positive influence in our communities, or encouraging people to be less hateful (like Maher, who’s openly transphobic on his show). But guess what, Bill... that’s exactly what superheroes do. Superheroes don’t encourage people to be lazy, they inspire them to do better. Bill Maher should do better, too.