Friendly neighbourhood Spiderman
Is he strong? Listen bud,
He’s got radioactive blood
Hey there, (where?) there goes the Spiderman
Does whatever a spider can
Shooby Doo, rock steady crew
Find him an octoped engenue
With flair, (hair) there goes the Spiderman
In the heat of night at the scene of a crime
With the speed of light he arrives just in time
Well, no red-blooded boy or girl would miss this Saturday’s appearance of
Spiderman down at the local county fair, unless, of course, they’re at home with their
Spiderman’s master plan
Build his own little spider clan
In the woods, now they’re troops
Fighting for special interest groups
Look out (where?) wherever there’s a bang (there)
You’ll find a great big hang (scare)
You’ll find the Spiderman
My spider sense is tingling
heh, heh, It sure is, in such films as:
Spidey Goes Speed Racing
Spidey — My Pal
Spidey — The Under Water Adventure Seeker
Spidey — The Fun Licker
Spidey — A Drink For All Ages
Here’s the thing, you guys. I love Captain America.
Like, actually. I watch super hero films obsessively. The only kind of graphic novels I read are ones about super heroes. And I call them comic books, by the way, because that’s what they are. But of all the super heroes I could love, it’s Captain America. Not the devoutly Catholic blind Daredevil defending the poor in Hell’s Kitchen, or the tortured Bruce Banner fighting against his baser self, or the morally ambiguous Watchmen, or even the Christ figure of Superman.
No, it’s that jingoistic All-American Avenger who never had an uncertain thought in his life and was invented during the Second World War. He’s everything that I find hard to take about the traditional American psyche: the moral absolutism, the unquestioning certainty, the unwitting but constant sense of superiority. He’s a white-washed version and painfully narrow definition of what America might be and a contradiction as a result: a working class Irish kid named “Rogers” instead of “O’Something”; a street rat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who behaves like a Midwestern farm boy. He’s the boyish pretty fictional vanguard of an ideology that has devastated swaths of the world in the name of a so-called democracy that is better described as capitalism.
Or, he can be, anyways. The thing about a superhero that’s been around since 1940 is that he can be a lot of things, depending on who’s writing him at the time and how they feel about all of these things. One thing that never seems to change, though, is just how sure he is of his own sense of right. If I met him, I’m just not sure I would like him.
Yet with all that, I have a Captain America action figure. I have a Captain America T-shirt. I have Captain America playing cards and a Captain America belt buckle that doubles as a bottle opener and a Captain America headband that I wear when I’m running. And I pretend I’m a marine.
OK, now I’ve written all of that out, I realize it might sound a bit obsessive and it definitely sounds rather confused. My psyche’s not that wounded, though, I promise. There’s a separation between what I will tolerate in a comic book, and what I’ll tolerate in real life. You see, the thing about fiction is that it can make far more sense than real life. Steve Rogers can be morally certain because he lives in a morally certain world. The trouble begins when you try to characterize this world — this strange, uncertain place — as somehow the same as good ol’ Steve’s Issue No. 1 or more recently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I know that’s not a revelation in and of itself, but it’s struck me recently that this need for certainty isn’t always so blatant as “Captain America vs. the Red Skull” as opposed to the disaster of American intervention in . . . take your pick. Nicaragua, East Timor, Iraq, or any other part of the world that might be a threat to freedom or oil.
There’s this other need for certainty we have — one that’s more subtle but just as insidious. I’ve been thinking about the difference, recently — first, because the new Avengers film just came out, and second, because the whole Jian Ghomeshi scandal is back in the news. The idea that Ghomeshi was a sensitive public intellectual who satirically rewrote the Spiderman theme but also assaulted women was a hard pill to swallow. Even that, though, is pretty cut and dried. Who Ghomeshi was and who he said he was were not the same thing. It happens. More recently, one of the journalists who helped bring these allegations to light, Jesse Brown, has written an article for The Guardian calling out the journalist with whom he broke the story, Kevin Donovan, for being more interested in the story than the women it’s ostensibly about. Donovan is apparently writing a tell-all book, and according to Brown, not consulting any of the women who are part of the story. To be fair to the story, Brown has also been accused of witch-hunting CBC out of bitterness. He claims to be on the side of these women, and admits that he, as a man, does not necessarily understand the emotional implications of making these allegations against a (formerly) beloved figure in Canadian media, but his motivations might not have been so pure.
And then, in all of this, the Harper government slashes the CBC budget and signs go up on lawns saying “I Vote CBC!” And I wonder, should we? Never mind the fact that it’s bowing under political pressure to become neoconservative. It covered up a sex scandal for years — a sex scandal that seems to have become public not for the greater good, but maybe for these two journalists to make names for themselves.
Yeah. Maybe more than Captain America himself, I like how straightforward his world is. Ours really just . . . isn’t.
Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings