Working Title #009: Dear Mr. Maher

Dear Bill Maher

Well, you’ve done it again. You’ve gotten a certain percentage of the population mad at you – which I suspect is exactly what you want. You’ve gotten people talking about you and your show, Real Time, and by your lights this is a good thing. That’s what you do; by inclination and occupation you’re a provocateur  — which is fine. Gadflys are useful if annoying.

However, your targets were things on which, by your own account, you know little or nothing. You took the occasion of Stan Lee’s death to belittle comics and comic readers. On your blog you wrote: “I have nothing against comic books – I read them now and then when I was a kid and I was all out of Hardy Boys. But the assumption everyone had back then, both the adults and the kids, was that comics were for kids, and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy books without the pictures. “

You were born in 1953 so in 1963 you’d be about 10. Prime age to start reading comics. Your assessment of the medium might have been correct if you’re just talking about DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al) of that era but Marvel, under the guidance of Stan Lee, began what we now know as the Marvel superhero. In 1961 Stan debuted The Fantastic Four followed by Spider-Man in 1962. By design, these books were meant for an older reader. In 1965, both Spider-man and the Hulk were listed by Esquire as among 28 heroes on college campuses along with JFK and Bob Dylan. So the concept that comics were for the young uns only was not the assumption of every kid and adult; it was and is your assumption.

You later said, “. . .a culture that thinks that comic books and comic book movies are profound meditations on the human condition is a dumb (explicit) culture.” Really? The graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman, won a Pulitizer in 1992 and a National Book Critics Circle Award. I think we can say it won because it is a profound meditation on the human condition.

You said that you weren’t saying the comics readers were stupid per se but, “The problem is, we’re using our smarts on stupid stuff. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.“

Yes, it is a huge stretch of the imagination and you should know that. The polls have suggested that the typical Trump voter is an older white male without a college education. That’s not the typical comic book reader that I’ve met.

I’ve heard you fulminate about comics before. Your war with religion seems to color some of your perceptions. You complained that comics teaches people to wait for a hero to come down from on high and solve our problems for us instead of taking charge and doing it ourselves.

That’s not what comics are about. Superman is not from on high; Superman is within. Every time Clark Kent opens his shirt to reveal the big red S on his chest, he’s telling the reader or the viewer that they have Superman within them. They represent ideals to which we can aspire. Not of godhood but of being a hero. Of trying to be something greater than ourselves. Of doing and being our best.

Your problem is that you’re wrong and you will never admit it. In that, you’re very much like Donald Trump. You know nothing about the subject (comics) but that doesn’t stop you from putting forth your opinion about it. What, then, is that opinion worth?

Which raises a question – a problem – in my mind. If you’re this wrong on a subject about which I know a lot, how often are you equally wrong on subjects of which I know less?

It won’t matter to you, I think, but I’ve watched you for the last time.

Good-bye.

John Ostrander

One thought on “Working Title #009: Dear Mr. Maher

  1. I believe I disagree with Bill Maher on many more things that you do. That is why I will keep watching him. Because you have to know where people you disagree with are coming from,

    Oh, and it’s not much, but Trump did admit he was wrong not to go to Arlington on Veteran’s Day.

Comments are closed.