The Wilderness | Issue .49 | 5 . 7. 2015 |Tweet
Once again the Earth finds itself in the midst of unimaginable peril from an enemy determined to obliterate all who stand in its way. No, I’m not talking about an invincible robot hellbent on world domination. (Close, though.) I’m referring–as we are now forced to do all too often–to the progressive culture mobs, naming and shaming those that express opinions they find problematic, no matter who they are. In an instant the heroes they once looked up to, starry-eyed, have become Enemies of Their State over the slightest miscalculation. This threat goes beyond any demented Hollywood artificial intelligence because it’s real, and there aren’t any Avengers here to save us from them.
The saga started while two actors on a whirlwind press tour for Avengers: Age of Ultron were being interviewed by Digital Spy and were asked about the fictional relationship portrayed in the film by the hero characters of Hulk and Black Widow. The interviewer, somehow believing that Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) are real people capable of real emotions and real feelings, asked two real life actors what they thought of two fictional characters’ imaginary hook up, after having a fictional flirtation with both the fictional Captain America (Chris Evans) and the fictional Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
“She’s a slut” Renner (who is not Hawkeye) deadpanned, while Chris Evans (who is not Captain America) bellowed in agreement. This of course was not to be tolerated, and it wasn’t long before the usual social justice avenger suspects in the media shined another bright spotlight on the army of Twitter users who were “disappointed” with his response.
Having exhausted all reality-based targets of their unsustainable rage, the internet brigade of shrieking harpies have apparently now turned their focus to imaginary characters in science fiction superhero movies.
At some point our web media decided, in the name of progressive justice, to empower even the most unhinged sycophants. These are people who take habitual pleasure in behaving like Kathy Bates in Misery, hobbling their favorite authors over the treatment of their fictional creations, and then telling them they’re only doing it because they love them. The only difference is they use Tumblr blogs and Twitter accounts instead of sledgehammers. Radicalized feminists are allowed to use the word “slut” to describe their protests and marches, but Renner is somehow supposed to be accountable for using it about something that literally doesn’t exist. The insanity is enough to make even the most ardent of heroes hang up their cape and retire to another planet.
Evans, being Captain America (but not really) and all, took the new easy American way out by capitulating to the finger-wagging Super Friends Media Club: “Yesterday we were asked about the rumors that Black Widow wanted to be in a relationship with both Hawkeye and Captain America. We answered in a juvenile and offensive way that rightfully angered some fans. I regret it and sincerely apologize.”
Renner took a more sardonic tone with his apology, reminding those on the internet that think he is in some way accountable to them that “Black Widow” is in fact an imaginary character, not a real person. “I am sorry that this tasteless joke about a fictional character offended anyone. It was not meant to be serious in any way. Just poking fun during an exhausting and tedious press tour.” This is a concept seemingly forgotten in this day in age where even our Presidents are held up to be fabled demigods. Not only was Renner not actually sorry, he doubled down earlier this week during an appearance on Conan:
Hawkeye and Captain America had paid their penance but the waters had already been chummed, as was demonstrated the very next day when Robert Downey, Jr. sat down with notorious gutter snipe Guru Murthy to discuss his continuing role as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Murthy has never been one to shy away from sandbagging directors and actors; he infamously did so with Django Unchained director Quentin Tarantino shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary, pelting him with questions about the influence of violence in his films. Tarantino quickly and abruptly shut him down.
After a few short pointed questions about the consequences of Stark’s actions in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Murthy suddenly veered left faster than Quicksilver dodging a bullet, turning toward questions of how Stark’s politics and beliefs influenced Downey’s own. The line of questioning as it applied to his own politics clearly made Downey uncomfortable, looking over to his assistant several times or hoping War Machine would smash through the wall and save him.
Alas, this isn’t a comic book, and there are no superheroes there to save us from progressive ambushes in real life.
Collective media immediately circled the wagons around the narrative that Downey left the interview because question from Murthy focused on his dark history with drugs and prison. That would be false. Murthy began asking Downey about his politics, asking him several times to answer whether he was a liberal or not based on a quote he gave a New York Times reporter several years ago. Downey even offered a rational explanation, saying that everyday life isn’t always clear-cut along the lines of “liberal” vs “conservative.” When he wouldn’t comply with the line of questioning, Murthy badgered him more, noticing he was clearly making Downey uncomfortable, and only then bringing out the Wolverine claws and slashing his way through Downey’s reckless youth.
Downey then took the only appropriate action open to him: he simply got up, made a quick quip about Murphy turning into Diane Sawyer (who, coincidentally or not, focused in her recent interview with Bruce Jenner on his politics as well), and walked out of the room. The fact is that it doesn’t matter how Robert Downey, Jr. votes when he jets across the screen fighting off waves of alien invaders. Whether he’s a liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, or Ultronian, he showed the proper way in dealing with emboldened ‘syphilitic parasites’ (his words) in media everywhere: don’t apologize. Get up, and leave the room.
This was, at first glance, exactly what Avengers director Joss Whedon did earlier this week when he deactivated his Twitter account in the wake of another leftist-driven mob.
Displeased as they were with the story arc of Natasha Romanoff (the “Black Widow” of The Avengers and other Marvel Universe films), they loaded their internet guns with Twitter bullets and trained their sights on Joss Whedon. The social justice twitterati even mounted their most simon-pure White Knight to lead the charge against Whedon: neo-crusader Jonathan McIntosh, a close associate of “feminist game critic” and Gamergate bête noire Anita Sarkeesian. (In a twist of irony, Sarkeesian herself happens to be close friends with Whedon). What followed is what those of us forced to bathe in the oceans of this kind of internet lunacy on a weekly basis immediately recognized as an almost unstoppable mob that went from “Whedon-worshipping Bruce Banner” to a raging Hulk screaming “MISOGYNIST SMASH!” And all in the blink of a few tweets.
It’s one thing to bring an obscure, foreign astrophysicist to the point of tears over an insufficiently respectful shirt; that story barely registered a blip on the meter beyond nerd and science culture. But Joss Whedon is different. He’s accumulated a large counterculture geek following over decades by reviving what at the time was a foreign concept: watchable sci-fi television. Along with the ability to create a universe in Firefly that branched out and away from the eternal Star Trek vs Star Wars dichotomy, he managed to bring credibility to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television show based on a forgettable film that most of its young audience at the time probably hadn’t even seen.
And yet all those years producing hit television shows with strong female leads were tossed aside because the fringe of internet feminist culture found a storyline of a supporting character in a superhero movie to be Highly Problematic. All that accumulated credibility? Into the garbage with it! This is the very definition of cannibalism.
What’s even more curious is how a mob that claims to believe in a culture of female empowerment feels the need to preempt and speak for the actress who plays the character and spoke the dialogue: Scarlett Johansson. Johansson (an avid pro-choice and liberal activist) has thus far remained silent on the controversy while a mob whose ideological claim to empowering women to speak for themselves has loudly declared that it has no problem speaking for her.
In an attempt to extinguish a Galactus-sized fire consuming everything in its path, Whedon offered a more tempered explanation for leaving social media behind, but his explanation and exile are both footnotes to the amount of abuse he acknowledged and received. Whedon claims the mob that coalesced around McIntosh played little to no part in his decision to leave Twitter. Patton Oswalt, an outspoken critic of the Obama culture of naming and shaming even retracted his criticism of leftist thought policers. The mob believes otherwise (<— no really, go to that link).
That said, the strength of my sympathy for Oswalt and Whedon would power the smallest Thor’s Hammer in the world.
Why? Because everything must be hyper-politicized now, everyone is a politician, whether they like it or not. That’s the price of seven years of weaving politics into pop culture. It’s not conservatives who are out in force demanding superheroes and their franchises follow a social justice league task force action item list. We’re content to let these films entertain us for a couple of hours on a hot summer day, and no matter how much the stars of these films show disdain for one cultural half their audience, we’ll probably keep showing up. When the credits roll, most of us are pretty content with not knowing the personal political stances of the cast on social media.
But this is where we are now. A progressive-led culture simply cannot be content with merely being entertained, or saved by their heroes, unless those heroes bend a knee first. Most rational people trapped inside a burning building wouldn’t prevent a firefighter from saving them unless that firefighter had the same stance on gay marriage or a Palestinian state. But it’s matter of genuine concern for these people.
After all, this is what they voted for, supported and embraced. One statement, one gaffe, one step out of line from the orthodoxy of the progressive Left as it Bataan Death Marches its way down the path of righteousness, trudging towards a notional destination of social equality that forever seems to recede into the distance–one deviation from this will now end careers or alienate fans that have supposedly loved them for years. This is the path they chose. This is the culture that they themselves created. Conservatives in culture have little to no say in the direction it follows. All we can do is simply watch the naming and shaming whims of its leader as he parades around the White House with a selfie stick like it’s Loki’s staff.
We don’t excommunicate our cultural representatives when they step out of line for any perceived minor offense. If we did, our (already minor) influence in popular culture would all but vanish. We even defend our ideological opponents from their own mobs (See Boing Boing, Patton Oswalt, Trevor Noah), and conservatives in the counterculture will continue to do so until either (hopefully) the country discovers a moment of clarity or (pessimistically) destroys itself beyond saving. Just last week Joss Whedon was whipping up a mob against conservatives on Twitter over climate change and fucking science! This week he found himself being defended by them.
As damaged and dark as these times of naming and shaming at the behest of progressive mobs and their media are, we always believe in the best for people and the right of people to express opinions freely with little to no repercussions, even if those people hate us ideologically. We may fail and the same intolerant feminist shock troopers that consume their own heroes in movies and music may succeed in getting one of their own elected in 2016.
In the end, if we can’t save the culture in this country from them, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.