A friend of mine sent me a fascinating Alan Moore interview from 2014. The comic industry icon told Pádraig Ó Méalóid at Slovobooks that the heightened popularity of Marvel and DC superheroes may be ‘culturally catastrophic’.
The Guardian reported January 21, 2014:
“To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence,” he wrote to Ó Méalóid. “It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.”
Mr. Moore is close — he’s so close — but he doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge that the catastrophe has arrived. It is now. We are living through it. An introduction to our cultural implosion can be found in my Nov. 14, 2014 blog post titled: “Rossetta scientist cries over feminist outrage at his shirt: It’s been fun, Western Civilization.” In short: societies that live in perpetual fear of the “micro-aggression” are societies that have seen better days.
For those who want to know just how obsessed our culture is with superheroes, I suggest watching Red Letter Media’s “Nerd Talk: Sequels, Spin-Offs, and Standalones,” which was posted July 22. It perfectly highlights just how much of an industry “nerdom” has become. Other symptoms of Western civilization’s disease might include the preponderance of men who spend inordinate amounts of time playing video games, collecting figurines, endlessly cycling through imgur, or trolling Tumblr — while simultaneously showing little to no interest in expanding their own intellectual horizons.
There is nothing wrong with having an interest in video games or superhero movies, but there is something culturally suicidal when large segments of the population delve deep into fantasy worlds before they have a sound grasp of reality.
In a strange way, technology acts like a double-edged sword: our standard of living is so high and our problems so few and far between that we invent dragons to slay (e.g., political pundits must be excoriated for not being “polite to the pronouns” of transgender individuals). The poorest Americans live better than the kings of old, and so they engage in sad and pathetic wars over whether or not The Dukes of Hazzard is too offensive for television.
As the character Cooper says in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: “We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
For all intents and purposes, America has become a nation filled with infantile men and women who fight over intellectual belly button lint. They feign outrage over puerile affairs while legitimate threats to the safety and security of future generations mount around them. Bubble-butted celebrities bump serious news stories off the front page. Strange diversity quotas for Star Wars movies that don’t even have finished scripts are more talked about than state-sponsored hackers stealing the personal data of millions of federal employees. To put it more succinctly, we are lost.
If you get a chance, read Mr. Moore’s interview with Pádraig Ó Méalóid. It’s titled ‘Last Alan Moore Interview?’. If it is, then it’s definitely one worthy of the man’s exit from public life. Time and time again, he puts his finger on the pulse of all that ails us, but for whatever reason he doesn’t give his patients a frank diagnosis: Western civilization has a fever. Instead of going to the doctor, its men and women are going to movie theaters, man-caves to play video games, or San Diego Comic-Con.