Bill Maher’s Adulting: A Rebuttal
If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know I’m a bit of a one-trick pony: doling out advice on how to write fiction. It’s what my college degrees are in. It’s what I do (in part) for a living. But recently, I’ve stepped away from my podcast for a time to regroup. I’m spread too thin. I’m spending a bit of time reflecting on who and what I am.
Am I a writer? A teacher? A coach? An athletic director? A father? A husband? A son? A brother? A Christian? An intellectual? A gamer? An avid consumer of graphic literature?
Yes. Yes, I am. All of them, though this year, to be quite honest, I haven’t felt like I’ve been good at any one of these things in particular. I’ve thought about cutting back where I can, and I may still do that. But today, of all the things I do and define myself as, today, I’m a supporter of graphic literature.
Each year, I teach graphic literature to my high school students. They much prefer it to Shakespeare, and get this–it helps them get into Shakespeare. In fact, the graphic novel we chose to read as a class was Tom King’s The Vision. In it, he quotes Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
But here’s what gets my blood boiling: Bill Maher’s throwing shade at an entire sub-culture of adults and children alike for appreciating graphic literature. His post (which you can read in about thirty seconds, because that’s apparently all the wisdom this man has), insinuates that comic books are juvenile, and should be put away to make room for “big-boy books without pictures.” His argument is that words and pictures, when combined, are worth less than they are apart. Think about it–to dismiss graphic literature as anything other than art, one must also argue that drawing, inking, and painting are not art, nor are any written works. No one would argue that the Mona Lisa is for children, nor The Fall of Icarus, The Starry Night, The Last Supper, nor any work by Salvador Dali. No one would argue that Don Quixote, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Moby Dick, Hamlet, or War and Peace were childish forms of entertainment. But somehow, Billy seems to think that the combination of the two reduces their aesthetic and literary merit rather than being an avenue with a particularly wide range of options to say intelligent things.
Yes, there are several insightful novels that deal with social change, that challenge our society to move forward. You know what else does that? Comic books. How could something so trivial as costumed superheros have anything important to say about life? About family? About love? About bigotry? About tolerance? About acceptance? About loneliness? About loss? About grief? About suffering? About perseverance? About chivalry?
I’d argue that this “childish” pass-time has done infinitely more than Billy ever has to move our country forward. Seriously, Billy. What do you do for our country other than patronizing people, inciting division between political parties and making sweeping generalizations about things you don’t understand?
Calling comic book readers stupid and childish is about as insightful as calling all political commentators close-minded (though that analogy may actually be closer to reality than the first).
Here’s something old Billy didn’t really consider when he posted to his blog: maybe the people “using their smarts for stupid things” are actually doing something far more intelligent than Bill has ever done–they’re opening their minds and considering life’s greatest themes from multiple perspectives.
Are all comics life-changing? Not at all. But to say that they are all stupid is ignorant. And maybe Bill just did this because people aren’t paying enough attention to him. Maybe he doesn’t really believe what he said–he just wanted to get people’s goats. I hope that’s the case, because the alternative is this:
Bill Maher is a closed-minded, ignorant bigot.
My high school students say things like, “I don’t like poetry.” And I say, “You haven’t read the right poetry.”
Bill Maher doesn’t like comic books? He just hasn’t read the right ones.
So let’s do this; instead of me continuing on with my rant, let’s put our collective mouths where our hearts are. Let’s help ol’ Billy find the right graphic novels: comment below with a graphic novel (or a particular run of a comic book) that has made a significant impact on your life. For more fictional points, leave a brief reasoning as to WHY it had an impact on you. Here’s a couple for me:
The Vision by Tom King–a great look at “the American dream,” the desire to fit in, self-identity, and the poisonous effects of simple-minded bigotry.
Amazing Spider-Man #36 by J. Michael Straczynski–Marvel’s response to the fall of the twin towers. An incredibly insightful look into humanity and the American spirit.
Civil War by Mark Millar–a fascinating political debate about the intersection between individual and governmental rights.
Maus by Art Spiegleman–more a memoir than a novel, this poignant reflection not only deals with a holocaust survivor’s tale, it also speaks to the difficulty of son relating to father and mental illness.
Let’s help a brother out. Thanks for reading.