This week saw a steep increase in stock prices for keyboard manufacturers as a million nerds descended on social media with the full weight of their pre-diabetic fingers to decry the announcement of a female Thor and a Black Captain America.
Marvel, the company that created X-Men – a comic about a group of “others” struggling to find acceptance – has no business pushing diversity. Especially now, considering that their forays into media outside of comic books have increased their fan base way beyond the stereotypical fat white nerds that have consumed their products for decades. Comics are no longer a niche market. It’s actually odd to encounter someone that doesn’t proclaim to be a fan of at least one super hero franchise.
But, that’s the direction things are going these days, and it would be odd if Marvel didn’t at least retcon one of its major characters to be either a person of color, a gay, or a pussy-haver. And now, they have, with the introduction of Black Captain America and a new female Thor.
Most of us are ambivalent to the change. People who read Salon are ecstatic. Fat white men on the internet are pissed off, but really, what announcement about a comic book aren’t they pissed off about? Wait five years and change Captain America back to a white man and see how many of the same nerds get mad again. For a lot of them, their identities lie in what they mistake for educated opinions – warrantless criticism of a thing they take too seriously.
Many are quick to call these nerds out for racism, and I wholeheartedly think that’s unfair. There’s very little (if any) racism present in fat white nerd hatred of a Captain African America or Lady Thor. Their outrage is a combination of two things: the aforementioned impulse to hate on any change made to their beloved cartoon for babies, and their inability to understand the lefts calls for media representation for minorities.
You see, fat white nerds don’t understand the idea of inadequate media representation, and contrary to common criticism of white men angry about diversity, it’s NOT because they experience plenty of representation already. In fact, it’s the exact opposite reason. They don’t actually want to see themselves on TV, and they can’t understand why anyone else would either.
While it is true that fat white nerds are still white men, they aren’t “TV white men,” and you’d be hard pressed to find a fat guy with bad facial hair on a television show that isn’t acting like a complete stereotype. You really think an obese neckbeard sees anything more of himself in Don Draper than you do as a woman of color? Of course not. Don doesn’t represent him, and he knows it. But, he still watches. Why? Because it’s television. Fat nerds love to watch television. Fat nerds love to look at anything that isn’t a mirror.
Unlike oppressed minorities that need to be reminded of their bravery at every juncture, fat white nerds aren’t watching shows to be reminded that they’re fat white nerds. They’re watching shows that provide them with a sense of escape from their disgusting and mostly meaningless lives. That’s why comic book heroes, for them, have to resemble the people that made their lives miserable in high school. Superman, Captain America, and Batman all have to be wealthy jocks that, for whatever reason, give a shit about people other than themselves and use their strength to stand up for justice – despite the fact that situations like that rarely happen in the real world.
And really, let’s be honest, that’s what makes them super heroes, isn’t it? Sure, their powers play a role, but the story lies in the fantasy that an attractive powerful white man is doing something good for humanity rather than just advancing his own cause. I mean shit, Batman doesn’t even have powers. He’s just a rich white man that isn’t a complete asshole. That’s the angle. That’s the story.
That’s kind of the problem with a black Captain America. In the original Captain America, Steve Rodgers is still an attractive and (mostly) able bodied white man that just wants to kill Nazis and defend his country. If it weren’t for his asthma or his flat feet or whatever, he would have been able to do just that. Luckily, the Army invents a serum that makes him better at pushups and he’s able to be the hero that every fat nerd wishes they could be. But even in Marvel’s fantasy world, now with a black Steve Rodgers, the idea of a serum that could reverse 400 years of inequality and oppression and somehow make black Captain America forget that he can’t eat in the same restaurant as white Captain America is a bit too ridiculous. Even with the muscleman serum, Black Captain America would still be oppressed.
Both the appeal and myth of the comic hero isn’t that some Joe Everyman became something great – it’s that the people with power in real life would (in a make believe world where people can fly) not be assholes. It’s the idea that Lex Luther would be seen as an evil business rather than a true American, being invited on Fox to extol his xenophobia towards aliens. It’s the idea that Bruce Wayne would be the Dark Knight and not the Wolf of Wall Street. It’s the idea that bullies don’t exist.
That’s why nerds are rejecting the idea of black and female heroes. They don’t like the idea of empowerment. They don’t like the idea of self-improvement and accomplishment. They like the idea of the world being a completely different place, where the people that make their lives miserable behave in a much different way. You’re taking something that’s about delusion and making it about aspiration, and that’s very unsettling for people who don’t believe in exercise or social skills.
So, let the nerds be mad. They’ll get over it. But until they settle down, remember that they’re not being racists, they’re just being nerds.