Determined, as ever, to speak truth to (elaborate, uncomfortable shrugging gesture), HBO talk show host/occasional HR bullet point Bill Maher wrote an editorial this weekend going after those who have well and truly destroyed American society: fans of the late Stan Lee. And while we might suggest that “less than a week after a beloved creator’s death” might not be the best time to run a blog post about how people who loved him are all immature dumb-dumbs who indirectly contributed to the election of a monster, Maher would presumably remind us (possibly using some sort of folksy idiom that may or may not also include a racial slur) that that’s Old Rules thinking, baby.
No, Maher is pretty sure that Lee—and through him, the wider culture of adult Americans enjoying comic books and graphic novels, the perverts—is responsible for all sorts of bad stuff, like Donald Trump being elected president, college, and the general collapse of American society.
I’m not saying we’ve necessarily gotten stupider. The average Joe is smarter in a lot of ways than he was in, say, the 1940s, when a big night out was a Three Stooges short and a Carmen Miranda musical. 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.
Why can’t we all be more mature, Maher seems to be asking, instead of immersing ourselves in these puerile, adolescent fantasies that promote regressive views and a general abnegation of adult responsibility? Why can’t we all hang out in bastions of adult sophistication and non-arrested development, instead, like the various Playboy events Maher has waxed intellectual at over the years?
Comics internet culture has, of course, already taken notice of (and umbrage at) Maher’s words, launching a measured response that will in no way go about inadvertently proving any of his shitty, myopic, culturally gatekeeping points. Really, it’s enough to outline the real tragedy here: The realization that if he’d been born in the right era, and surrounded by the right people, Bill Maher would have made a truly amazing obnoxious comic book fan himself.