The Eternal, Infernal Cluelessness of Bill Maher

As longtime readers are no doubt all too aware, I have a running joke that I do not read comic books on account of them obviously being nothing more than funny animal stories for children. It’s a successor, I suppose to a running gag we had in the good old days of The A.V Club (I’m talking before the turn of the millennium) about someday running an article with the headline “Comic Books: They’re Not Just For Kids Anymore!” 

In the first paragraph of my remembrance for Stan Lee, for example, I lovingly recycled the old chestnut about comic books just being funny animal stories for children not because it’s funny, necessarily, but rather because I am a creature of habit and tradition and making the same dumb jokes year after year, decade after decade, provides a sense of continuity otherwise lacking in my life and career. That’s why I will probably swap out the weird, de-contextualized film still at the bottom of each Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place article every year but I will never abandon that nonsensical trope because it amuses the hell out of me. This site exists in no small part to provide a forum for me to amuse myself. If I amuse others, great but I am, and will always remain, my best audience. 

I should probably retire my running joke about not reading comic books because they’re just funny animal stories for children because it clumsily and heavy-handedly spoofs the notion that arrogant, self-styled intellectuals would dismiss an art form as complex, established and culturally important as comic books as puerile nonsense for small children and Faulknerian idiot man-children. 

Who, in 2018 would be snobby, myopic and delusional enough to argue, non-ironically, that comic books are mere juvenilia for slow-witted tots, not serious art worthy of contemplation by men of intellect and discernment? Who would be a pompous enough boob to mount that kind of case this late in the game?

Sure, there has been a longstanding debate about the intellectual and artistic worth of comic books as a grown up medium of substance (one that prominently involves one side asking, “What about Maus?) but I was under the impression that it was decided long ago on the side of comic books as both art and a culture force.  

Leave it to Bill Maher to prove me wrong. The sentient smirk took to his blog in the aftermath of Stan Lee’s death and the understandable outpouring of emotion and grief for the 95 year old preeminent architect of contemporary culture to piss in the mouths of comic books fans in mourning by snarkily insisting that maybe Lee’s creations were fine if you were a baby, ga ga goo goo, but if you fancied yourself an adult or an intellectual you eschewed such childish things. 


On an insufferable article entitled “Adulting”, Maher cattishly sneered “Now, I have nothing against comic books – I read them now and then when I was a kid and I was all out of Hardy Boys. But the assumption everyone had back then, both the adults and the kids, was that comics were for kids, and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy books without the pictures.”

Hearing those words in Maher’s self-satisfied “Ain’t I stinker—and a thinker?” purr just makes them worse. Maher somehow imagines that feeling the need to assert his intellectual superiority over a public he feels such palpable contempt towards, especially the trans and Muslim communities, makes him a paragon of maturity and grown-up, H.L Menkenesque common sense wisdom instead of a preening reactionary who lashes out, “Get off my lawn” style at that which he does not bother to familiarize himself with, or understand, yet feels not only entitled, but duty-bound to judge, and in the awful aftermath of Stan Lee’s death no less. 


So thank you Bill Maher for taking a stand I ironically adopt to mock the cluelessness of comic book hating fuddie duddies in a way that somehow actually makes my corny old bit relevant and even timely. 

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