Tea Bagging with Captain America

Apparently in a new issue of Captain America, the stars and stripes superhero takes aim at the Tea Party movement, and it has sparked outraged within that movement.

From yahoo! news:

Since 1941, Captain America has been one of the most popular comic book characters around. The fictional super-patriot fought Nazis during World War II, took on those who burned the American flag during the Vietnam era, and raked in hundreds of millions of dollars for Marvel Comics along the way.  Now, the appearance that he is taking on the Tea Party Movement in a storyline about investigating white supremacists has forced Marvel to apologize for the comic hero.

Issue 602 of the comic features Captain America investigating a right-wing anti-government militia group called “the Watchdogs”. Hoping to infiltrate the group, Captain America and his African-American sidekick The Falcon observe an anti-tax protest from a rooftop.  The protestors depicted are all white and carry signs adorned with slogans almost identical to those seen today in Tea Party rallies like “tea bag libs before they tea bag you” and “stop the socialists.”

The Falcon mentions that the gathering appears to be “some kind of anti-tax protest” and notes that “this whole ‘hate the government’ vibe isn’t limited to the Watchdogs.” He then tells Captain America that he doesn’t think their plan will work because “I don’t exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks.” Captain America then explains that his plan entails sending The Falcon in among the group posing as an IRS agent under the thinking that a black government official will most certainly spark their anger.

The clear implicit attack on the Tea Party Movement was first noticed by Publius’ Forum’s Warner Todd Huston.  When a minor uproar ensued, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada spoke to Comic Book Resources and defended the issue while apologizing for the panel that seemed to tie real-life Tea Party protesters to the fictional group depicted in the book.

Saying that he could “absolutely see how some people are upset about this,” Quesada said that there was “zero discussion to include a group that looked like a Tea Party demonstration,” adding, “There was no thought that it represented a particular group.”

Quesada then went on to say that Marvel would “apologize for and own up to” a series of “stupid mistakes” that led to them “accidentally identifying” one of the members of the protest group “as being a part of the Tea Party instead of a generic protest group.” He explained that they were on deadline to get the issue to the printer for publication, and in the course of sending it off it was noticed that the signs in the scene contained no words or phrases. He said the editor then asked the letterer to “fudge in some quick signs” and that in the “rush to get the book out of the door,” the letterer “looked on the net and started pulling slogans” from signs captured in photographs at Tea Party protests in order to make them appear “believable.”

In response to Marvel’s explanation and apology, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips told Yahoo! News that it “sounds less like a genuine ‘we’re sorry’ than it does a ‘we’re sorry we got caught’ statement.”

“When I was a child in the ’60s Captain America was my favorite superhero,” he said. “It’s really sad to see what has traditionally been a pro-America figure being used to advance a political agenda.”

Ed Brubaker, the writer of the controversial Captain America story, told Fox News that any and all references to “tea bag” will be removed from all future editions of Marvel Comics.

This whole thing is ridiculous to me for several reasons. One, the Watchdogs have been appearing in Captain America since the late 80’s at least. I remember reading a story where, in an attempt to kill Captain America (whose mantle has been assumed by a man named John Walker at the time of the story) by holding his parents hostage. Well, the Dogs kill his parents, and Mr. Walker goes medieval on their asses in what has to be one of the most violent mainstream comics I have ever read. Here is the cover, for those of you interested. You can probably find a copy in the back issue bins at any self respecting comic book store (that is, if there are any self respecting comic books stores left).

The point is, the Watchdogs have been around for a while, and they have always been white supremacist, fascist douches. The Tea Party movement did not inspire them in any way shape or form, so they just need to chill out.

I realize, that the complaints aren’t about the Watchdogs, but rather about the portrayal of protestors using Tea Party slogans as crazy radicals. Well you know what, some of them are? Some of them are crazy, and racist, and radical and angry. Not all of them, to be sure, but some of them. Maybe even a lot of them, I do not know. In fact, since I do not live in America at the moment I can safely say that I don’t know a single teabagger, and I am okay with that. Besides, the protest scene in question (I haven’t read the issue, I am just basing what I am about to say on the art provided in the article–but that is okay because this scene seems to be the focus of this so called controversy) is just demonstrating, as the Falcon says, “this whole ‘hate the government’ vibe isn’t limited to the Watchdogs.” There is a lot of anger in America right now, even I know that and I live in the Czech Republic. And it is true that some of these folks really do seem to hate the government right now.

Now, the teabaggers might be feeling sensitive because Captain America is supposed to be the symbol of America, is supposed to stand up for the American ideal and so called real Americans, and they probably consider themselves to be “real Americans from real America” and in this issue the writers are taking not so veiled shots at them. But you know what? Grow up. The slogans lettered on those protest signs in the artwork are actual slogans and words found on actual papers and boards of actual tea party protesters. If they did not want someone to take them to task over their hateful and sexually charged words “teabag them before they teabag you” maybe they should have thought about that before writing those slogans and making asses of themselves on national and international television.

The two points mentioned above are irritating to be sure, but what really gets me is this statement by Tea Party Nation Founder Judson Phillips: “When I was a child in the ’60s Captain America was my favorite superhero,” he said. “It’s really sad to see what has traditionally been a pro-America figure being used to advance a political agenda.” There are so many things wrong with this statement that I do not even know where to begin, but I will try. First, I would argue that  a “pro-American figure” is taking a political stance, and advancing a political agenda. After all, if Cap is trashing fascists in order to save America, isn’t that a political statement and agenda? Sure, it might be an easy one, after all only fascists will object to fascist bashing, but it is one nonetheless. Also, this is not the first time Cap has dealt with political turmoil.

From Wikipedia:

The series also dealt with the Marvel Universe‘s version of the Watergate scandal, making Rogers so uncertain about his role that he abandons his Captain America identity in favor of one called Nomad. During this time, several men unsuccessfully assume the Captain America identity.[41] Rogers eventually re-assumes it after coming to consider that the identity could be a symbol of American ideals and not its government; it’s a personal conviction epitomized when he later confronted a corrupt Army officer attempting to manipulate him by appealing to his loyalty, “I’m loyal to nothing, General.. except the [American] Dream.” Jack Monroe, cured of his mental instability, later takes up the Nomad alias.[42] During this period, Rogers also temporarily gains super strength.[43] He also learns of the apparent death of Sharon Carter.[44]

As we can see, the Captain America title has dealt with politics before in the past, and quite often, too. The above example is just one of many. Just because you may disagree with the political statement that Captain America is making, do not imply that the comic has not done this kind of thing before, and don’t express fake outrage over something this trivial. Sure, Captain America is a popular comic title, but it is a comic with a comic’s readership. It’s not the New York Times, for crying out loud.

Of course the real problem is that the tea baggers cannot stand criticism. Hey I can understand that, no one like to be criticized, but here’s the thing. If you cannot take it, don’t dish it out. The teabaggers have built their platform on hate and criticism. It is their bread and butter and water. They can say and do whatever they want because they are outraged and against the government, but as soon as someone takes them to task on their point of view they throw up their arms and cry foul. You can’t have it both ways folks. Either stop the hate spewing out of your mouths, or learn to live with caricatures that some people will make of you.

Finally, since Captain America is an agent of the government, it is his job to protect that government and the nation that it rules, therefore it makes perfect sense that the comic would depict anti-government protesters as crazies and loons, and right now the teabaggers are the ones doing most of the protesting, as well as spewing forth most of the anti-government and hate speech that is out there today.

It saddens me to see that Marvel is caving on this, and that they have apologized for the depictions of the protesters in the issue. Whatever happened to freedom of expression. Oh right, Disney.

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7 comments on “Tea Bagging with Captain America

  1. Warner Hernandez says:

    So if it depicted colored people or arabs demonstrating against U.S. soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, it would be okay. That is so biased my friend. First of all, there are some colored people who have joined the tea bag movement and just because they don’t agree with government doesn’t they’re terrorist. If they are, then why don’t I see any of them bombing a plane or a building or cutting someone’s throat and uploading it on the internet? Freedom of expression is also comes with responsibility. If you’re to offend someone, that is abuse of freedom and should not be tolerated by anyone.

    • Warner, I am not sure what you mean by your first sentence. Are you implying that I would think it was okay if “colored people or Arabs” were demonstrating against the U.S.? because that’s how it seems. And I never called them terrorists. Again, I am not sure what you are trying to say, but it seems to me that you are putting words in my mouth. I agree that we should be responsible in terms of how we express ourselves, but if that responsibility includes not expressing ideas that could offend someone or a group of people, then we may as well not express ourselves at all. After all, everybody is offended by something. Thank you for reading and for commenting, and I hope that you can clarify your meanings for me because as I said I am not sure where you are getting things like terrorists and arabs and such.

  2. Pdub says:

    The first amendment is only there to protect the citizen from being told what to say by the Government, not other people. I think the biggest thing that saddens me about this is that comic books will never grow up as a medium if they apologize for every single controversial thing they do. People need to stop being so sensitive to criticism.

  3. branwynne77 says:

    Welcome to the wussification of America, land of the p.c whipped citizens.

    • Pdub says:

      I agree. I wish these tea partiers would grow up and realize that if they are in the public sphere, than it is perfectly okay to criticize them. Instead they whine the second any time somebody dares to write something negative about them. It is so hypocritical: they can bitch about everything but no one can say anything about their excesses?

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