Heroic Tales in the Twenty First Century

One of the most regrettable things about the Twenty First century is that, now that we finally have swept aside the pall of Twentieth Century’s obsession with grim, unheroic, nihilistic literature, and emerged into the glorious era eager for heroic tales, the Twenty Firsters almost know how to tell one, but not quite.

Even a simple tale of heroism, wonder, romance and adventure such as all previous generations knew how to tell, the Twenty-Firsters cannot tell, or not quite.

From Achilles and Hercules onward, there have always been tales of larger than life heroes who make larger than life sacrifices to save the innocent. In the ancient world, they were myth, in the latter days, fairy tales, fables, tales to fill a thousand Arabian nights and a night. In the modern day, they are superhero tales.

The Twenty Firsters can get all the basics correct: strong characters with dramatic motivations meeting overwhelming odds and clinging to hope when hope is gone, struggling onward, achieving, overcoming. The dialog, the clever plot twists, the three dimensional verisimilitude of the characters, all put the simple juvenile literature from which they spring to shame. I have been dumbfounded on many an occasion, when watching the recent television versions of DAREDEVIL, or FLASH, or THE ARROW, or LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, or SUPERGIRL, or movies from the Marvel Universe, at the sheer brilliance of the writing and grace of the action. The Twenty Firsters shine brightly at what they do so well.

But what they do badly is egregiously bad.

For the Twenty Firsters cannot tell a twice told tale of a modern day Robin Hood, or a runner as fast as Mercury, or a group of heroes as bold as the Argonauts, or a cute girl-type Hercules, without intruding unwelcome, tin-eared, heavy-handed, preachy, silly and sick-minded political points.

And they are silly points because they concern matters that, in the West, at least, are solved: No law and no custom in my whole adult lifetime erected a barrier to women based on sex, nor none to blacks based on race. To the degree that the unruly passions in the human heart can be bridled by laws and customs, they have been. Anything more that is done allegedly to aid the case has proved itself unambiguously to be counterproductive: policies allegedly enacted to diminish racial hatreds, nonsense like affirmative action, set-asides, and reverse discrimination, have throughout my life formed irreconcilably opposed racial groups to whom nothing else matters but skin color.

The Twenty Firsters think the source of the problem is the lack of characters in popular literature who represent minorities, and, in the case of superheroes or other longstanding characters, the lack of actresses or minority characters portraying roles originally depicted as male or white. I have heard this conclusion announced on many, many an occasion, but never once with the alleged chain of reasoning upon which it is based mentioned, so I am in no position to judge its soundness, or even judge whether it even attempts to be sound.

So to solve the imaginary problem of a lack of minorities playing white character roles, and the even more imaginary problem of violations of the civil rights of those who commit acts of sexual deviance, our elite class has taken it upon themselves to use the popular culture, first, to benumb us to sexual deviance until we all think (or pretend to think) it is licit, healthy, and normal, and, second, to use the popular culture to have blacks play white characters. As I said, the point of this escapes me: the effect is to make us acutely conscious of their skin color, and ever more acutely aware (and, for our weaker members, resentful) of the special privileges shown the protected classes who enjoy antidiscrimination privileges under our laws.

Let me turn a baleful eye to my favorite form of popular entertainment: superhero shows and films.

We live in the golden age of superheroes, and let no one tell you otherwise. Even minor comic properties like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXIES are blockbusters. The original comics by and large were crudely written and aimed at kids. These shows have some of the best writing I have seen, and I will forgive all their flaws because everything else about the shows are perfect.

But the flaws are all one flaw: political correctness.

And political correctness kills storytelling. Story tellers serve truth, they merely do it by means of non-literal ways of portraying the truth. Political correctness serves propaganda. Stories entertain and educate, and offer insight into the human condition, even the humblest tale of derring-do. Propaganda serves to indoctrinate, to limit the insight, to instill one viewpoint and to close the mind to all others, dulling the thought and stunting the reason.

Stories put you in another man’s shoes, to see the world with new eyes. Propaganda hinders or reverses this.

Political Correctness harps endlessly on one theme: the evils of the Modern West. Since the Modern West has no evils that the ancient or middle ages, West or East, did not have in more abundance, the accusation of evil must of necessity revolve around the two areas where there has been nothing but an uninterrupted stream of progress for a century: the civil equality of the races and of the sexes. Since, as mentioned above, that has been achieved, the criticism must invent ever more shrill and outlandish accusations of ever more hidden, invisible, and imaginary manifestations of an alleged, yet somehow never defined, inequality. And this requires the Political Correctioneers to lose all sense of proportion, all sense of reality, and all sense.

And, of necessity, it necessitates a false picture be painted of the present, and of the past, so that no true comparison can be made between them.

The matters hence on which their obsession bears are those touching race and sex.

FLASH has roughly nine love triangles going at once, of which one and only one is not a mixed race couple. One or two white-and-black couples would be enough to make the point that such pairing are normal in this day and age (for so they are, I knew five among my circle of friends alone). But what does it mean that all but one fit this pattern? It is as if the writer is straining mightily to urge us to reject the miscegenation laws that were rejected a century ago, or to shed attitudes seen only in the Democrat-controlled South, and predominant only in my long-vanished youth.

(I note that the problem has been vanished long enough that the word miscegeny is not in my spelling checker.)

The orphan boy is in love with his adopted sister, which is gross, but no one in the show seems to notice this: apparently the show takes place in a nearby parallel universe where everyone follows the moral example of Woody Allen.

When the cop’s partner fornicates with the cop’s daughter, she is given a latchkey, not a wedding ring, to show the full degree of his devotion. And the cop does not shoot him.

And the orphan boy always tells his team mates that the team is a ‘family’ rather than a team or a brotherhood. It is as if the normal emotion of team loyalty, philos, friendship, is alien to this universe, but that the word family refers to any arbitrary group of people interconnected by a strong bond.

When a young, strong, muscular Latino man and a petite, curvy, attractive black woman in skintight black leather pants and nosebleed high heels are cornered by a zombie, the man tells the woman to get behind him, as he is offering to protect her with his life.

She impatiently orders him to get behind her, because she is offering to throw a temper tantrum.

Absurdly, he does. I was wondering what the writer had in mind for petite, curvy, attractive black woman in skintight black leather pants and nosebleed high heels to do to fend off the zombie, because logically she should be killed for her folly and her alleged brains eaten, but the writer chickened out. Zombie then turns another direction and shambles off. Which somehow proves that the self-sacrifice of muscular Latino man was comedy relief worthy of nothing but scorn or something.

On THE ARROW, when the daughter of hardboiled cop returns after years when she was missing, thought dead, and exchanges hot and passionate lesbian kisses with her hot and passionate lesbian lover and she-assassin ninja-babe on the street, the dad’s only remark is that he is glad she found someone to love.

Ah, but in other episodes, he browbeats and chastises her for sleeping out of wedlock with drunk, rich, white frat boy with a yacht. Not, of course, because fornication is a sin, but because he is a rich playboy. Which is apparently worse than getting entangled with a she-assassin ninja-babe.

In a later scene, hot lesbian lover and the cute but grieving sister of her blonde yet suddenly bisexual blonde become good friends after the hammy and unconvincing (and temporary) death of blondie? They love talking about how much each loved her, one in a sisterly fashion, and the other in an erotic fashion outside of wedlock and outside of nature.

But, according to the portrayal of human psychology put across by the writers here as normal or laudable, the bond of having lost a mutual loved one is apparently too strong for any other considerations to be at play. One might imagine a real woman, meeting the lesbian lover of her dead sister, reacting with an emotion far otherwise than dewy-eyed and sympathetic melancholy hearing about the first lover’s glance, first stolen kiss, and so on of the ersatz romance.

A real woman might have that queasy uneasiness that steals over folk who realize that they sit in the presence of madness. In this case, a madness that cannot (or will not) draw a distinction between the sex act, mating, which requires two sexes, and acts performed when that appetite is objectively disordered, non-mating.

In any case, cute but grieving sister and Cop father are not the only people who have wildly yet unconvincingly tone-deaf reactions to the non-mating of hot lesbian lover and dead blonde. In fact, no one, no one at all, has a recognizable human reaction.

The hot lesbian lover is an assassin babe, who can beat up any number of men built like linebackers without breaking a sweat. She is also the daughter of an ageless Oriental supervillain Assassin Lord.

Assassin Lord disapproves of the unisex pairing, not, as one might expect of a supervillain Assassin Lord in a Leftwing sermon-story, because he thinks it is an unnatural abomination or even because he wants grandchildren.

In the scene where hot lover confronts ageless supervillain, the Assassin Lord Dad reveals that his sole source of discontent with the hot young lesbian unisex pairing was that the cop’s daughter was disloyal, and would leave.

One wonders what the other option was supposed to be? Settle down as wife and wife and form a substitute family? Grow old together and adopt cats as a substitute for children? Kidnap gypsy babies to raise?

I will mention in passing that no ageless man of the centuries before this one, pagan or Christian, Western or Eastern, would have adopted these odd modern looking-glass ethical standards, as opposed to, say, a standard saying it was okay to force his daughter into an arranged marriage for his political and economic convenience. Why both oriental characters are here played by whites is a mystery, since all the characters from Japan and China are played (ably) by Japanese or Korean actors or actresses.

In neither FLASH or THE ARROW or SUPERGIRL is there even one married couple with an intact family.

One is grateful to see in LEGENDS OF TOMORROW characters whose prime motivation is trying to save or avenge their family, but there is no image of what it is to be like if they succeed.

Again, on THE ARROW, when a nine-months pregnant woman and the father of her child visit the obstetrician’s office, the doctor cheerfully and understandably refers to the father as ‘your husband’ and the man immediately says ‘boyfriend’ and the woman ‘ex-husband’ and the doctor simply smiles, as if neither of these conditions were shameful or questionable, as if it were not shocking, not appalling, not gravely morally repugnant, and not unthinkably stupid to bring a baby into this world without the father and mother being married to each other.

(Even birds are not so imprudent as to lay eggs before building nests. Except cuckoos. But they use the labor of others to their benefit, so their prudence is akin to a single mother expecting the state to pay for her child.)

When the baby is eventually born, the father is congratulated, and is present at the birth, as in all ways acts as if he has the legal and moral rights and duties of the mother’s bridegroom, except, of course, for the fact that he has not.

The issue is not even discussed.

In contrast, in the source material for superhero stories, the marriage of Sue Storm and Reed Richards was a major comic event: every supervillain in the world showed up to stop them and every superhero ran interference so the happy couple were not disturbed. A similar emphasis was placed on the marriage of Wonder Girl in THE NEW TEEN TITANS, which had a nine or ten issue build up. If father in this show ever marries the mother of his child, the thing is passed by without notice.

Again, on THE ARROW, the superhero archer’s cute sister is dating the stalwart streetsmart boy who, unbeknownst to her, is the superhero’s sidekick. One day cute sister is annoyed by some soap opera plot twist or another (I think she found out her father was a ninja assassin or something) and to sponge away her annoyance, she immediately sleeps with one of her employees. We see her rising half naked from his embraces to go get some wine; he attempts to poison her, because of some other soap opera plot twist (I think he is the secret agent of the Si Fan of Nanda-Parbat, or some other oriental secret society that litter so much of comicbookland) but her evil father leaps into the window to save her, along with the stalwart streetwise sidekick, who arrives only two minutes or so after the act of copulation was climaxed. The poisoner is killed by the evil father, there are excursions and alarums, and behold, the stalwart streetsmart boyfriend being cheated on does not even raise an eyebrow.

I thought this was freakishly unrealistic a reaction for the writer to paint onto a character who had been markedly possessive and jealous before, and seemed sincerely in love. I think the two had shaken hands and agreed not to be in love anymore on a previous episode, as if modern people possessed endless reserves of iron self-control, and could shut off emotions and passions at will.

Again, in LEGENDS OF TOMORROW when the ninja-girl falls for the master thief, she dares him to steal a kiss from her. It was a cute scene, and warmed my heart.

He does not, of course. Instead, when he is about to do something noble and most likely fatal to save the team, she kisses him. In modern tales, the girl has to make the first move, because any portrayal of modesty or allure or anything else that makes femininity irresistible to real men is anathema.

(Aggressive women, on the other hand, are a daydream of weak men, because no other avenue is open to them to achieve bliss unless the woman unprompted bestows it.)

Likewise when the shy but molar-filing-meltingly smoking-hot computer genius girl in THE ARROW falls for eccentric billionaire bossman, and he comes all broadshouldered, dank, and beefcake-looking out of the shower to smolder at her with her with his smoldering dark good looks and no pants, the writers forget that they established her shyness as a character trait, she makes the first move, and rushes up to kiss him.

Here, I assume the writer shied away from the idea that a pants-free and damp boss would seize the girl by her fragrant yet delicate shoulders and ravish a burning kiss from her passionately yielding ruby lips on the theory that if the guy makes the first move, especially a guy boss, that is sexual harassment, or lip-rape. But that is the way the scene would have played in a racy romance novel, or so I am told.

Basic rule of male female psychology 101 is that if the girl makes the first move, the guy loses interest immediately, whereas if the girl starts and pulls away, starts and pulls away, it pulls the guy after.

These are basic rule of psychology that everyone knows, or should know, if his brain is not gummed up with political correctness.

Basic rules of storytelling 101: the tale cannot violate the basic rules of psychology 101. (See Mark Twain’s description of Leatherstocking Tales for details.)

The writer can have the characters in odd situations, and, in a superhero yarn, the oddness can involve countless impossible absurdities of time travel, cloning, robots, talking apes, necromancers, mind readers, secret societies, immortals, revenants from the dead, parallel dimensions, millionaire playboys dressed like Robin Hood, and anything else you like: BUT the character’s reaction to these impossible things, no matter how absurdly impossible, must not only be possible, but likely and reasonable for a real human being in the unreal situation, or otherwise the writer shatters the suspension of disbelief.

A man can be a superman with ninescore ninety and nine impossible super powers plus one, but he has to act like a man, and not like a cardboard clockwork robot or a sockpuppet yanked out of his established character to go through a jerky, awkward pantomime to make today’s public service announcement on behalf of politically correct obsessions about problems solved before I was born.

If eccentric billionaire wants to build a supersuit out of dwarf star matter so he can shrink down to atom-size and fight very small crimes, I will buy that and come back for more, bringing my friends with me, and throw money at the writer. But if smoking hot computer genius girl kisses the first kiss, that breaks me out of the spell of the story, and I sit glowering at how unbelievable the writing is.

The simple truth that weak men drive women insane, and insane women make men weak, has simply been ignored.

And of course the two of them fornicate before the episode is over without benefit of marriage, because, by modern lights, and hurt feelings or brokenheartedness is shoved by the male onto the female, whom he should love and who is weaker, and any accidental by products of conception, such as junior, can be killed, when the female shoves the burden of paying for her unchastity onto her baby, whom she should love even more and who is even weaker still.

That is the modern mindset. Or, rather, since moderns maintain their habits of behavior by the act for which there is no name, the mental act of avoiding, eluding and erasing thought before it is thought through, we should call it the modern antimindset.

The moderns believe that moral rules were invented by the weak to restrain the passions and achievements of the strong, and therefore should be ignored. It is a lie. The rules were invented by the strong to protect the weak.

People whose morality is diametrically opposed to reality, who do the nameless act of antithought more often than they think, such people should not write stories about heroes. You don’t know what heroes are like. You cannot even imagine them, any more than a madman can imagine what sane men think like.

Two or three episodes later, after, long after, the eccentric billionaire and the molar-filing-meltingly smoking-hot computer genius girl have enjoyed all the sensual pleasures of the marriage bed, and he has fornicated with her like a randy goat in rutting season, then and only then he tells her he loves her.

And the writers decide that this, the revelation that he loves her, is startling and surprising to her, as if she were a blushing virgin and not the proverbial cow who need not be bought because she gives away her milk free of charge.

This was so clunky, so absurd, so unbelievable, so unlike the way a real girl with any real self esteem would act, I cannot even fathom whether the writer is attempting a cynical ploy to manipulate the viewers emotions and doing it very, very badly, or if the writer is stupid enough to think that this is a reaction any young female of the species homo sapiens could actually encompass.

Are you telling me eccentric billionaire did not tell the girl he was making love to that he loved her? Not at any point before, during, or after the sex act? And she stood for that, and thought it was normal?

Does anyone think this is normal? It is sick. Something in broken in the soul of anyone who thinks this way.

Women make all the first moves in Twenty Firster mythology, and they sleep with men who don’t say ‘I love you’ because they do not think themselves worthy of love. And so they sleep around like unpaid whores, having been told that whoring around does not damage the self esteem, and meanwhile the poor Twenty Firster girls do not understand why their suicide rate is climbing so high, so fast.

Twenty Firsters write characters who behave with almost suicidal ignorance, immorality and stupidity because there is something suicidal in their whole mindset.

And yet in the same episode, the writers can portray Christlike acts of bravery, self sacrifice, and compassion, and have deep and three dimensional realistic emotional reactions to great tragedies and great acts of heroism, expert writing, as good as anything in the very best of novels, carried out with seemingly effortless skill and grace. Because those areas are not areas strained by political correctness, and so their natural genius is allowed to flower.

It is the contrast that shocks me. It is like seeing an Olympic ice skater performing the difficult tricks and leaps without flaw or hesitation, but who then makes astonishing pratfalls of comical clumsiness in one and only one patch of ice. And I wonder why the skater cannot see that one patch of ice.

Also, people who know nothing about times within living memory should not write time travel tales about visits to said periods.

In one particularly egregious episode of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, our mixed-race and mixed-sexual-normalcy team visits 1950. The white male who likes certain features of the time, such as the low crime rate and fundamental goodness and decency of all and sundry, is not only browbeaten and humiliated by the scolding, scalding sneering teammates, they tell him that Blacks were mistreated in this era, as were women, as were persons suffering from disordered sexual appetites. Of course all this is an outrageous lie (most black families were intact back then, and, while it is true that in the Democrat controlled areas of the country, blacks had separate schools, bathrooms, and drinking fountains from whites, it is also true that bastardy, single-mom households, gangbanging, drug abuse, and black-on-black violence was not the norm for the vast majority of blacks) and of course the designated white male punching bag, who is a hero in every other scene of this hero squad story, here just ducks his head and looks sheepish. It is yet another reaction which is forced, stiff, absurd, and violates basic psychology 101 hence basic storytelling 101.

In rapid succession, in a day and age when no girls talked to strangers, our black youth superhero hits on lily-white cheerleader in the malt shop, and evil white patriarchy teens jump him. The whites fight dirty, of course, of course. Then the attractive black women superheroine is mistaken for a maid, but the time travelers thought it would be perfectly normal for her to pass herself off as a what the natives would call a “colored lady” married to a white guy. Now, keep in mind that every single black woman found in a white guy’s house at that time and place was a maid and not a wife, nonetheless this is portrayed as grotesquely unreasonable and bigoted on the part of the natives of the time period. Then the lesbian superheroine seduces a young and sexually confused nurse, and this is portrayed as heroic rather than grotesque.

When James Bond seduces the bikini-clad, sultry eyed yet curvaceous henchbabe of the evil spy, it is portrayed as a fling. This is still hardly heroic: Bond is a cad. But the sultry eyed yet curvaceous henchbabe presumably is a woman of the world and knows what she is doing. She presumably has former lovers that she poisoned or something. The affair is not portrayed as Bond freeing the henchbabe from the chains of the evil Victorians, and striking a blow for sexual freedom.

Cadlike it is, but there is at least some hard realism in it: after all, Bond is most likely going to die horribly by being cut in half by an industrial laser groin-first in the next scene, so his seeking one last fling is akin to what soldiers and sailors with short life expectancy are wont to do. But the time traveler dame? She is going to lure the sexually confused nurse into a life of unhappy sexual deviancy, and leave her alone in Democrat-controlled 1950 Southland, where such acts were against the law?

Perhaps the act of tweaking the noses of anyone from a past time whose standards and customs are not those of our sick and corrupt present time is so important that realism is flung out the window. But it is not all past times whose noses are to be tweaked. Only some.

There is no episode as yet where Turks are time traveled to the Spain of Isabel and Ferdinand, and shown heroically offending the Christians or bravely tweaking the noses of the Spanish Inquisition. Nor a visit to Seventh Century Mecca or Medina showing the time travelers eating pork, preaching lesbianism and free love, and drawing cartoons of Mohammed.

You see, in cases where it comes to portraying America as bad, things like the fact that the time travelers would stick to the mission rather than endanger the time stream, or the fact that no one would be so stupid as to assume the Democrats of one era would have the same values as Democrats of another era, or even another news cycle, such inconvenient facts as these, the things that would make the story believable and good, are thrown overboard.

One love triangle in LEGENDS is between two reincarnated ancient Egyptians, a white guy and a very (very!) attractive black woman, and a second white guy. But the girl and her love interest second white guy are stranded in 1950s America, they live together for two years in one apartment, and only at the end of that time does the man buy a wedding ring to proffer to her. Was he sleeping on the couch that whole time, or was he simply breaking the laws not to mention a commandment or two? The writers did not think it worthwhile to clarify.

Twenty-Firsters should also not write tales about historical periods for which sound and complete written records exist.

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW visits the Old West, bring the black guy, the very attractive black girl, and the blonde Lesbian dressed in in men’s clothing, thinking the Negros and the cross dresser will simply not stand out. Of course no one in the town notices a thing out of place, because they are not White Bigots from the Democrat-controlled 1950s Southland. The Old West was apparently like modern San Francisco, and apex of toleration.
And so of course the women join in the bar fight. Of course. And of course the woman drinks the man under the table. Of course.

The Twenty Firsters are pathetic because they cannot time travel, not even in their imaginations. They are insufferably incompatible with any previous time period, and could not live in peace with any of their ancestors, not even for an hour. They are insufferably parochial, and yet, somehow, for reasons unfathomable, think themselves enlightened and wise.

The portrayal of religion is likewise tainted by ham-handed political correctness: Ben Grimm or Felicity Smoak can be Jewish, and go out of their way to mention their faith even in situations where it would not naturally come up, but no one is portrayed as praying to Christ or going to church, except, maybe, the Daredevil, whose Catholic guilt syndrome is part of his character.

Nor can the pathetic Twenty Firsters tell the stories the same comic book company has told for even as little as forty years, because a growing insanity caused both by a desire to avoid the appearance of racism and sexism and the desire not to portray other races or either sex as having any stereotypical characteristics prevents old characters from being portrayed without a race change or sex change.

One or two race swaps is not offensive, because one or two is not a sign of a consistent pattern that betrays a desire to shoehorn in a minority to play the role merely because of skin color. But when it gets to be four and five, eleven or twelve, it is pattern of discrimination, merely in reverse gear.

Here is a baker’s dozen: the Kingpin in the 2003 DAREDEVIL, Ben Urich in 2015 DAREDEVIL, Iris West and Wally West on FLASH, Jimmy Olsen and Hank Henshaw on SUPERGIRL, Johnny Storm in 2015 FANTASTIC FOUR film, Alicia Masters in 2005 FANTASTIC FOUR, Hawkgirl on LEGENDS, Nick Fury in all the movies, Perry White in MAN OF STEEL, Heimdall in THOR, and, a film not yet released at the time of this writing, Baron Mordo in DR STRANGE.

(DR STRANGE also turns the Ancient One, an old oriental man, into a middle aged Scottish woman, which implies that the film makers don’t get the point of having old sages from the mystic East instruct jaded Western men in magical disciplines. They just don’t get it.)

Clearly some of these swaps work better than others. Nick Fury was already black in Ultimate Spiderman, and Heimdall is such a minor character, that it breaks no suspension of disbelief to change the skin color. One has to be ready to assume Norse Gods are not Norse themselves, but are actually aliens from another dimension. Hawkgirl had already been reincarnated any number of times, and could switch races between lives.

I am not sure if Halle Berry Catwoman in the 2004 movie counts as a race-swap, only because Eartha Kitt (who actually may be a catwoman in real life) played her in the long ago 1967 television show, after Julie Newmar left the show. But both of those are cases where, it looked to me, the writers were simply trying to find the sexiest and sultriest actress they could squeeze into an hourglass shaped catsuit to play the role, not to fill a quota.

In any case, those kind of swaps are no big deal. In isolation, no one would notice or have reason to complain.

Other swaps make less sense: Johnny Storm as a black man with a white sister is simply odd, and it would be like having the character Morpheus from THE MAXTRIX being played by Jet Li in a remake, or swapping all the characters from GHOSTBUSTERS into women.

Ironically, nearly all the original comics have black or female characters in roles that could at any time step up and be in the limelight without shoving the any established and well-loved character aside: see, for example, Falcon in CAPTAIN AMERICA or Rhodey in IRON MAN.

Falcon has always been a personal favorite of mine, and I was glad the movie captured the pizzaz of that character.  At one point in the comic Rhodey donned the suit and was Iron Man. Likewise, if you want a black Green Lantern, there is one, already established in the continuity: John Stewart.

Nearly every hero has a female counterpart: Batgirl, Supergirl, She-Hulk, Spiderwoman, Miss Martian, Aquagirl, and on and on. Arrowette is a female Green Arrow. The Wasp is a female Ant Man. Valkyrie is a female butt-kicking shield maiden from Valhalla who is a perfectly good heroine, and so anyone yearning to see Norse demigoddesses kick butt need not turn Thor into girl-type Thor.

The irony is that all this shoehorning minority characters into previously white characters is that it is unnecessary.

The best characters, or, at least, personal favorites of mine, both from THE ARROW and FLASH are Diggle and Joe West. They are not based on any white characters. The actors do some of the best acting in the shows. The characters are original. They also both happen to be Black, but more to the point they are interesting characters, complex and dramatic, and their blackness is not the sole excuse for them standing there.

I am old enough to remember with pleasure the FLASH television show from 1990. You want to know who my favorite character was?

He was only in two shows: it was the retired superhero from the 1950s named Nightshade. He has a cool armored sedan like the Green Hornet that emerged from behind a sliding billboard, he dressed like The Shadow in a slouch hat and halfcape, and he fired nonlethal tranquilizer something like The Sandman. He had to come out of retirement after forty years to face his still-young nemesis, the telecommunications terrorist called The Ghost. Happened to be a black man. But he earned his place in the story by being memorable, well-acted, and dramatic. He was a cool character. He even had his own theme music: a military flourish of brass and drums.

(Thanks to the miracle of modern computer technology, I can present you with his intro segment in glorious black and white.)

Diggle, Joe West, and Nightshade are not quota hires: they earned their way.

They are good, solid, lovable characters, and I love them, because the writer wrote them that way. They are not examples of some writer who hates his fans shoving his preaching down our throats.

I particularly like Diggle, because he is the only guy on Team Arrow who is not insane one way or the other. He plays the same role Horatio plays in HAMLET: a contrast with the hero bent on vengeance who acts insane.

Joe West I like because he is portrayed as a father who acts like a father, which is pretty darn rare these days.

Keep in mind, it is not swapping race and sex that annoys anyone. If you filled the post with the best actor or actress available, good for you. If you got Samuel L Jackson to don a wig and play Spiderman’s Aunt May, I would cheer. (“Peter! With great power comes great responsibility! And you better get your responsibilities in gear, and do your damned chores before I kick your mo’fo’ing ass!”)

But if you thrust an affirmative action hire into a character role who for four decades has been white, at that point you are shoving something into the face of the fans as a silent accusation that we fans are racists, and you have left your role as entertainer, and taken up a role as a crusader who hates his audience and seeks merely to tweak the nose of the patron paying your salary.

It would almost be brave to bite the hand that feeds you, except that everyone and his brother are doing it. I have respect for Bob Heinlein or Ursula K LeGuin when they write juveniles putting Blacks, Jews or Filipinos in heroic roles with no pandering to demeaning stereotypes. (And, no, I cannot say ‘African-American’ when I am talking about a dark skinned character from Mars). No one else did it then, not in their genre, and it was new then, and bold.

Now? Now you are just doing it to avoid having a false accusation of racism from your witch-hunter friends ruin your career, you cowards. Now you are trying to fill a quota.

You want more minorities in superhero films? Fine. Make the promised Black Panther movie: he was flipping awesome in CIVIL WAR. Make a whole movie about Nick Fury: I want to see Samuel L Jackson smash Hydra and A.I.M.

Make HEROES FOR HIRE. Please. Start with Luke Cage breaking out of jail run by sadistic southern Democrats, and battering them senseless in his mad rage. I’d pay good money to see Democrats getting the stuffing kicked out of them on the big screen. You can have Colleen Wing and Misty Knight for free, if you want more Girl Power, because one is a kick-butt martial artist and the other is an ace detective with a cyborg arm. (If you want to turn Danny Rand into an oriental guy played by Jackie Chan, I will urge you on, because Rand should have been the son of Fu Manchu from the beginning. I never really warmed to the character.)

Likewise, if the writer wants more blacks in STAR TREK, having Spock played by a black actor in the latest remakes would be an insult to the character. Nothing stops the filmmaker from having a dark skinned Mr. Tuvok as in VOYAGER, or a female Vulcan officer as in T’Pol in ENTERPRISE. The difference is that if you make a new character, you have to do something creative to make the character memorable. But Black Spock is as dumb an idea as Girl Thor.

On the other hand, if you blackface or womanize an established white guy, you dodge any criticism of your uncreative work by falsely accusing your critics of being racist misogynists — even though no one in his right mind thinks that there can be no other possible reason for voicing an objection to any bad storytelling and poor movie-making except when the objector is possessed by deadly hatred of minorities.

No one thinks that. It is just a set up to deflect criticism. As we have seen with the fanboy-hatred provoked by the teaser of girly GHOSTBUSTERS, the Studio can simply scream ‘misogyny’ with the lusty lungs of the shepherd boy in an Aesop fable crying wolf, hoping the unwary will not notice the criticisms are based on sound considerations of bad storytelling and poor movie-making.

Worse, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that this is the one time you hired a really good black actor to play Batman pr whoever because of his awesome acting ability. Everyone will think it is an affirmative action hire, and the one and only thing that can actually produce amity between the races, a colorblind standard where each man rises or falls on his own merit, is the one thing your affirmative activism makes impossible: because now the men you helped succeed everyone has reason to suspect did not earn their way. And that suspicion hurts the truly deserving man who earned his way more than it helps the undeserving schmuck you propped up above his performance level. It is a “lose-lose” scenario, and the only thing it does is stir up enmity between races.

But when the character is original, like Joe West, or an established part of the established franchise, like John Stewart the Green Lantern on JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, he rises or falls on his own merit. If he happens to be black, so be it. (If he is a jerk for dumping Hawkgirl, that is because he is a jerk, not because he is black.)

Luke Cage the Power Man is black as part of his origin story, and his Black Rage is as much part of his character as Daredevil’s Catholic Guilt, so, again, they gain or lose audience depending on how good their stories are. They are not the quota hires of so many Blacks or so many Catholics being shoehorned into a story where race and religion are not part of the plot.

So by no means exclude minorities from tales: that would not be realistic. If you want to really wow the audience, you can also write about guilt-free Catholics and rage-free Blacks, and make them convincing and well-rounded characters.

But by the same token it is noticeably unrealistic storytelling to shoehorn a minority or female character into an established character role, or, more to the point, it is not storytelling at all. I it social engineering: an attempt to manipulate the opinions and attitudes of the audience on the sly.

All these stories with shoehorn quotas insult any minorities by telling them their imagination is insufficient to enjoy stories about people who don’t look like them.

Either they are smart enough to see how condescending that is, and smart enough to realize the story will probably suck, or they are dumb enough that, if you pander to their tribal xenophobia, they will never develop the ability to put themselves in their imagination into the shoes of another man.

And that is what the art of storytelling is: imagining you are in places and among events that are not real. Imagining what it is like for the hero or heroine who is not you, whose problems are not yours. This shoehorning in minorities to meet quotas mars the imagination.

The Twenty Firsters are in rebellion against all moral authority, in the name of independence, or of self actualization, or of self esteem, or something of the sort. Being against moral authority, they are also in rebellion against the truth about himself.

What is the truth about Man? It is mysterious, but certain facts about the human condition are so obvious that men prefer to forget them.

One such fact is this: Man is a creature who can envision what good and heroic life should be, and who falls short just often enough to let him realize that he cannot, under his own power, live such a life.

But the vision haunts and torments him. Despite his best and desperate efforts to lower himself to the moral condition of an animal who lives for nothing higher than simple, immediate gratification of appetites for food or mate or warmth or revenge against whatever frightens him, the vision of heroism will not let him be. The conscience that man by his own unaided, natural means cannot satisfy will not stay silent.

Without being literal, stories, even fantastic stories about impossible things can be truthful in three chords. Tales can be truthful and idealistic, telling about man as he should be in a better world, or be truthful and cynical, telling about man as he is in this fallen world. Some can even be truthful and despairing, warning of how much worse it might be in men surrendered to their base instincts.

But stories can also be lies. I do not mean a story is a lie because it is not literal: no story is literal. I mean it lies fundamentally about the human condition.

The lie that currently preoccupies the Twenty Firsters is a false promised, offered by many liars under many different names, that man can find heaven on earth if only he disobeys all moral authority. The Socialist, for example, promises that if man breaks faith with the covenants and laws that make private property, liberty, and goodwill sacrosanct, abundance will shower from nowhere upon one and all. The Nazi promises that breaking faith with the brotherhood of man, the weakness caused by the Christian religion, and the chains placed on the bold, new leader by the dead hand of law and order, that all will be well. The Pop Psychologist promises likewise that if men cease to attempt to avoid guilt by avoiding bad acts, but instead commit the bad acts and merely wish the guilt not to trouble them, they will be guilt-free and filled with self-esteem. The Feminist promises that by violating the sacredness of matrimony and virginity, overturning the authority of males, abolishing masculinity from men and femininity from females, all the evils of the world will vanish like bad dreams. Once all the evil slut-shamers are shamed to silence, for example, we can all be sluts together, and happy.

The modern lie is that there is some third option, some new form of mankind, different from the ideal man, the hero, as once he was before the fall, and different from the common man, the sinner, as we all here and now find ourselves to be. This new man will give up on moral rules he cannot follow; he will write his own; he will invent a new morality as different from old morality as a new primary color is different from red or blue or yellow.

But this third man is not found in nature and not found in our consciences. We have neither experience nor instinct to tell us what he should be like. He is a mere extrapolation invented by an intellectual of what a man would be like if he lacked one of the most basic truths about human nature. He is an homunculus, a mannequin.

And so all stories are staffed with the mannequins that the Twenty-Firster theory of how men should live dictate. The mannequins neither act like real people you know nor like heroes and heroines you can, in the light of your conscience, you can see and recognize as an ideal.

They are a false ideal, a self-contradictory ideal, an ideal based on a lie, and so their stiff painted smiles and dead eyes eventually repulse any normal man of good taste or proper artistic insight.

On the theory that there is no difference between black and white historical experience, the mannequins are stuffed awkwardly into roles of the wrong race. On the theory that there is no difference between male and female psychology, the mannequins are stuffed into roles of the opposite sex. On the theory that all moral authority is false, male figures such as fathers and husbands are shown to be despots or fools or both. On the theory that sex is so important that it gives once license to violate all fealty and good faith between the sexes, and at the same time so unimportant that only a fool would expect fealty and good faith, sex is always portrayed as if marital sex is unappealing, but adultery, fornication, and perversion are daring and romantic and consequence-free.

The fakes don’t act like real people, or like ideal people.

And that is why the Twenty Firsters, even if otherwise superb in their skill at telling tales, always veer into the boring, stupid, unconvincing swamp of political correctness, and take a beloved character who otherwise lives and breathes and has verisimilitude, kill him, dunk him in wax, and turn him into a waxworks doll, just enough like a real storybook character should be that a man of taste and sense sees how unreal the mannequin is.

You can have political correctness in a story, You can have heroism in a story. But the more you have of one, the less you have of the other.