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Sunday, July 08, 2018 

Coates pretends it's not just his personal politics

The left-leaning IO9/Gizmodo interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates about his now debuting run on Captain America, and while he tries to insist it's not just his own beliefs being shoved in, he still gives some clues proving otherwise. The piece begins with this:
Captain America is not just a superhero or the Avengers’ on-again, off-again leader. He’s a symbol, both in Marvel’s comics and here in the real world, for all of the potential the US has to be an agent of justice and change in the larger world. io9 recently spoke with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates about the politics (or lack thereof) in his new run and how he’s approaching the famous character.
Of course Cap's been a symbol, but Marvel destroyed much of that by turning him into a tool for leftist propaganda and blame-America mentality as far back as 2002, when they put out the Marvel Knights series and The Truth: Red, White and Black miniseries, which was flooded with stereotypical artwork along with the anti-American story behind it. And of course, one has to wonder why they thought a tale with character designs that were denigrating to blacks would be taken seriously. The best answer is, they lacked confidence in their awful "retcon" to begin with, and just wanted to build on outrage culture and offending the audience.
That concept—that America is a just, righteous place in which opportunity is afforded to all—is something that Coats centers in his work on Captain America, but it’s also something that gives all-American hero Steve Rogers pause. In the wake of Secret Empire, Steve (understandably) is a man who doesn’t truly know himself, because he’s the symbol of a country that willingly gave itself over to Hydra at the behest of someone who, more or less, was the exact same person as him.

It’s impossible to read Coates’ Captain America without a distinct sense that it’s a deep rumination on the current state of American politics, but when I spoke with him recently, he explained that his Cap isn’t really a mouthpiece for his own personal politics. We’re able to see ourselves and the American Dream in Captain America, Coates explained, but the book is about so much more than what readers are likely expecting.
Oh, I'll bet. Coates already did terribly with Black Panther, and with his brand of leftism, I cannot and will not give him a chance to prove otherwise. Mainly because, as the previous info I found demonstrates, the badness has already just begun. This has become a classic cliche by now, for a writer to deny there's any negative message in his work on a corporate-owned creation. Now for the interview itself:
io9: As broad as a question as this is to start with, it’s kind of necessary. Who is Steve Rogers, exactly, at the beginning of this story?

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Steve Rogers is like... if I had to summarize, he’s loyal to nothing but the dream, you know? The idea of a guy who embodies the ideals of a country that often doesn’t live up to those ideals. Some of the greatest Captain America stories find him in conflict with the very country he represents. Go back to the first Secret Empire story. Up to that moment in Born Again that deals with the government-sponsored Nuke program.

There’s this constant tension between how Cap sees America and the ideals it represents. You know, whether the politicians who run the country are living up to those ideals themselves. Those are the really, really strong themes I wanted to revisit.
Why not elaborate further than what this supposedly tells us? And just what side of the spectrum does he mean? Any complaints from Coates about the harm done by Jimmy Carter when he allowed the ayatollah Khomeini's gang to take over Iran and revert it to an oppressive theocracy in 1979, deposing the more benevolent shah Pahlavi? What's interesting is that, if something that could be political really matters, it sure doesn't sound like Coates has any interest in tackling challenging issues like Islamic terrorism in the modern world, not even metaphorically. Just more of the same cliches about local politics, plain and simple.
Let’s talk about that tension for a second. There’s a conflict within Steve’s inner monologue that’s present throughout the issue. What are the concepts that he’s trying to grapple with?

Coates: Well, you know what’s interesting? The reaction to Secret Empire was very interesting to me. I think a lot of the reaction had to do with the politics of the time and people felt a certain way because they were looking for something in Captain America book that wasn’t necessarily there. But in fact, that arc’s whole notion of somebody co-opting Cap’s identity in some sort of way or using what Captain America represents to inflict evil upon the world—it’s not that new.
What's interesting about Coates' response is that he has no critical perspective of Secret Empire. Of course I know it wasn't new. But past writers usually conceived stories about heroes getting brainwashed into evil far more plausibly, and didn't go out of their way to make the established background look like they were retconning it into something horrific that slaps the original creators in the face. And they usually wrapped it all up in just a handful of issues, and didn't go miles out of their way to flood a whole universe's titles with connections to the same nightmare. Besides, as it so happens, there was nothing of value in SE, just a whole deliberate effort by TPTB to thumb their noses at fandom.
There’s an interesting way in which you use his “out-of-timeness” to make a point about the cyclical nature of the rises and falls of fascist powers. Given Steve’s experiences, what does he make of the world that he finds himself in and ultimately, is he really trying to “save” it?

Coates: Yes, very much so. Very, very much so.

That, to me, was the beauty of writing the book, if I can just step outside for a second. I obviously have my own political views about the country, but the beauty of having the opportunity to write Captain America is to live in someone else’s head. Steve’s an idealist, man.

I’ve said this before and I think that people assume that it’s some sort of praise or statement about a character but, when I think about Steve I think about Barack Obama. I don’t mean Barack Obama’s politics and I’m not talking about Obama as an inspirational figure, I’m thinking about the optimism. Steve has that kind of “arc of history bends towards justice” mentality. He believes that, ultimately, America’s true and that the dream can be real. He believes that, very much so.
Wow, no doubt the analogy to Obama was quite deliberate, and IMO, political. Frankly, I don't think Obama was so much an optimist as he was just another dreadful politician who thought everything he did and believed was automatically right. Including his belief the form of healthcare he touted was the answer to everything. If the only politicians he's willing to cite as examples are far-left ones, and he won't consider Reagan or even Trump as examples, then he fails to impress.
Do you think that Steve’s optimism, like Obama’s, comes hand in hand with a kind of detrimental naïveté, though?

Coates: [laughs] I mean. How do I put this? No. Not as the writer of Captain America, I don’t think that. I can’t write this book as Ta-Nehisi the essayist. I don’t think that would make for a very good Captain America. I have to accept Steve Rogers. It’s like acting; I try to write as an actor. I’m not really in the interpretive place where I ask how true the things Steve believes really are.
Of course not, because he doesn't think they should be questioned at all. Besides, it's not what Steve believes since he's merely a fictional character, it's what his creators like Simon/Kirby do! Something obviously lost upon these phonies.
Let’s take it back to Secret Empire. Does Steve feel guilt about what was done in his name? How’s he coming to grips with that?

Coates: That’s really all through the book. It was Steve who did this, you know what I’m saying? It might not have been Steve-Steve, but it was Steve Rogers. He had his face. It’s not just Secret Empire Steve Rogers that did this. Repeatedly, people have used aspects of his identity to justify their evil—and one of the questions he really has to ask himself is how much of that is in him and whether he’s responsible for any of that.

The Nuke clones’ rallying cries about “our boys” have a very particular kind of weight to them in the context of our current political climate. What is it that they’re fighting for and, aside from the villains, what is it that fuels their beliefs? What do they want?

Coates: I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s not even about the plot. I’m hesitant to answer that because I don’t want to get in the way of people’s interpretations. Let me just say it like this. One of the things that, I don’t want to say bothers me, but is dispiriting... I think sometimes about comic book fandom is the need to know exactly what’s going on. There’s an unwillingness to be open to people having different interpretations. And maybe this extends beyond comic book fandom because there are all of these arguments about canon and what’s real and what isn’t. I want to think that there are things I’ve put in there about where the Nukes come from and who they are that leave a lot of room to think about what they mean.
Hmm, what if it turns out whoever did it in his name and face was a metaphor for an "evil Republican"? Coates' statement that Steve will be wondering if he's got any kind of "evil seed" inside him doesn't sound very encouraging either; more like there's a story here about Steve grappling with loss of confidence rather than something inspiring. I also don't like his defense that fandom isn't open, and won't consider they may be simply trying to defend the core ideals Cap as a creation was built on. As I may have noted before, the Nuke clones may be stand-ins for deranged, misunderstanding conservatives, and if Coates is insinuating the audience is stupid, that's no improvement.
Should people read into the subtext, then?

Coates: I’m not trying to be coy; it’s not like there’s some kind of major plot point I’m trying to hide here. I just really worry about trying to tell people how to feel about things. I know what I was thinking and I can safely say that. One of the things that Secret Empire Steve Rogers plays on is people’s faith in Captain America. You have all of these quote unquote “heroes” who, because they follow Steve Rogers, they do things that are sort of unspeakable.
It's no surprise, but certainly disappointing Coates doesn't have what it takes to admit he's got something to hide. If he wanted to win the audience's confidence, he could at least write a metaphorical story about Steve combating Islamic terrorism, but that's clearly not the case. And the part about would-be heroes doing revolting things because they follow Cap...that's also quite annoying, and tells that something more could be wrong with Coates' rendition.

Anyway, Coates has nothing new to say, and explains perfectly why there's no point reading his pretentious writings, with Cap now the latest victim of his leftism.

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The drawings in the Truth mini-series were by a black artist with a cartoony style, who drew many different kinds of black faces; it was the exact opposite of stereotyping. The premise of the series was a logical exaggeration of historical facts like the Tuskegee experiments on black men done without their consent, and the racism of the military structure at a time when America's armed forces were still segregated by race. Recognition of history is not anti-American. It was a flawed series, and its portrayal of Dr Reinstein/Erskine had its offensive aspects, but it was a story with meat on its bones.

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