“With great power comes great responsibility”
The ability to create something with art, words, and music can be a powerful thing; it can change people's minds, be a call for equality and justice, and help the world be a better place. However, what happens when art and the people who admire or create a work of art become abusive and attack others using a piece of art? The debate over The Punisher is not a new one; Apu, Bergermister Misterberger, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Flowers for Algernon, FairlyOdd Parents, Family Guy, Big Mouth, and even some Disney films and shows are now sparking interest in how art becomes abusive or discriminatory to a group of people.
Even artists who were once admired by thousands are now being held accountable for discriminatory, xenophobic, and ableist rhetoric. The people who defend them only make things worse because they are not using critical thinking on why that art is abusive or could be used as a tool of future abuse. Defending the rhetoric of Sia about Autistic people being bad actors is no different than the people I have encountered who fiercely defend Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Bang Theory, Glee, and Flowers for Algernon even though both works have very ableist and despotic behaviors towards special needs people and people on the Autism spectrum. To discuss these issues we have to use not reactionary thinking like Clownfish TV, but an understanding critically of why it’s abusive or harmful and why some works need to be put to bed or used as an exercise in good critical thinking in logic textbooks.
A film like Jojo Rabit may not be offensive to people who don’t have an immigrant upbringing nor would Bergermister Misterberger from Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but on a German-American audience, it backfires because of our history with xenophobic rhetoric and anti-Semitic slanders. My great Oma and Opa would see Jojo Rabit as nothing more than nationalist propaganda for an audience of dummkopfs who don’t know how the Nazi party actually indoctrinated children. Some boys were encouraged to have pre-mature sex, others were taken away from mental institutions by force, many were killed if they did not comply, some were Aspberger’s. Many psychologists and scientists were forced by death to work for the Nazis or lose their lives, their studies, resources, and their family. Many great minds and artists like the Comedian Harmonist and Albert Einstein had to leave because of being in a Jewish family or even having a Jewish friend, even playing jazz and jazz records was an offense to the Nazis who deemed it degenerate music, like Henry Ford and other euengincs who inspired Hitler to write Mein Kampf.
When we blame German’s for fascism we are doing a great disservice to immigrants who do suffer from fascist and authoritarian rulers, terrorist, and governments; people like Donald Trump, The Prohibitionist, The Proud Boys, The Klu Klux Klan, and the Alt-Right, the same people who wore the symbol of The Punisher and carry the confederate flag long deemed a symbol of terror and treason, rather than freedom from that very tyranny of xenophobia, racism, and ableism.
Government and Public Schools are supposed to be a sanctuary from institutional, religious, and authoritarian control and be a place of peace for students of all races, religions, ethnicities, genders, and disabilities. Yet how can they be one when Flowers for Algernon is still required reading when Diary of a Wimpy Kid is in a bully’s backpack when music teachers are told that Folk and Jazz music is not required learning, when a band or choir is made to compete or suffer financially, or when people like me are still seen as a burden rather than a benefit? Dress codes and policies like not having class prayer, a nativity outside a school, teaching science and evolution not Inherit the Wind, not having the Bible be a textbook except in theology class, and having good literature that inspires students to read and not scare them into submission (Animal Farm, 1984, Ferihight 451, The Crucible, and Lord of the Flies…) until they are afraid to read a single book. These are in place to protect students in a place where it’s safe to learn why things are offensive or harmful, and how we as an artist can hold each other reasons for each of our powers. As for books, there are many alternatives to books that are harmful.
I would prefer Calvin and Hobbes to Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, or films like The 5,000 Fingers of Dr.T to teach McCarthyism and Toxic Masculinity, Nausica of the Valley of the Wind to teach about pollution and environmental ethics, The Dark Crystal to teach about World Conflicts, Amadeus to teach micro-aggression towards people with Autism, and the Ron Howard version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to teach about assimilation and hazing of German-Americans. One scene that made me cry in that film was the scene where the young eight-year-old Grinch (Josh Ryan Evens) shaves after Agustus teases him for having hair all over his body.
Agustus’s bullying even goes further when he gifts that very razor to the Grinch now fifty-three years old. Ethnic hazing and bullying have very damaging effects on immigrant children to the point that when they are older things that were once joyful can be horrible and traumatizing.
The Grinch from a Bauerdeuch perspective is a Krampus who is an illegal immigrant of Whoville which many Germans who came to America were because of the government tracking their papers. The Who’s are rich and affluent Richendeutch Schonnpertchen who are German-Americans who were easily assimilated by the people they worked for, made English their first language, forgot their culture and heritage to the point of not remembering that they were Germans. Cindy Lu is part of a younger generation of Who’s which became the generation of German Americans like Theodore Geisel and my Grandma Lill were a part of; The Greatist Generation whose goal was to help immigrant communities and the nations they came from. During the Second World War, he dined with Germans in wartorn Germany as a member of the 1st Motion Picture Unit of the Army Signal Corps, he even won a medal of honor for his work and Two Academy Awards for Documentaries. His pen name, Dr. Seuss is known around the world and read still in public schools where he and his work matter.
Comics are art, art that should inspire peace, equality, diversity, and love of a culture rather than the hate and destruction of one.
Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That need be understood
In every world
In Your great sky.
Both You and I.)- Prayer for a Child Dr.Seuss