Saturday, 2 February 2019

New Rules: An Open Letter to Bill Maher

Dear Bill,

I saw your recent editorial on what you think about comic book fans, where you lambasted comic book fans for liking things that are "for kids". Now, I could go on and on in multiple paragraphs about why your wrong in the most academic manner I could manage. But in this case, I'll say in a way you understand.

New Rule: If you're going to comment on Kevin Smith's appearance, make sure you don't style your hair so that you look like you're caught in a wind tunnel. If you're wondering what a wind tunnel is, it's what happens when you and your audience stand ear to ear.

New Rule: If disagreeing with a statement proves it is true, then you have to admit you have proven the following; that the Bible is true, that the politically correct crowd is right, that Republicans are supremely intelligent and that comic book fans are the peak of maturity.

New Rule: If you've found comic books in supermarkets next to Pokemon cards, please tell me where shop. My kids are nuts about Pokemon cards and I like comics- it's a win-win. More to the point, comics haven't been sold in supermarkets since the mid-90s. This store you've seen them in? It's like Atlantis or an episode of Real Talk where you make a new joke.

New Rule: You need to look up the history of theater and novels before saying that nobody looked down on writers from either medium. Shakespeare wrote what people at the time considered populist trash. The theater was a place you went because you thought watching someone harass a bear was too fancy for your tastes. Novels were thought to be fanciful wastes of time when the truly mature were busy reading poetry. It's not a stretch to think that that there was a time when cavemen were complaining that "UG WASTE TIME ON CAVE PAINTING! SHOULD LISTEN TO ORAL TRADITION WITH NO PICTURES LIKE ADULT!"

And finally, New Rule: If you judge people's intelligence or maturity based on their hobbies, stop. Comic readers are teachers, professors, scientists and lawyers. They're not the uneducated buffoons you imagine them to be.  They read widely- yes, even "real literature"; Shakespeare, Austin, Orwell. They raise families. They contribute to their community. And you want to rate them as childish because they read stuff you don't like?

There's a bigger problem here. I'm a teacher of high school English. Getting young people to read anything is a chore. I'd earn twice my paycheck if I had a dollar for every "I'm reading facebook posts, sir. That counts!" You know what appeals to these kids? Trash books. Comics, YA, stupid stories about the day their bum went psycho. I'll let you in on a little secret, Bill: you tell these kids not to read their favourite trash and their response isn't "Oh, well. Hemmingway it is, then." It's "If I can't read what I like, then I won't read." Reading comics is still reading. ANY reading builds literacy if it takes longer than three seconds. Don't blame a newborn for not being ready to walk out of the womb and don't be mad when non-readers pick up a comic instead of War and Peace- if you do, they'll likely never reach that point.

I started reading comics at age 25. It was an age when I realised that I was already mature enough. I realised it because I realised that maturity was about personal responsibility and I was raising a daughter and working to support her and my wife. It was about owning my mistakes and working to do better. It was about treating serious moments with the seriousness they deserve, and I found myself dealing with students who had been abuse victims in serious need of support in their schooling. And when I realised these things I realised something else: I don't need to PROVE my maturity to anyone. I know I'm mature and and people who want to say otherwise based on what I do with my downtime can find a very large cliff, look for the part with the most jagged rocks, strip naked and jump head-first. Adults do not need to pass your inspection, Bill. And I'm not going to take seriously the opinion of anyone who makes masturbation jokes on national television when it comes to which one of us needs to grow up.


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