The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

It’s Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Superman Comes Out Of The Closet—The Moral Revolution Will Transform Everything. Even Comic Book Super Heroes

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the comic book character previously best known for coming out of the phone booth has now come out of the closet. Or is about to. And it’s not in this case, Clark Kent, AKA, Superman. It is rather the newer Superman, Jonathan Kent known as John Kent. Having been Superboy, he has now followed his father’s admonition to become yet another Superman. The son we are told of Clark Kent and Lois lane. This new Superman, John Kent, and the unfolding story in which he comes out of the closet. He will be kissing a love interest, another man, Jay Nakamura. Why are we talking about this? Believe it or not, this really is big news. And it tells us a lot about the transformation of our society and how that transformation will leave nothing, utterly, nothing unchanged.

But the announcement was made on Monday, National Coming Out Day we should note. It was made on the DC Superman Twitter feed. Here’s the statement. “Just like his father before him, John Kent has fallen for a reporter. Learn more about the story to come in Superman: Son of Kal-El number five.” The New York Times noted that this particular announcement marks a significant step for diversity in comics. But you also have statements coming right out of the artists who are behind this. For example, you have Tom Taylor, who’s the series writer. He said, “Today that symbol represents something more.” Speaking of Superman’s symbol, he said, “It’s always stood for hope, for truth and for justice.” He went on to say about this announcement, “Today, more people can see themselves in the most powerful superhero in comics.” One person responding on Twitter got to that point by stating quote, “DC is providing an inclusive environment. Representation matters.”

Well, representation in this sense is absolutely tied to the modern emergence of identity politics. Identity politics separates all political interests into different markers of identity. You can think of the letters LGBTQ as different dimensions or markers of that identity and every one of those identities and all the identities yet to come demand representation. The moral logic here, and it’s coming from the sexual revolutionaries and the new critical ideologies, it is inherent to identity politics. The new morality states if you do not represent us, you are making us invisible, you are denying our existence. You are an oppressor. DC Comics evidently wants to be known as liberator, not oppressor. And it is liberating the Superman storyline from the repressive bounds of heterosexuality.

George Gene Gustines reporting for the New York Times tells us, “Up, up and out of the closet, the new Superman, Jonathan Kent, who is the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane will soon begin a romantic relationship with a male friend.” The story goes on, “That same-sex relationship is just one of the ways that Jonathan Kent, who goes by John, is proving to be a different Superman than his famous father.” We are told later that Tom Taylor, the writer said, “The idea of replacing Clark Kent with another straight, white savior felt like a missed opportunity.” That’s an incredibly revealing statement because it is said as if readers of the New York Times and those who see that statement, those who saw the Twitter feed of DC Comics, those who hear this argument would say, oh, that makes perfect sense. That’s what this is all about. This is obviously the right thing to do. It would be wrong to replace Clark Kent with, “Another straight white savior.”

So there you see how identity politics and intersectionality come together. It’s the perfect brew in this case and what it leads to is an explosion of the moral revolution. I did not strategically intend to talk about a fictional character on the lead story on The Briefing today, but we’re not just talking about another fictional character. We’re talking about Superman. We’re talking about Superman and we’re talking about a comic book character identified as a super hero, that’s an entire genre, of course, in today’s popular culture. And we’re also talking about someone who has been a dominant character in America’s public conversation. We are talking about a cultural icon. But that icon is being transformed right before our eyes. We’re going to trace just a bit of the story today in order to understand that these transformations are not entirely new, although the transformation has now reached its epic point of having to change the sexual orientation or identity of Superman. Or at least add to the white, straight Superman, a not so straight Superman, a Superman who kisses another man.

Now, one of the things we need to note very clearly is that there is a certain storyline to all of this and it’s liberationists. It’s the idea that the past and that historical and conventional morality of the past, of course we know based upon a pre-existing Christian morality. The argument is that that’s repressive, it oppresses people. And thus, we have to liberate humanity from that oppressive morality. That’s reflected in this article in the New York Times where we are told, “It has been a steady evolution for an industry that had moved to censor itself in a number of ways after” this is a book written in 1954, by the psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, it was entitled Seduction of The Innocent. That book we are told, “Raised concerns about sex, gore and violence, and suggested a link between reading comics and juvenile delinquency.” In one section, and that’s a book from 1954 remember. In one section of that book Wertham pointed to Batman and Robin as, “A wish dream of two homosexuals living together.” Maybe you didn’t note that when the Batman storyline came out.

But when it comes to Superman, let’s just remind ourselves, we are not just talking about a fictional character, of course. And by the way, it’s interesting that when you look at the mainstream media coverage, there is an acknowledgement that Superman is a fictional character, but a lot of the language used in these news stories is as if he is a real life figure, talking about his evolution, talking about actions that he takes. Of course, this is a storyline. It is entirely invented by writers and depicted by artists and filmmakers. This isn’t real, but the moral change behind it is profoundly real. Now, when you’re thinking about Superman, go back to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the inventors of Superman back in 1938. Remember that he was supposedly a baby sent from the planet Krypton before it was destroyed.

He came to planet Earth. He was raised by human parents and then he came to know his superpowers and he deployed those superpowers for the cause of truth, justice and the American way. Superman has been an iconic figure in American popular culture because in many ways he represented a vision of America, especially in the 20th century, during the Cold War, it was America that stood for truth, and justice and the American way in the world. It was American influence, even American power. You’re talking in this case about a superhero who was in a very real sense, a symbol of an emerging world superpower: the United States of America. The American identity and the patriotic role of Superman was not incidental. It was central.

As a matter of fact, if you are into philosophical debates about superheroes and comic books, one of the enduring controversies is over which of the superheroes. And in this case, we’re talking about Superman and Captain America is the more patriotic. And many would argue that Superman wins, partly because he was on the scene with a dominant storyline about truth, and justice and the American way just as America was going into one of its most difficult periods and patriotic tests known as World War II. Just as after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union would enter into what is known as The Cold War, which was a massive war of world views and what Superman represented as truth, justice and the American way. Just think of those words, the American way. This was set over against the repressive communist ideology and the dictatorship, the totalitarian rule of the Soviet Union. But this meant that when you are looking at the character of Superman, you are looking at an idealized representation of the American man. That’s what Superman is. That’s who Superman was in terms of a fictional cartoon character.

And of course, Superman virtually from the beginning was wildly popular and successful as a franchise. And of course there were many boys who looked at the figure of Superman, not only with rapt attention, but they saw themselves wanting to be Superman. Superman was an aspirational figure. Now he had like so many of the comic book characters, just a little bit of the dark side. He was often overly violent, and at times his relationship with the government was not always so clear. But nonetheless, he was a great symbol of American values and of American patriotism. Truth, justice and the American way. But you will note that in the toxins of the transformation of the current moral revolution, all has to be now redefined, all has to be transformed. Everything now has to be reconceptualized and redepicted in lines with the new moral code, the new moral urgency, the LGBTQ revolution, and frankly, all that goes with it, with intersectionality and identity politics.

Clark Kent is so old school. He now represents repression rather than liberation. In order to save the franchise for the future, the Superman storyline is going to have to be retold, reconceptualized, redrawn. And whereas the fictional relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, between Superman and Lois Lane had been one of the romantic storylines of America’s popular culture for decades, the new storyline isn’t about Superman and a woman. It’s about Superman and another man. The only commonality is going to be the outfit and the fact that the love interest is a reporter.

Some fascinating statements have come in the emergence of this story. The New York Times acknowledges, “Though Superman is not the first LGBTQ hero and will not be the last comics expert said there was something particularly momentous about Superman coming out.” One of the most interesting statements was made by Glen Weldon, author of a book entitled Superman: The Unauthorized Biography.

He is also co-host of the Pop Culture Happy Hour on National Public Radio. Glen Weldon said of Superman, “It’s not Northstar who your aunt has never heard of. It’s not Hulking. It’s not Wiccan. It’s not Fire and Ice. It’s not Tasmanian Devil. It’s Superman. And that counts for something just in terms of visibility, just in terms of the fact that this is going to attract attention.” So taking this statement literally, even your aunt knows who Superman is and your aunt is likely to notice that Superman is now kissing a man. The New York Times article quotes with another statement by writer, Tom Taylor. He said, “I’ve always said everyone needs heroes and they deserve to see themselves in their heroes. For so many people, having the strongest superhero in comics come out is incredibly powerful.”

The key word there, I want us to think about is everyone. Everyone deserves representation. Everyone deserves a superhero of everyone’s own profile and particular identity. Everyone. How many everyones are there? How many comic book characters are going to have to come out or come through some transformation? Or for that matter, keep coming out, going back in, coming out, going back in, coming out as an endless permutation of identities. Everyone, Mr. Taylor means everyone. Stay tuned.

Part II

The Ideology Behind the Bisexual Superman—It Can Change Characters But It Can’t Reverse Creation

An interesting commentary on this news came at CNN in an article by Noah Berlatsky. He’s the author of a book about the comic book character Wonder Woman. I’m not going to read the rest of the title. Just trust me on this. It’s about the sexuality of wonder woman, but in the article published by CNN about the development concerning Superman, he says, “A bisexual Superman is an important step for LGBTQ representation. It’s also a sign of how recognizing that there are options other than heterosexuality can change superhero preconceptions about goodness, masculinity and empowerment.” Again, those are the buzzwords of the current contemporary critical theory.

But what you need to note is the fact that we are told that this is good news, that showing that Superman has options other than heterosexuality and just consider morally what that means. That that particular fact can change superhero preconceptions about goodness. Notice, goodness. Notice the morality of the argument here. Superman is good. So if you’re talking about a new storyline for a new Superman and is bisexual, the claim is that’s good. If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.

But then the next word is masculinity. It’s going to be very interesting to see how successful this might or might not be. I’m going to go ahead and suggest that changing conceptions of masculinity turns out to be a lot harder than even the engines of popular culture have been able to accomplish. And what we need to note, and we’ll be seeing this on another story just moments away. What we need to note is that it tells us something about the persistence of the very pattern of creation, that changing that kind of conception about the difference between men and women, it’s harder even than those industrial titans of popular culture have been able to change. But masculinity, nonetheless, it’s at the center of the target and then of course empowerment.

But by the way, the other point in this article by Noah Berlatsky is that there have been sexual, political, cultural themes written into the superhero storylines and even into the comic books back during the day when people were concerned that the primarily young male readership of comic books would trend into delinquency. It turns out that there was a lot more than just delinquency going on there. Some noted it, no doubt, but most probably did not. But now what was in the background is brought to the foreground. No one can miss it, not even your aunt.

But finally, on this story, it’s just important to recognize that those who are behind the metamorphosis of Superman intend for the Superman character to continue to be aspirational. That’s the point we need to note. Now cultural aspiration is bent towards a bisexual identity. That tells you a whole lot, probably more than you or your aunt wanted to know.

Part III

Virtue Signaling in the Toy Department As Lego Seeks To Build A Less Gendered World?

I told you there was a similar story coming and here it comes. This one is not about Superman. It’s not about comic books. It’s about toys specifically. It’s about Lego. Lego, as a company has been trying to be out in front of the rather liberal direction of our society for some time. But now Lego has made another announcement. This announcement also came on Monday as USA Today’s Wyatte Grantham-Philips reports, “Lego announced Monday, the company will work to remove gender stereotypes from its toys following a global study that looked into how creative play is gendered.”

Interesting these days, by the way that our language shows the effects of this kind of revolution. Now the word gender, which by the way, wasn’t used much in American popular language until very recently and that’s because of the LGBTQ revolution and the modern sexual theorists. But now gender, which was a noun is being turned into a verb, gendered. We are told that this follows a global study that looked into how creative play is gendered. The story goes on, “The research commissioned by the Lego group and carried out by the Gina Davis Institute on Gender in Media found attitudes towards children’s activities and future goals continue to be unequal and confined to gender biases.” We are told this study included about 7,000 parents and children ages 6 to 14 worldwide. The survey found that the majority of children, “Reported feeling confident in engaging in a wide range of activities, including those that have been historically gendered. But girls, we are told express this stronger than boys.”

Now I think parents and others will immediately recognize this is making common sense. We’re told that more girls than boys thought that girls should play with boys toys. Boys should play with girls toys. Boys weren’t so convinced. That’s the point. But here’s something else to note. As you are looking at this, you will note that the idea that there might be a difference is itself presented as wrong. That is wrongfully repressively, restrictively gendering, according to the new language and the new ideology. But the point made by Lego is that it is going to try to break down gender stereotypes in its presentation of its toys, such that the toys are no longer depicted in certain kinds of kits and certain kinds of projects as being primarily about boys or primarily about girls. But there’s a lot more to this story than the announcement from Lego had indicated.

For one thing, consider this. In its own investigation back in the year 2008, Lego discovered, now follow this, this is important. In 2008, that’s not ancient history. That’s just say 13 years ago, Lego discovered that 90% of its sets were purchased for boys. 90%. We’re not talking about anything close to 50% or parity. We’re talking about 90% were bought for boys. Now that tells you that there might be more to this than just the new sexual ideologies, because that means that just in crassly financial terms or in market terms, Lego is missing what might be a big market. But then again, it might not.

Another thing we need to recognize is that even as we are constantly told, we are bombarded with the message that gendering is oppression. The reality is boys do it and girls do it on their own. They don’t need pictures on the front of a Lego box to figure a lot of this out.

Now in the story about Superman and the transformation of that character, I pointed out that there was a zeroing in on efforts to try to liberate masculinity from previous conceptions. And I said, I don’t think that’s likely to work. I don’t think that’s likely to happen. It does tell us a lot that so many of the major figures in our culture think that it should happen. But when it comes to toys, I think there is a particular sense in which it’s not likely to happen. We’ve seen major department stores and major companies say that they intend to join the revolution by no longer offering designated toy sections for boys and girls. But my point is, boys and girls are going to figure that out. They’re still going to see a boys section and a girls section, regardless of what you do. And one of the reasons that that is likely to happen is not just because of some kind of cultural conditioning of an oppressive operant culture.

No, one of the reasons that’s going to happen is because anyone who knows boys and girls knows that there are differences that aren’t just cultural. And that comes out in the fact that when you have young children who are often not even in the same kind of predictable cultural context, they come to rather similar predictable choices when it comes to toys and play. Why is that? Well, for one thing, there is plenty of research to indicate that boys are more spatial. That is S-P-A-T-I-A-L, spatial, when it comes to choosing toys and choosing play, they tend to physically and evidently, intellectually to be very, very interested in spatial dimensionality. That is to say blocks and bricks and things that can be held and can be stacked upon one another. And then if you were a boy or you’ve ever watched a boy, the fun is not only building them up, but perhaps even more tearing them down, knocking them over.

It’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with girls doing the very same thing. And many girls will no doubt enjoy the same thing, but there are nonetheless very clear patterns. When it comes to young girls, there is a very clear indication of choice towards relational kinds of toys and relational kinds of play. That is something that is different. In other words, when you’re looking at many girls, you have, of course, a proclivity towards dolls, that’s been noted throughout cultures. Just look at any museum of ancient human history. And you’ll notice that dolls are a part of girlhood just about everywhere. And it is because of that kind of relational play, is very different than boys. Not to say it doesn’t happen with boys. There’s GI Joe, but nonetheless, it is still quite different. And by the way, GI Joe blows stuff up.

The USA Today story by the way, tells us that the study undertaken by the sponsorship of Lego that was published on Monday, “In recognition of the United Nations International Day of The Girl.” Also, we are told, “Marked the launch of a new Lego campaign called Ready For Girls,” which as written in a news release, “Celebrates girls who rebuild the world through creative problem solving.” Yeah, well, whatever. I’m just going to suggest that that is the kind of idea that is very unlikely to be on the mind of any child, any boy, any girl standing in a toy aisle. Sorry Lego, your moral revolution tells us more about you than about your customers.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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