Captain America Isn’t Bi or a Nazi, He’s Just God

I don’t think I need to convince you that comic book heroes are our modern gods. Superman has a definite Jesus thing going on. Characters like Storm and The Black Panther form the centers of in-canon religions. Thor is literally a norse god. If I had a nickel for every time a comic book writer tried to ram the “these men and women are our modern gods but oh how fallible they are” trope down our throats, I would have enough money to purchase one, maybe two additional comic books. But there is one sticking point in the comparison between these modern gods and those ancient ones: if comic book heroes really are gods, why aren’t we worshipping them? Well, we are, and in much the same ways that the Greeks did. Check it out:

Every year, the Ancient Greeks got super hyped for a festival called the Dyonisia. How it worked was a select few playwrights would be chosen to write plays for everyone to watch. These plays couldn’t be about just anything – they had to be based on established mythological stories about existing mythological characters. Stuff like the Oerestes, or Oedipus Rex, or Philoctetes – good wholesome stories about royalty fucking each other to death. The Dyonisia was a religious festival after all, even if the god it was dedicated to was probably too fucked up to care.

These plays were a big deal. Getting selected to write, act, or direct for the Dyonisia was the height of most artists’ careers. Mega-rich patrons contributed ludicrous sums to pay for the costumes, props and effects that wowed the drunk-as-shit audiences every year.

Do I need to spell the parallel out for you? Okay, fine. Comic book movies are the modern Dyonisia. Mega-rich studios draft legendary artists like Joss Whedon and Robert Downey Jr. to produce wildly entertaining theatrical clusterfucks based on established superheroes and existing superhero stories.

It’s no accident that some heroes are getting more movie love than others. For Marvel, it’s Captain America and Iron Man. For DC, it’s Batman and Superman. This was true long before comic book movies were even a thing. For reasons that are probably too complicated to understand, something about these heroes has resonated with audiences almost since their creation, causing them to be passed lovingly from artist to artist as their stories are told and retold. Movies, though, seriously amplify this focus, bringing the characters and their canons to viewers who would never have followed them in their original format. Basically, the characters who get the most movies made about them are the ones that will survive in the popular imagination.

I’d argue that we see the exact same process going on in ancient religions. What we view as the definitive versions of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology (just to name three that have been widely translated into English) are really the result of an ages-long culture war between minor local gods. Greece, especially, was a loose collection of city-states, all with their own favorite gods and customs, who all kind of fucking hated each other, and what ended up becoming “Greek Mythology” was decided through a combination of war, politics, and pop culture. Diana, for example, is said to have been the central divinity in an early Greek goddess cult, but her inclusion in “Greek mythology” lead to her being sidelined and subordinated in a male-dominated pantheon.

An even clearer example of how this works: Grimm’s fairytales are not the only fairytales German parents used to scare the shit out of their children. As recent discoveries have shown, there are literally thousands of fairytales in the same tradition. Most of those were garbage, though, and Grimm’s curated collection has thus become the most widely circulated source for an entire area of folklore. And come to think of it, which Grimm’s tales do we actually remember? Oh, just the ones that were made into movies by Disney. Disney, which now owns Marvel Studios. I better hurry up and finish this post, because it’s kind of dangerous to type when you are so on fire.

So you’re probably thinking “Okay, your amazing words have convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that comic book movies are the new mythology, and also you are handsome and I want to smooch you. But so what? What makes this different from any other hot take on a comic book movie?” Well first of all, thank you for telling me I’m handsome. That’s just the kind of self-esteem boost I needed. But secondly, this isn’t an article about comic book movies. I’m not saying they’re good or bad, or that you should see them or not (personally I think they are all uniformly garbage, but I’m also a huge asshole). I’m saying that the characters in these movies are more than characters now. To many of us, these heroes are living people with the capacity to arouse deep feelings in us. And that’s not far from worship. Not far at all.

This is why people get so mad when writers try to drastically change the characters, or when something is perceived as “non-canon.” This is what motivated a bunch of angry straight dudes to try to shout down #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend. Weirdly, I think it’s also what led to people getting so angry when Captain America was revealed to be a deep cover Hydra operative a few days later. These characters no longer truly belong to the writers who are writing their stories. They exist independent of their individual fictions. In our minds, many of their traits are already set in stone.

It’s more than that, though. We care about the continuity of these characters because in some ways we identify with them, aspire to be them. Insecure straight guys don’t want to identify with a bisexual Captain America, and people who don’t like racism don’t want to identify with a Captain America who is a nazi. No matter how much we talk about wanting the characters to reflect the times, or to explore new story arcs, there is a part of us that wants the thing we are worshipping to be predictable, to stay the same.

This is why we have religions, after all – to make an unpredictable world feel more predictable. And it’s why polytheism has been especially tenacious: sometimes you need different gods like you need different music. Even Jesus only acts like Superman some of the time. Put some moneylenders in a church, and suddenly dude is all Hulked out. Comic book movies give us all the comforts of polytheism without demanding we convert. Iron Man is the patron saint of startup culture. Deadpool is the patron saint of twelve-year-old boys. Superman is the patron saint of being an asshole. There’s an aspirational character for everyone, unless you’re gay or asian or a woman who doesn’t like Black Widow. And this isn’t anything new – this is exactly what Disney did with all its princesses a few decades ago. The movie pantheon will never die, and we don’t even need to sacrifice one goat. Twelve dollars a head is all the offering these gods demand.

So what I’m saying is, first of all, pay attention to the superheroes you love, and what you love about them. It probably says more about your aspirations than you’d like to admit. Our favorite superheroes as a culture also reflect our culture’s values, and changing those superheroes really does have the power to alter our culture, silly as it may seem. Third, don’t you fucking dare pretend to be a rational being. Ba’al, Belle, or Batman, we all worship gods of one kind or another.

The Bible Took Out All the Coolest Shit About Solomon

Okay so this is the time of the month
where I tell a myth from a mythos recommended by my patreon backers
and this month I’m supposed to tell a story about like
Solomon or David or Saul
from the book of Samuel or the book of kings
or really anything judeochristian
but I started thinking
why are we always talking about “judeochristian” shit
and leaving out muslim shit?
like, isn’t muslim shit part of the same tradition?
isn’t the Qur’an the third book in the Monotheism Trilogy?
seriously, why aren’t we talking about “judeochristimuslim” mythology?
is it because that’s a super awkward portmanteu
or is this some more white people shit?
it’s definitely NOT because the Qur’an is boring
do you realize
there are fucking GENIES in the Qur’an???
AND talking animals
AND all your favorite characters from the first two books
like David and Solomon

Now I know there are a lot of Solomon fans out there
so I’m bracing myself for a torrent of hatemail when I say:
Old Testament Solomon is kind of a boring chump.
Like, he threatens to chop ONE baby in half
and granted that’s pretty cool
but Old Testament god is routinely murdering HUNDREDS of babies at a go
he turns an entire city of people to slag for being gays
the bar for weird violence is pretty high is what I’m saying.
Other than that baby thing, Solomon is pretty skippable
he builds a temple
he has an army
the queen of sheba seems to think he’s pretty cool
but we don’t even get to see them bone

MEANWHILE, over in the Qur’an
Solomon is a fucking boss
he can control the wind
he can talk to animals
he’s got genies on the fucking payroll
because oh yeah did I mention
and all of this is because
(as the Old Testament will confirm)
when Solomon became king
God came up to him and was like “yo
I was friends with your dad
So I will give you any superpower you want
what superpower you want”
and Solomon is like “How about SUPER-WISDOM
so that I can always be a JUST AND RIGHTEOUS KING”
and God is like “WHAT A DOPE ANSWER

And Solomon is truly very wise
even before he gets god-wisdom
like one time, Solomon and his dad are hanging out
and these two dudes come up to them
and one of them is like “That dude’s goats ate my vineyard
make him fix it”
and the other dude is like “nuh uh”
and Solomon’s first instinct is to chop the goats in half
but he thinks about it for a second
and then he’s like “okay check it out
vineyard dude, you own the goats now
and goat dude, you own the vineyard now
this will continue until the vineyard is fixed
now would someone please hurry up and invent the microphone
because I need to drop it.”
and everyone is like OH SHIT SUCH JUSTICE

And he is a genuinely nice dude too
like you know how he can understand animals?
well one time he’s about to step on some ants
and the ants are like “OH FUCK IT’S KING SOLOMON’S FOOT
and Solomon hears them and he’s like “Oh damn
better watch were I step”
and then he walks carefully for the REST OF HIS LIFE

Oh yeah and then later he dies
but he dies standing up, in front of all his genies and shit
and he is so full of fucking gravitas
he just stays standing
and everybody thinks he is just taking a really long dramatic pause
until god sends a termite to eat his staff
and he falls down
and everyone learns a valuable lesson about stroke awareness.

So the moral of the story
is why don’t they sell embossed boxed sets
of the Torah/New Testament/Qur’an
I would buy the hell out of that

the end

Starfish is a Bad Friend

So I stumbled across this collection of Aboriginal tales last week
and while the introduction wins the H.P. Lovecraft Prize for Casual Racism
(Which is something I want to talk about in a later post)
I like these stories
so I am going to tell at least one more
it is about how friendship is bullshit.

Okay so way back in the day
before factory farming and sportfishing
all the animals are people
I mean like actual human people but just with animal names
i think this is taking the “animals can talk and do math” conceit TOO FAR
but whatever I’m not writing this story I’m just retelling it
if the original tellers of this story want to turn all of nature
into one mass of quivering human flesh
constantly resorting to cannibalism
for lack of any other protein source
i mean hey why not make all the plants human too
naked humans loping around on all fours
nibbling succulent bouquets of fingers sprouting from the earth

These animals have heard of a place called Australia
no idea where they reside currently
but wherever it is, it sucks and Australia sounds better
so they all decide to go there
but they need a boat
and only one of them owns a boat that is big enough:
Whale is a real dickhole though
he’s that kid from kindergarten
whose parents bought him one of those little electric jeeps
and he wouldn’t let you ride in it when you came over
even though he had access to it literally ALL THE TIME
and you didn’t because your parents were socialists
but he didn’t care and he would just ride it around in front of you
laughing like the pompous little shit he was
but then you went on to start a popular mythology website

anyway the whale won’t let anyone share his canoe
so all the other “animals” get together to figure out what to do
they’re like “shit, how are we gonna get Whale’s boat?
I mean let’s be realistic
we’re not going to build our own boat
not like we all have human bodies
with thumbs and highly developed brains
which would easily allow us to construct an even better boat
stealing is the only option
and that’s when Starfish speaks up

Now Starfish is Whale’s best friend
which i think speaks to how few friends Whale has
because Starfish is like “yo guys
I am 100% willing to betray my best friend so you can steal his boat
Here is my plan:
I will distract him
and you will steal his boat.”
and the other “animals” are like “How are you gonna distract him”
and the starfish is like “You leave that to me”

So Starfish goes to Whale and he’s like “Yo man
your hair is full of vermin
let’ me get out the vermin for you
I don’t mind touching gross shit.
I’m friends with you, after all.”
and Whale
who has to take whatever friendship he can get
is like “Sure fine clean my hair.”
So starfish sits him down facing away from his boat
and he starts digging lice out of Whale’s hair
and telling him funny stories
and scratching around his ears
to keep him from hearing his boat being stolen
and every once in a while Whale will be like “wait, my boat
is my boat ok? do you see it?”
and Starfish just bangs a piece of wood he found against a rock
and Whale is like “yes of course
I trust you because you are my friend and you have no reason to lie”
but finally he gets a little suspicious
and he turns around
and sees EVERY OTHER ANIMAL stealing his boat
and that’s what he does
he beats the everloving crap out of his treacherous friend
who only manages to poke a hole in the top of his head
before slithering away to hide in the sand
and that’s why
starfish always look raggedy as hell
and also why they hide in the sand

so then whale
with a big hole in his head
jumps into the water and starts chasing the boat
blowing water out his head-hole
and the animals on the boat are freaking out
but Bear is like “Nah guys it’s cool
I’m comping all y’all’s tickets
and then he uses his massive arms
to row the boat way faster than Human!Whale can swim
and they get to australia
and then they throw a dance party in the boat
totally wrecking it
and turning it into an island
and then Whale finally shows up
to see that they fucked up his boat for no reason
and he can’t even go on land
i guess because he’s too angry
and that’s why
to this day
whales are a metaphor for singleminded ambition cruelly punished
and bears will fuck you up.

So the moral of the story
is that if you value your possessions
you shouldn’t have friends

The end.

The Seven Sisters is a Myth About Consent???

Yeah I know
what the fuck right
coming out of the veritable rape circus of greek mythology
it’s hard to imagine any myths having like
a positive attitude about women saying no to sex
but here we are
in this Aboriginal story
about to learn what the fuck “no” means.

So there are these seven ice queens who live in space
ice queen here is not metaphorical
these ladies are literally made out of ice
which makes it weird how incredibly hot they all are
they are so hot that they are STARS
specifically the pleiades
and everybody wants to get with a star
so obviously these ladies are in demand
and since some people are assholes
bad shit is bound to happen

basically some cock-sergeant named Wurrunnah
through “a cunning device”
probably made of a bear trap and a fishing rod or something
manages to trap not one but two of the star ladies.
I don’t know why he needed two
I mean I guess I do know why
but still
seems greedy
anyway he gets them down to earth and then he realizes
that these ladies are made out of actual ice
and are thus totally unfuckable

so Wurrunnah does what any psychopath would do in this scenario
he builds a fire and tries to melt the ice off so he can have sex with them
but yo they are MADE OF ICE
so as they start to melt
their ice turns into water and puts out the fire
which means all Wurrunnah has managed to do
is make these ladies a little skinnier and lumpier
but he’s not giving up
because you gotta go full asshole, you know
so he sends them out to the forest to get pine bark for another fire
and the pine tree they go to is like YO
which is a thing I wish more trees would say to me
but anyway it works and they escape
still all fucked up from the fire
which is why two of the stars in the pleiades are dimmer than the others

there are two other dudes in love with the ladies
and these dudes are miraculously NOT assholes.
They are called the Berai Berai
or “Two Brothers”
anyway these dudes are super respectful
they’re always leaving offerings to the star ladies when they go hunting
and i don’t know
writing them poetry or some shit
anyway the ladies aren’t interested
probably because they don’t eat meat and no one likes poetry
so the Berai Berai never get to consummate their love
they just keep making offerings until they die

when the two brothers die the spirits take pity on them
so what do you think they do?
do they force two of the women to marry the two men?
maybe the two women who already got damaged by the fire
because like whatever???
they put the two brothers up in the sky
at a respectful distance
where they can enjoy the star ladies’ beautiful singing FOREVER
in fact
those dudes are what we refer to in the west
as Orion’s belt and Orion’s bow.
You might think it would be torture
to listen to the objects of your affection sing forever
but they seem to actually really enjoy it
plus they get to be stars

all of this goes to show
as I have said before
that it is totally cool to love someone from afar
for as long as you want
just as long as you are totally cool being miserable about it forever.

The end.