Bill Maher has been perceived to be a stalwart opponent of political correctness and the prevailing discourse since first making waves as the host of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher in the early 1990s. Known to be a counter-cultural contrarian — famous for railing against the prevailing wisdom of the day — Maher would be no stranger to controversy throughout his decades-long tenure as a popular cultural critic.
A man that was once known for his incisive commentary on matters ranging from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the spread of radical Islam across the globe has reduced himself to pithily criticizing competing personalities — particularly dead ones that cannot fight back, as evidenced by his two most recent scandals.
In a recent post made to his own Real Time With Bill Maher blog on November 17, Maher lays out a short screed dismissing the public outpouring of grief over the death of cartoonist — and Marvel progenitor — Stan Lee.
“The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess.”
Such an edgy lede surely goes on to elaborate an intellectual position, right? Not so, as Maher continues down this trite avenue, delineating — subjectively, of course — his own beliefs as to why Stan Lee’s life, and body of work, fails to register as important in the grand scheme of things.
“Now, I have nothing against comic books – I read them now and then when I was a kid and I was all out of Hardy Boys. But the assumption everyone had back then, both the adults and the kids, was that comics were for kids, and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy books without the pictures.”
Other than gesturing towards the “old man shouts at cloud” memetic sentiment as popularized first, and ironically, by animated comedy The Simpsons, Maher adds little value to the discussion surrounding Lee’s death. Casting aspersions at the predictable rogue’s gallery of cultural elitism as constituted by postmodernist studies into graphic novels — and conflating it with a failure of any generation that followed his to “do grown-up things” — Maher has, perhaps ironically and unbeknownst to himself, become the stereotypical crank. He has become the embodiment of the archetypal holier-than-thou moralist who proclaims that — back in his day — things were done not just different, but better.
Maher does caveat his stance with a brief admission that the “average Joe is smarter in a lot of ways than he was in, say, the 1940s, when a big night out was a Three Stooges short and a Carmen Miranda musical,” which is, in and of itself, a snobbish and insular historically revisionist way of understanding the intelligence of men and women of that era. It is, however, his rank dismissal of the value of creative works with which he does not personally identify that shows a bull-headed narrow-mindedness.
Maher closes, as is popular amongst the literati these days, with a snide aside at President Trump — saying that “Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.”
Firstly, it is unlikely that most popular culture consumers are Trump voters or supporters. The vast majority of mainstream media narrative on Trump is overwhelming and oppressively negative. Fully 90 percent of the media coverage of Donald Trump is consistently negative over time, the Washington Times reports.
Secondly, while Donald Trump has made many cameos within the brightly-colored pages of comic book offerings, he has been beheaded in many of them — as Vulture points out.
This is not to say that there are not any Trump supporters who read comic books or who participate in the media — such a statement is a statistical impossibility considering how many people voted for the current president — but rather that Maher misses the mark by a ridiculously wide margin here.
Maher has also recently made headlines for his bitter remarks towards Republican Senator Lindsey Graham during the controversial hearings in support of the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Angering many when he made homophobic references to Graham being “familiar” with the “back door,” per the Inquisitr, Maher would go on to make even more degrading comments towards Graham — and his late lifelong friend in John McCain.
“The fact that Trump can either find people like him or make him … Lindsey Graham needs the stabilizing influence of his dead boyfriend.”
For Maher, a man that — during his early career at least — purported to be a libertarian with populist inclinations, it seems that he has grown all the more elitist and out of touch with the common man in the intervening years. Mocking the sincere and apolitical grief with which fans of a cultural icon wrestled — in addition to pettily throwing partisan elbows at a bipartisan friendship that had come to an end due to terminal cancer — it looks like it might finally be time for Maher to put down the microphone and retire.
Mr. Maher might consider letting today’s generation of blue-collar comics puncture the bubble of political correctness, as the current president is so wont to do. Trump’s voters consider him to be a staunch opponent of political correctness, as Reason reports.
Why is it, then, that a man that once emblematically stood against the forces of popular narratives and politically correct prose now finds himself taking cheap shots from behind the cover of major networks? Why is it, then, that a man that once railed against the dogmatic nature of religious echo chambers now finds himself repeating the same tired lines that every other television talking head is uttering — just louder, more brashly, and with less investment?
Bill Maher has become a shadow of his former self — and perhaps worst of all, a hypocrite by his own once-rigorous standards. He now parrots the popular political narrative rather than incisively criticize it, or reflect it.
Laziness and conformity ill befits a self-proclaimed social gadfly. Socrates drank the hemlock, despite being in the right. Will Bill Maher show the courage to retire when he is in the wrong?