Reason Cameos Around Town


Mark Steyn is souring on superhero films. His column is largely a lament — already familiar if you follow the right-wing press — that Hollywood doesn't make movies with Islamofalangist villains. But along the way, Steyn notices a little something I wrote in Reason:

Recently, in Reason magazine, Jesse Walker mocked me for claiming to have detected Bush Doctrine subtexts in the first Spider-Man movie while entirely missing the masturbatory metaphor. Well, I saw Spidey in 2002, the day after visiting the World Trade Center site on what was the last chance to see it "as is," before the authorities closed it for redevelopment (if that's the right word for a decade of bureaucratic sclerosis). So perhaps my emotional compass was pointing elsewhere. I thought Spidey's big-screen debut made a case for Bush-style pre-emption in that "the men who killed his Uncle Ben were small-time crooks Peter could have stopped earlier but chose not to." On the other hand, apropos his uncle's famous advice to Peter Parker–"With great power comes great responsibility"–I seem to recall my colleague Paul Wells defending Jean Chrétien's 9/11 anniversary plea for the Americans to "be nice" to foreigners as simply a Shawinigan variation on Uncle Ben: "Wid da great power come da great responsibilities."

Who's right? Me? Wells? Both? Neither? Well, it's seven years on, and I can't remember a thing about the movie except Kirsten Dunst's clinging shirt in one rain-sodden scene. Mr. Walker is right that too many of us went looking for messages in the superheroics, and seized too eagerly on the slim pickings. As he says, the superhero genre has a "philosophical flexibility." Spider-Man himself compared biceps with Don Rumsfeld on stage as part of some Pentagon war promotion. But in January he was trading fist bumps with Barack Obama in a presidential inaugural special. Boy sidekick to Rummy, arachnid ivory to Obamessiah ebony: which is the real Spider-Man?

I don't think Steyn received the exact message I was trying to transmit. But it's an honor just to be nominated.