Like most out and proud nerds, I am a fan of the superhero genre. I don’t always claim to understand its full scope and breadth, and I’m pretty damn picky about what parts of it I choose to pay attention to, but I am, as the kids say, here for it. The only problem I have with it is lack of a franchise that revolves around a legal-minded special counsel superhero who writes lengthy reports which are then cherry-picked by self-interested assholes in politics.
What’s that you say? Robert Mueller’s report can’t get superhero treatment? The justice system is not a crowd-pleasing major studio blockbuster? People who are fighting over whether or not Mueller’s is our era’s Batman or Joker are being silly?
To admit that would be tantamount to admitting that, first of all, legal norms and ethics are not necessarily shaped by the same forces that shape outrage mobs on Twitter.
Even more crucially, it is tantamount to admitting that what is lawful isn’t always what’s right (take a quick tour through oppressive legislation through the ages if you don’t believe me).
But most crucially, it is tantamount to admitting that a single person can’t save us, though, as both public and private life is paradoxical, we must all still do our part, as individuals and as a collective.
“Whoa,” you’re saying right now, after taking a huge drag of your blunt/juul/cigarette of choice, “This shit is a bit heavy for a biweekly satire column that usually talks about sentient wigs and whether or not Stephen Miller is actually a velociraptor. What the fuck, Natalia.”
Don’t worry, I have you covered. For one thing, I went to college with Stephen Miller, and there is definitely a wealth of evidence backing up my hypothesis that he is secretly a velociraptor. I have some stories about his reptilian stare. I have even more stories about the fact that, much like a murderous lizard that keeps testing an electric fence, Miller is testing our democracy. Hit me up about that anytime.
I am also completely certain that wigs can be sentient and can, furthermore, be the locus of great evil. In pop culture, they always take the easy way out when it comes to objects that are haunted by demonic presences — it’s always dolls with giant eyes, or some other reference to Freud’s theories about the uncanny. Why can’t a fucking wig be the star of its own horror movie? Approach Jordan Peele about it, there’s an innovator who can make unexpected creative choices.
Most importantly, I can’t avoid writing satire, simply because we are all living in a satire. It’s a joke — a dark one, but still a joke — that even as millions of people in this country are in thrall to evangelicals touting a scenario in which the end of the world is brought about by teaching science and letting transgender people go about their lives in peace, the “savior” that they pray to is a guy who pays hush money to porn stars and humiliates the very institutions that white conservatives tend to so fervently believe in. Honestly, if I pitched this story a decade ago, people would say it was too unrealistic, too niche, or too “genre-dependent,” the genre being psychedelic science fiction in the vein of Victor Pelevin.
And yet, this is our reality. Here we are, fighting over what the Mueller report really means, while brown-shirts working for the government steal immigrant children from their parents. Here we are, no longer an audience to reality TV as much as living out reality TV subplots whether the cameras are running or not.
To be perfectly honest, in this timeline, special counsel Robert Mueller is still a superhero. Not because he can realign the wobbling gears of our crisis-laden democracy, oh no. Don’t put that evil on him, Ricky Bobby, the man has enough crap to deal with as it is.
Robert Mueller is a superhero because it is in his power to make us face the truth. Facing the truth is rarely some kind of noble, photogenic exercise. We’ve all had those moments in our lives, when the way things happened was unexpected, and yet in the back of our heads, we were going, “I see now — this is the only way it could be.” Donna Tartt makes a compelling argument about this in The Secret History, always a good book to re-read if you don’t want to retreat from the world as much as reassess it.
If I could pick a superhero name for Mueller, it would be The Plot Twist That Isn’t Entertaining But Is The Only One That Is Appropriate Man. Wait, that makes me sound like too much of a writer’s writer.
Call him the No Bullshit Man, and be done with it.
And hey, by the way, we should all be able to read that report.
Photo: Mike Maguire