Bruce Wayne / Batman

20120408-200428.jpgGrowing up, Bruce Wayne was an attractive young man. With the frame of a sprinter, and a chiseled jawline that would make a Romney son jealous, Wayne couldn’t help but draw the attention of both females and males alike.

And secretly he loved it. He loved it when the girl at the counter would bat her eyelids at him, or when the man in the stall next to him would take a sideways glance that pushed the boundaries of acceptable male heterosexual urinal relations.

Sometimes, long after Alfred had turned in for the night, Bruce would stand in front of his full-length gilded mirror and stare at himself for hours: neglecting to ask introspective questions about the death of his parents, instead distracted by the raw power and rippled lines of his hard, male physique.

He soon realised that good looks and fortune couldn’t bring happiness, beginning a lifelong quest for answers. The obvious place to start was the death of his parents, reflecting his belief that the family unit was key to a stable society.

Through his investigations, he began to build a political consciousness. The state had failed his parents and now it was failing millions of other Americans by squandering money on inept policing and failed social policies that were destroying traditional notions of the family. And how was Gotham’s over-inflated bureaucracy paying for this? By saddling successful businesses like Wayne Enterprises with an ever-growing list of company taxes.

He decided that the only way to fix things was to do it himself. So he stitched together his first batsuit and donated to the Gotham City Republicans, beginning a relationship with the G.O.P that would last to this day.

However, while Wayne was happy to influence politics indirectly, he never contemplated running himself. As an introvert, the idea terrified him – too many unanswered questions remained about his identity to risk the day-in-day-out scrutiny of the 24-hour news cycle.

Hints of the truth would surface over time – through his alter-ego Batman. As Batman grew to love the feel of rubber against his skin, so did Wayne. As Batman began mentoring a young Robin, Wayne found himself appreciating more and more the youthful vitality and teenage bravado that the boy brought to his life.

But instead of embracing the truth, Wayne ran from it.

He poured his attention into Wayne Enterprises and strengthened his ties to extremist elements of the Republican Party. He would host lavish fundraisers, espousing homophobic diatribes to any Party powerbrokers who would listen. Later, as the Dark Knight, he would don his batsuit and vent his frustrations through ugly acts of violence towards downtrodden “criminals” before returning home to drown his sorrows.

This year Wayne Enterprises’ Super PAC has been campaigning strongly for Rick Santorum, under directions from Bruce Wayne himself, who sees the Pennsylvanian as the best hope of advancing his pro-family, anti-gay agenda.

But even if Santorum was to secure the Republican nomination – and eventually the presidency – deep down Wayne knows that his sense of unease would linger. For no matter how many gay marriages Santorum prevents, or how many criminals Batman apprehends, the true cause of Bruce Wayne’s unhappiness remains unresolved…

Bruce Wayne / Batman

Jessica Fletcher

Cabot Cove, Maine, USA.

High salaries, self-funded retirees and economic comfort.

A strong social conscience and a history of liberalism.

A town in crisis.

While the 80s and 90s saw the federal and state governments wage a hard line war on drugs in big cities and focus on cleaning up violent crime, the people of Cabot Cove suffered. This sleepy little fishing village with a population of 3,500 had a murder rate higher than Johannesburg – with more 2% of the populace falling victim to foul play.

This is a story about a town, its social problems, and its saviour: Jessica Beatrice Fletcher.

Fletcher began life teaching at Cabot Cove High. It was there that her disillusionment with the government began. Funding was down, students were going without what they needed, and teachers like her were left without the means to educate.

She frequently dipped into her own pockets to buy reading materials and lamented that her colleagues didn’t do the same. She was pro-community and felt frustrated by the lack of funding and intense bureaucracy she faced in trying to get any good done. Her vote for Carter in the 1978 Presidential race was the last time she would cast a vote for a Democrat for many, many years.

The 80s saw Fletcher’s economic circumstances change significantly. The success of her critically panned but best-selling novel, The Corpse Danced at Midnight, elevated her into a higher tax bracket. She welcomed the tax cuts from the Reagan administration, but still gave generously to charities supporting inner-city youth. “We need to do this,” she would often tell her good friend, Sherriff Amos Tupper, “because the government sure as hell will not help these kids out.”

It was her own motivation and disillusionment with government bodies that compelled Jessica to take matters into her own hands. Cabot Cove’s law enforcement and local government were at breaking point – with unlikely, isolated incident murders plaguing the community and causing confusion and widespread moral panic.

But complaining would get you nowhere, thought Fletcher. “Sometimes, we Americans have to roll up our sleeves, and get the job done,” she cried.  “If I see an opportunity to help out my community, I’m going to do it – I’m going to shoulder my burden. We don’t need the government to save us and we certainly don’t need their red tape to hold back the cleaning up of Cabot Cove.”

This is the attitude that made America what it is today… and the attitude that compelled Jessica Fletcher to solve 268 murder cases, armed only with her intuition, charm and matronly instincts.

In the mid-80s, Fletcher became associated with local political groups and began campaigning for local Republicans in Congress. Using her sizable network and celebrity to endorse candidates, she secured the election of several Republicans, always careful to stay away from the crazies and focus on good, fundamental centrists with their hearts in the right place.

She even stepped into the fray, answering the Governor’s call to fill in for an unfortunately deceased Congressman for a few weeks – such was her respect and pull in the local party. That was as close as she’d ever get to ins and outs of the machine, and her brief encounter with the inner machinations of Maine’s legislature left her as befuddled and cynical as ever.

Jessica Fletcher made the world a better place. She saw problems and she fixed them – consequences be damned. She was a Republican, an American and a hero, and the people of Cabot Cove salute her today.

Jessica Fletcher

A HWTV Christmas Special: The Grinch

Every Who down in Who-ville liked Obama a lot…

But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
Did NOT!

The Grinch hated Obama! The whole message of change!
Now, please don’t ask why – the reasons are strange.
It could be that he was a G.O.P. hack,
It could be that Obama’s skin was too black,
But I think the most likely reason to choose
Was the Grinch was addicted to watching Fox News.

But whatever the reason
For holding these views,
He stood there on election eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, chanting “Change we can believe”.

“He’s a Communist Muslim!” he snarled with a sneer.
“He’ll let gays get married – that’s my biggest fear!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch hairline rapidly thinning,
“I MUST find a way to stop him from winning!”

For, tomorrow, he knew,
All the dads and the mamas
Would line up at booths and then vote for Obama!
And if it was so that he won the election,
The smug liberal elites would have an erection.

And the more the Grinch thought of the Who liberal elite,
The more the Grinch thought: “They’re all fat welfare cheats!
Why, for fifty-three years I’ve owned a small business,
Now they’ll come along and want to tax Christmas!
I MUST stop Obama from claiming the post,
Or the U.S. economy will surely be toast!”

…But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!
A crazy idea!

“I know what to do!” The Grinch suddenly grinned,
And he made a quick website, a shirt and some pins.
And he chuckled and clucked, “My plan’s done! I’ll explain:
With these t-shirts and pins I’ll campaign for McCain!”

He loaded some bags
Full of pamphlets and fact sheets,
To hand out to voting Whos milling on main street.

The same sleigh that he’d used to steal kids’ Christmas stockings,
He rode down to Who-ville to start his door-knocking.

In Who-ville he handed out t-shirts and signs
That made fun of Democrats through short, witty lines.
On his blog he wrote pieces that blatantly lied
And made use of fear to bring voters on side:
“Voting yes for Obama would be a grave error:
With his Arabic name, he’d support Muslim terror!”

When voting day came
All the Whos made their choice.
All the Whos went to choose
Who would speak as their voice.

And when counting began,
The old Grinch watched in shock
As red states turned blue in a big solid block.
Both north Who and south Who, black purple and green Who,
Had voted the Democrats back into the White Whouse.

And the Grinch, watching Bill O’Reilly on TV,
Sat puzzling and puzzling: “Just how could this be?
He’d won with all races! He’d won with the old!
He’d won despite Biden not doing what was told!”
And he puzzled three hours, `til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“The economy is already rot to the core!
Obama will only serve one term, for sure!”

And what happened then…?

Well… in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s prediction
Came true on that day.
Despite promising change with the cry “Yes we can”,
The partisan senate blocked Obama’s plans.
From health care to climate change,  schools and the war,
Obama’s ideas mostly failed to become law.
But what hurt him the most was when banks did foreclose,
And while Whos lost their jobs, CEOs’ pay? It rose.
And as Occupy Wall Street became more of a movement,
The Grinch laughed to himself, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

A HWTV Christmas Special: The Grinch

Willie Tanner

Willie Tanner was a good man.

Who, after all, would take in an alien with a penchant for cats, no questions asked?

He was the product of a thriving, open, optimistic America. He was a man who could always see the good in people.

A social worker in the 1980s, Tanner had been on the frontline as America’s working poor grew and Reaganomics unleashed waves of deindustrialisation.

Despite his dislike of Reagan and the 1980s culture of excess, Tanner was no bleeding heart.  While he saw more and more people struggling, in some part of him, he could see a logic in what was happening to his country.

While Willie had always been on the left of the Democratic Party  – he’d campaigned for McGovern, supported Kennedy’s challenge to Carter in 1980, and was an early supporter of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988 – he was still pragmatic. He’d lived long enough to see times change, and he thought they would once a Democrat took the White House.

Yet, when the US Military’s abducted ALF and Willie’s best friend was never heard of again, Tanner was hit by a jolt. He came to see the 1980s not as an exception before another American rebirth, but as a newly entrenched norm.

For Tanner, the US Government’s treatment of ALF seemed to foreshadow a much wider attack on outsiders throughout the 1990s and into the new century.

As a social worker, he’d worked with the downtrodden all his life.  He’d seen how hard it was for migrants to make it in Reagan’s America. But when the false promise of Bill Clinton (who Tanner did vote for) proved to be exactly that, and Clinton signed into law Gingrich’s Welfare to Work legislation in the 1990s, Tanner broke with official politics in the United States and never looked back.

He could no longer tolerate the way the US Government treated its most downtrodden. And he could not tolerate the way a creeping xenophobia began to infiltrate the nation’s public life.

The social crisis echoed a personal one – after his wife Kate embarked on a torrid affair with longtime neighbor Mr Ochmonek, Tanner broke from his comfortable life as well.

So, Tanner left town and headed south, and spent the remainder of the 1990s and most of the 2000s on the Mexican border, ferrying migrants illegally across the Rio Grande. He couldn’t save ALF, his marriage, or the country at large, but he could aide Mexican workers as they sought a better life, echoing the refuge he gave an alien from Melmac nearly two decades before.

Sadly, as economic conditions in the US worsened, opportunistic politicians jumped on illegal immigration and whipped up racial resentment as a distraction to social plight. In the ensuing frenzy that erupted, Willie Tanner fell victim to a bullet from neo-fascist Minutemen.

He was attempting to bring a young mother and her son across the border.

He was denounced as a traitor in the right-wing media.

But Willie Tanner was a good man.

Willie Tanner

Marty and Jennifer McFly

Never a man of particularly subtle intellect, Marty McFly has nevertheless always demonstrated a certain acuteness of feeling.

And so when he zipped forward 30 years, from 1985 to 2015, he was at once thrilled by the America he saw around him: all that neon, the automatic zip-up boots, the flying cars, the hoverboard.

Yet at a deeper level – so deep he was barely conscious of it at first, and even in later years he has never really been able to, or had the desire to, articulate the feeling into anything as robust of a political philosophy – there was this gnawing sense of unease. Something about the consumerism, a claustrophobia brought on by all that advertising, would eventually trigger a longing in Marty for open spaces, for shrubbery, for national parks.

It was a longing that would eventually pitch him and girlfriend Jennifer sideways into the disjointed politics of America’s Green movement.

When they returned from their time travels, politics was the last thing on either Marty or Jennifer’s mind. As they set about building their lives, and eventually their family, in Hill Valley, the same Californian community their parents had called home, politics would remain a sideshow to them, something for other people to think about. Marty would vote for Reagan in ’88, largely because of family pressure from the cousins. Neither voted in ’92 or ’96, though Jennifer was tempted to cast for Clinton in the latter election because of the hypocrisy of the campaign against his sexual mores.

But 1996 saw both Marty and Jennifer have a political awakening of sorts, as a friend from their children’s school encouraged them to get involved in a local battle to save a rare species of frog, threatened by one of the many southern Californian housing developments that seemed to be springing up everywhere about them.

They had started on the fringes of the frog campaign, but by 1997 Marty and Jennifer were quickly finding more and more species to concern themselves with. Jennifer started cycling again, for ideological reasons this time. Marty sold his truck and began skateboarding to work. They took their holidays in Yosemite. And while they had started to become political – more political than the average American family – their politics were determinedly local. They voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, but not with any real expectation he could help. You could not look to Washington for answers, they thought. Families like the McFlys had to create a greener America for themselves.

Jennifer’s perspective started to broaden after the invasion of Iraq. You could not stop this injustice in the local scout hall, she thought. So she seriously considered becoming a human shield, and even went so far as to attend training courses in San Francisco. But Marty talked her out of it, and she was glad that he did. Disillusioned with national politics, they would remain resistant even to the charms of Barack Obama. They have not voted since 2000. But they are still finding more species to protect, and have recently begun pouring their energies into designing sustainable project homes.

Marty and Jennifer McFly

Luke Skywalker

Growing up under an anti-democratic, pan-galactic empire doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be politically aware. Luke Skywalker’s irregular life path is similarly matched by an irregular political evolution which reflects the tempestuousness of the world around him and his own singular personal narrative.

Like many sons of the agrarian lower-middle classes, Skywalker saw the armed forces as his ticket out of the family business and a life on the farm. He was staunchly pro-military, initially as an admirer of order and increasingly as an advocate of aggressive interplanetary foreign policy. With aspirations to transcend his social standing and exceed the wealth and success of his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, Ronald Reagan spoke to him, as he did to so many aspiring sons of the lower middle classes, keen to make their mark on the galaxy and make their dreams come true.

Skywalker’s dealings with alien races also bred in him a healthy cynicism of other ethnicities and cultures, making him a mild racist in early life. You might be too, if you were sold an R2 unit with a bad motivator on more than one occasion. As such, Skywalker’s early politics were very much centred on the right wing, championing a para-military protectionist approach that was, at best, white nationalist and, at worst, humanoid supremacist.

However, like many who ventured away from their rural roots toward the larger metropolis, his eyes were opened to cultural diversity in early adulthood. He learned to embrace this, particularly enjoying the vibrant cantinas of Mos Eisley and learning to trust and enjoy the cultural nuances of the citizens of Kashik and Endor. This –  as well as his discovery that humankind, and not sandpeople, had been responsible for the death of his surrogate parents – left the young Skywalker disillusioned and questioning the right-wing rhetoric he had previously championed. Skywalker voted Dukakis in 1988 as a flagrant rebellion against the politics of his youth.

Skywalker’s focus on religion changed his political outlook in general. The more he engaged with his spirituality, the more he rejected traditional political thought. After his second spell on Dagobah, Skywalker began looking closely at minor party candidates, but was disappointed by the atheist viewpoints of the left and the bombastic, oversimplification of the right. He voted Clinton in 1992 and then stayed away from the ballot box until 2004.

Having lived through several galactic wars, Skywalker was deeply concerned by the Bush Administration. He was awoken from his political slumber to vote for Kerry, a man who he empathised with as a veteran and as a man of leadership. He has since become an ardent student of the libertarian movement, and his cynicism for big government is only outweighed by his religious beliefs and insistence on judging political candidates based on their midi-chlorian count.

Luke Skywalker

Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable

The United States emerged from the Second World War as the world’s industrial powerhouse.

Effective full employment, strong manufacturing, social security and rising standards of living meant a lot of things.

It meant the beginning of the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s.

It meant an optimistic population, who elected optimistic, energised leaders.

And it meant jobs for African Americans.

This is the America that produced Doctor Cliff Huxtable.

American prosperity brought Huxtable to medical school.  It bought him his three-storey Brooklyn brownstone. It made him a respected member of the Brooklyn African-American community.

Huxtable’s politics were that of the northeastern African American elite — staunchly liberal Democrat, supportive of Carter, Jesse Jackson and Clinton. However, they took a rightward shift in the mid-nineties as the social crisis confronting African Americans in particular, and the United States in general, destroyed what remained of the mid-20th century liberal consensus.

Most men are unaware of the social forces, which, like waves on the sea, either lift them up or cause them to fall.  For a man who owed his social rise to the cleavages in the global economy a half century before, it was easier for Huxtable to think it was merely hard work which won him success. It was easy then for him to look at the social decay, rising unemployment and despair confronting inner-city African Americans and blame it all on the poor themselves.

Now in his seventies, Huxtable remains a staunch Democrat and in 2008, Obama proved a natural fit for his harder-edged views. Like the President, Huxtable’s politics stress personal responsibility and the supposed failure of absentee fathers for the social crisis.

Cliff Huxtable: just another man hemmed in by the limitations of American liberalism.

Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable