In a local games forum online, I posted my puzzlement over recent references to Jordan Peterson in Marvel’s Captain America, asking “Why the heck has Marvel depicted their WWII Nazi villain Red Skull using the style of a noted anti-Nazi?”
My confusion apparently echoed Peterson’s own, who said “Do I really live in a universe where Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a Captain America comic featuring a parody of my ideas as part of the philosophy of the arch villain Red Skull?” (2)
And our confusion is by no means unreasonable given a simple reading of Peterson’s consistent and unequivocal opposition to the far-right generally, and to Nazi-ism.
It’s also doubly strange to have the Red Skull character parody Peterson’s book ‘12 Rules for Life’ given it’s littered with lines like this: “You have learned from the Soviets and the Nazis and the Maoists – and from your own experience, that being totalitarian is a bad thing” (1)
However, despite this and his online university lectures that express the same sentiment, some claim that Peterson is not only an apologist for Far Right extremists, but that he is an actual nazi! For example this article by writer Chelsea Steiner who responds to Peterson’s Tweet as follows:
“He [Peterson] is clearly shocked that spouting hateful Nazi rhetoric on YouTube for years has resulted in him being parodied as a (wait for it) hateful Nazi on YouTube.” (3)
The article’s not entirely honest, for example characterising Peterson’s reaction as ‘furious’ when he was demonstrably incredulous and amused enough to have T-shirts printed for charity.
Nonetheless, as incredulous as he and his many readers may be, it’s fair to say that the parody does make sense to that writer and others too.
Myself, the only thing I have to say is if you want to characterise an outspoken opponent of something as an advocate of the thing they’re opposing, you’ll at least need to jump through some fascinating semantic hoops.
So whatever else we say about Marvel’s writers, we can’t accuse them of lacking ambition!
Slowburner, April 2021
(1) 12 Rules For Life, Chapter 6