A few years ago on this blog, I re-evaluated some of Frank Miller’s work, set against his fervent, blind support of the Bush wars. Today, I read a vitriolic rant by Miller, posted at his blog, where he offers the following clumsy thesis—
The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.
Miller offers no evidence about how or why the OWS protesters will “harm America,” nor does he support his claim that the protests are “anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment.” Honestly, I can’t even tell if Miller is being sarcastic when he writes “blessed” to describe the First Amendment, which clearly states that the citizens of this country have a right to assemble. Most Americans support the OWS movement, or at least the spirit of the movement, even if they do not agree with all of the tactics or, um, fashion sense and personal hygiene habits of the group. But Miller, furious reactionary that he is, does not bother once to consider a single idea put forth by OWS. He cannot see past the personal attire and fashion sense of some of the protesters, writing that the movement is nothing “more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.” Those kids with their iPhones!
In a baffling move of obscure non-logic, Miller then connects OWS to his “enemies,” those nefarious (if nebulous) forces “al-Qaeda and Islamicism.” The piece ends with this disingenuous call to action—
In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft. Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.
Miller of course never served in any branch of the armed forces. He also has never heard of/chooses to ignore clear evidence that veterans are part of this movement, including Scott Olsen, who was badly injured by police in Oakland.
Since Frank is so frank, let’s all be frank: Frank Miller is a tedious, ill-informed, rage-choked hack who hasn’t produced a great work in over two decades.
Even worse, he’s a fascist.
Miller’s early work in the 1980s repeatedly pointed toward the essential conflict of individual versus society; his heroes and anti-heroes constantly found themselves squaring off against corrupt totalitarian systems that sought to silence dissent and curtail civil liberties. As Miller’s career fumbled along, he increasingly endorsed the underlying fascistic elements present in his vigilante heroes, a fascism wed to an image of the hero as a man whose uncompromising ideals—and uncomplicated misunderstandings of a complex world—inevitably lead to brutal violence. See, for example, Miller’s most recent effort, Holy Terror, an extremely poorly received piece of anti-Muslim propaganda, reviled by comic book audiences not entirely because of its ideological content, but also because of its poor execution. (For a detailed and insightful take-down of Miller’s pulp trash, read Spencer Ackerman’s review in Wired).
Miller is a reactionary crank, a regressive thinker who is terrorized by the idea that the America “he knows” is no longer the homogeneous ideal that it once was. Of course, America was never an idealized homogeneous space, but that doesn’t matter. That’s what fantasy is for. And Miller is a professional fantasist. His derangement evinces not just in his reactionary vitriol toward the OWS protesters, but also in his apparent fear of the technology that these “iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats” use to disseminate their message.
Take note that never once in his screed does Miller attempt to paraphrase, analyze, refute, address, or otherwise actually engage that message. Presumably he can’t; he can’t hear it. Like one of the flat characters in his comics, perhaps Miller’s own interior monologue edges out all other voices, reinforcing his own paranoid delusions that “others” are lurking in the shadows, ready to take away the precious freedoms and ideals that only he can understand and value.
One is tempted to point out that Ezra Pound, G.B. Shaw, and Virginia Woolf, among other modernists, supported fascism, that Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and yet these artists and thinkers maintain a canonical place to this day in their respective fields. Will history be so kind to Miller? This is an earnest question. Certainly The Dark Knight Returns is a singular work in the superhero comics genre. But works like Holy Terror will do little to preserve the reputation of the man behind the Robocop sequels and The Spirit movie. Great art will survive the straining force of history, but I do not think that Miller is a great artist. He’s just a loud, angry cartoonist with ugly, unfounded, illogical opinions—and I think that that is what history will show.
26 thoughts on “Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack”
Thanks for the comment at the Frank Miller site.
Mike Hansen’s piece at All Day Comics, in the link above, is a great take-down with more specific examples than I put in my piece. It laments FM’s downhill slide over the years. Recommended.
Remember: who did the artwork for Gravity’s Rainbow? That equals to 100452450845045208458458 subversion points. I think Frank is a cranky old GUY, but definitely not a hack. I also don’t think Frank is a fascist, maybe a libertarian. Yeah, he made a stupid comment. It isn’t completely wrong. Some Occupy-Wall-Streeters are rapists, etc. It’s a logical fallacy on his part to assimilate the group into a coinage(s). Shame on Frank. Does he deserve to be called a fascist? Not at all. And, remember…A screaming comes the sky.
Btw, I dig this blog so much that it’s my homepage. No offense should be taken.
No offense is taken, and none should be inferred from my reply (I’m happy to think that Biblioklept is more civil than most of Internetland, and that we can agree and disagree here without ad hominem attacks (Miller’s blog is full of hate from both the left and right right now (which makes it par for course in the internet))).
First, I do use the term “hack” pejoratively—what I mean by it is “work for hire artist masquerading as something more” (here, “something more” = pretender to unique artistic vision, or whatever). I think Miller is a hack because I think his work over the past two decades — *his* work (300, Sin City, his movie work, etc.) ranges from visually interesting to mediocre to downright horrible. Not just bad in that I fundamentally disagree with his solipsistic and fascistic vision, but bad in the sense that it is formally and narratively “bad.”
I think his cover for GR is great, but I also like the cover for the first edition in paperback (which I proudly own). Miller’s GR cover is great—but it’s just graphic design. 30 some odd years after the fact. He had zero to do with the novel’s composition.
His accusation of “rape” (among the other accusations) is not supported by any direct evidence, although none of his argument is supported by direct evidence. It is just as easy to make the claim that “college football coaches are rapists” or “Catholic priests are rapists” or “rape occurs in the armed forces,” etc. There is no correlative link between OWS and rape. Miller is an utter xenophobe who links any “other” to a total sin; this linking allows him to dehumanize (“pond scum”) the other such that he doesn’t have to actually consider their motivations, emotions, history, needs, desires, psychology—their humanity.
I might not have built a very strong case for calling Miller a fascist, but I think that he is far from a libertarian. A libertarian, as I understand the term, has enough faith in his fellow human beings to believe that they can be trusted to run their own lives. A libertarian, as I understand the term, believes in the rights provided by the US Constitution. I think that Miller is dismissive of those rights, just as he is dismissive of the people practicing them in the OWS movement. Miller, in trying to dismiss the protesters home to their “mommas,” shows that he too believes in a kind of (fascistic, overwhelming) parental authority, an authority that displaces individual liberty. Miller’s fascist vision of Batman (which Nolan recapitulated in his awful films) is hardly a libertarian figure.
Here is Ron Paul, consummate libertarian, explaining why he understands the OWS movement
Finally, I should concede that whatever critical/aesthetic subjectivism I had when it comes to FM—already precarious, as I showed by linking to my earlier post from 2008—is utterly gone at this point. His vitriol is too much and his argument is too weak. If a student of mine had turned in that blog post as an essay, he’d get an “F” with a big minus next to it and a single comment: “Where is your concrete support for these claims?”
Amen to this post. I fucking hate Frank Miller. I used to accept him just because he was considered such an important comic writer but when I saw 300 and actually thought about the direct political message it all fell into place in a beautiful Keyser Soze, coffee-cup-shattering moment: “I get it now, he’s a super right wing asshole!” Ever since then I can’t take anything he says seriously.
Excellent. Thanks for posting this
I’m not one to sway towards the Republican side of things, but Ron Paul is one lucid motherfucker (excuse the negative language).
PS: I recently figured out you go/went to UF. Funny enough, I will be transferring there in Summer of 2012. I was accepted for Spring of 2012, but I can’t go due to complications. What’s your opinion on the English department there, if you have had experience with them (you might be in the philosophy department for all I know)? haha
I went to UF over a decade ago to earn a BA in English. Like I said, I went over 10 years ago, so I won’t presume to characterize the English department, but I know (through friends and colleagues) that the department has gone through a series of major shakeups in the past five years.
When I was there, there was a strong emphasis on “visual cultural” and “cultural studies” — lots of film classes, lots of queer theory, lots of deconstruction. I think I watched– “analyzed” — Blade Runner at least three times. I took a class called “Post-Colonial Visual Culture,” if that gives you an idea of the tenor there.
I also took some great courses at well—Shakespeare classes, poetry classes, grammar classes—in retrospect these more “traditional” (“conservative,” if you like) classes were more beneficial to me (both in career terms and in, like, thinking terms).
I took many linguistics courses there as well (I was only a few courses short of being a linguistics major) and that department was fantastic.
The philosophy dept, when I was at UF, seemed at odds with the English dept.
There are lots of great instructors at UF in the English dept — Peter Rudnytsky, Melvin New, who is an imminent Tristram Shandy scholar, Greg Ulmer, who was just way ahead of the curve when it came to predicting how the internet would shape American culture…
Obviously, an education is what one makes of it—the UF libraries are great!
[…] Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack (biblioklept.org) […]
Perhaps ‘authoritarian’ (or ‘authoritarian personality’) would be a better word choice than ‘fascist’….
No. I think “fascist” fits. Why beat around the bush here?
“Fascism” is reactionary, radically violent, xenophobic, and nationalistic. FM is all of these things.
Fascism seeks to quell dissent, particularly the dissent of “othered” voices (particularly young, disenfranchised voices).
Seriously, I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic at all.
“Authoritarian personality” is like someone’s dad. Most dads have a limited platform. The minute you begin influencing many, many people (via entertainments, especially the fascist vision of “300”) you have a platform; FM is not simply “expressing his opinion” but using his platform as an entertainer to espouse a form of virulent (perhaps subtle) fascism.
[…] Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack (biblioklept.org) […]
I agree that, given that his message is intended as political, “fascist” is the appropriate term. However, let’s not miss out on the insight offered by “the authoritarian personality” as formulated by Fromm:
The fact that both forms of the authoritarian personality can be traced back to one final common point — the symbiotic tendency — demonstrates why one can find both the sadistic and masochistic component in so many authoritarian personalities. Usually, only the objects differ. We all have heard of the family tyrant, who treats his wife and children in an sadistic manner but when he faces his superior in the office he becomes the submissive employee. Or to name a better known example: Hitler. He was driven by the desire to rule all, the German nation and finally the world, to make them powerless objects of his will. And still, this same man was extremely dependent; dependent on the masses’ applause, on his advisers’ approval, and on what he called the higher power of nature, history, and fate. He employed pseudo-religious formulations to express these ideas when for example he said: “the heaven stands above the nation, as one can fortunately mislead man, but not heaven.” However, the power that impressed Hitler more than history, god, or fate was nature. Contrary to the tendency of the last four hundred years to dominate nature, Hitler insisted that one can and should dominate man but never nature. In him, we find this characteristic mixture of sadistic and masochistic tendencies of an authoritarian…
[…] Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack (biblioklept.org) Share this:DiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]
Nice post but one small thing: George Bernard Shaw was definitely not a fascist and, if anything, he advocated socialism. He was a Fabian etc etc.
Uh, GB Shaw’s attraction to/expression of fascist ideas is fairly well documented. Socialism isn’t exactly “anti-fascism” by any means. He was a huge supporter of Stalin too.
Another weapon in my arsenal when Frank Miller’s “genius” comes up in a conversation. You know, it’s quite difficult to convince people here that he is just a clueless right-winger, due to the honor he bestowed to the history of this country, namely to rape it up the ass with “300”. Thank you for using the word fascist. It’s about time people started stating the obvious. Some of the things these people say… For example that Newt guy: I am not at all sure, but was there child labor in Nazi Germany?
Frank Miller is a hack and an idiot, but the Occupy Tardstreet Trustifarians aren’t any better. “Government is bad, so we want socialism.” Cry me a river, I hope they starve.
Brilliant analysis and heartfelt commentary there, Dick.
Politics is religion for atheists. The only good politician is one in a pine box.
I believe Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address while standing in a pine box. It was the fashion at the time.
I remember before Miller posted that on his blog how there was a small glint that he might possess copious amounts of irony in his more recent work, that the ‘Holy Terror’ was just some ‘nostalgia and putrid false righteousness,’ that he surely was just having fun w/ hyperbole, cliche, etc. Well, he obliterated all that, really. It’s a shame, too. He had a pretty good run in the eighties. And, yes, like Morrison, Moore and Lee said of him, he’s just a schmuck. Oh well.
[…] Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack by Edwin Turner […]
[…] feminists as people who believe men are nothing more than sperm banks; and he is fascist, many literary analyses of his work have deduced that he believes that might makes right, and everyone should bow down to […]
[…] Before Frank Miller became a cranky old fascist hack, he made some pretty good comic books. I’m pretty sure The Dark Knight Returns was the last really good thing he did, and that was thirty years ago, but my favorite Miller will likely always be Ronin. […]
[…] Dark Night Returns, Frank Miller, 1986: I would’ve gone with Ronin. Frank Miller has awful opinions. The Dark Night Returns is excellent. (Its sequel is […]