In the inevitable fulfillment of American media's build 'em up and tear 'em down cycle, ICv2 ran across two newspaper pieces that attacked Spider-Man in the last few days -- one an attack on the movie and the other a more generalized assault on nearly all aspects of pop culture. 


The broader attack was by Geoff Edgers in a feature piece called 'Pulp Friction,' published by the Boston Globe May 26th, that we saw in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  While the opening line -- 'Does anybody remember when cartoons were for kids?' -- seems to indicate a complaint about animation designed for older viewers, it's actually the writer striking back against the takeover by 'cartoon culture' which he sees Spider-Man embodying.  In so doing, he lumps together Spider-Man, cartoons, comics, manga, and role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, and attempts to refute those that would resist this agglomeration by saying, 'They're wrong.  Spiritually, cartoon culture goes back to that simplified way of thinking, the rhythms of conflict and resolution reduced to bites.'   Edgers obviously sees that 'simplified way of thinking' in Spider-Man, of which he says, 'Armed with his spidey sense and dialogue fit for the Keanu Reeves oratorical society, geek hero Tobey Maguire scores the girl with the wet T-shirt.' 


Edgers bemoans the victory of the 'comic-book geeks' that he remembers from his youth and does not accept the arguments by those that say not all comics/animation/games have the same shortcomings.  In fact he takes on intellectualization of pop culture, complaining that, 'There are enough pointy-headed, pro-animation essays floating around academe to start a new department at Harvard.'  He's also aware of the best of what comics can produce, but dismisses Maus with, ' can't argue with a guy who, through an ink-rendered rodent, spread word of the Holocaust to an entirely new audience:  those who apparently can't read.'  In conclusion, Edgers pines for the time when Homer Price and the Doughnut Factory was the favorite pop culture 'Homer.'


Well-known Washington Post political columnist and frequent Meet the Press guest David Broder came at Spider-Man from a different direction in his Sunday column.  Broder, following a recommendation from his 13-year-old grandson, '...spent two hours of Memorial Day weekend watching the destruction of Manhattan by a jet-equipped madman determined to wreak havoc on a society he thought had scorned him.'  He felt someone should have asked, 'Do we really want to do this?' 


Although he notes the differences between the movie and actual events and the removal of the twin towers from the movie, Broder, as did Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal, felt that the events in the movie were too close to the 9/11 attacks. 'The heroine perches on a shattered balcony, afraid to jump,' Broder wrote. 'When she finally lets go -- in a moment painfully evocative of the World Trade Center, from which a number of people leaped -- Spider-Man is there to grab her.  Would that it were so.' 


Unlike Edgers, Broder is more associated with thumb-suckers on budget policy than with  pop culture topics, so Spider-Man was a considerable departure for him.  And on the weekend that Sum of All Fears opened, there certainly could have been other movies for Broder to find too close to real life.   Perhaps, in the end, his comments come down to the same things Edgers' do -- why can't comics just be for kids?