With the exception of ComicsGaters, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quoting Alan Moore, warmed our nerd hearts, across the globe. The quote, a piece of smack talk from one of Moore and Dave Gibbons’ repugnant Watchmen villains, has led to a few news outlets and eager tweeters referring to Rorschach as, “a hero,” or an “uncompromising moralist,” when was he is, is a homophobic, misogynist, classist, self-hating paranoid who is really good at beating people to a pulp and being damn scary.
Comics people get too excited when anything comics is invoked appropriately. Quoting Watchmen in context is a beautiful nerd thing, but it is simple of us to forget that Watchmen is a perennial big-selling comic, made into a major motion picture, currently being adapted for television, and tons of people just know Watchmen, or, at least, its highlights. Watchmen may feel niche, in our niche, but it is still a millions-selling global product. Beyond that, what she dropped is a good line.
The OAC deployment of the quote, referring to Rorschach being locked in prison with various other criminals, on whom he might have prayed, in the outside world, does not work because there is any ethical, moralistic, or procedural similarity between the masked asshole and the congresswoman, but because trash talk creates its own context, every time. Only a robot-skeletoned unkillable Arnold could turn, “Hasta la vista, Baby!” into trash talk. Only Representative Ocasio-Cortez can scare politicians across party lines by quoting a mid-80s comic book.
On its own, it is excellent smack talk. And, she properly cited the writer, because she’s an educated, conscientious professional. That’s really how you do it. It has nothing to do with blasting indiscriminately, or whether or not she’s “like Rorschach.” She quoted a great line, winning over people who like that sort of thing, credited the author, which wins over the folks who prefer that happening, and belittled her target in a way they cannot rationally or even functionally argue against. That is how you talk smack.
And, comics people, listen to me: You don’t need to see her geek papers. You don’t need to hold this under a special light and see if it checks out. If you feel you need to, stop yourself, check yourself, and move in another direction. “Bet she doesn’t even read comics,” is a losing battle, especially if you’re using it to jump at a standing congresswoman who unbidden cited the author. Some of you think Alan Moore hasn’t written a comic since 1985, and some of you think he drew them, too. This is not the time for you, any of you, of us, to embarrass the rest of us.
Let us be clear: Ocasio-Cortez was not talking to the uncle of a professional plagiarist, who has ripped off real comics artists, politician, Joe Lieberman. She was talking smack at Joe Lieberman, and at those, he represents as a wing of their shared party. She didn’t come for you (Joe Lieberman is not reading this). She did not come for her entire party. She came for some used to be big guy like the folks Rorschach was talking to, who even if you read Watchmen three times, you might not even remember the names of now if they ever had names. But, Ocasio-Cortez was, also, not speaking to us, to a comics-literate, comics-aware, comics-living-and-breathing-eating-and-farting audience. At least, she’s not calling all of us out.
Some of you know wrestling, and then you should definitely know how this works. We, as comics people, talk a lot of nerd stuff. If you are reading this, you talk a lot of nerd stuff. I know you. Most of that nerd stuff can be countered because it requires other nerds to hear it. This was not that. This is not an appeal to reason or a delineation of policy. It is a comeback from which there is no comeback, which is why it’s such a memorable line and moment from the comic. Other politicians, and indeed gatekeepers in general, just like Rorschach’s fellow inmates, can only, “Nuh’uh,” or get out of the way.
Smack Talk 101 with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
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