Since we’re dealing with soundbite journalism these days, no one should be surprised that Vanity Fair missed what Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan meant on Trump.
Nuance is dead.
If the 2016 election didn’t completely kill it, with people from both sides of the aisle looking to parse every single quote from Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson into a simple soundbite, then it certainly died when Donald Trump was elected president. No longer is it possible to read or hear entire paragraphs of speech without proclaiming, “Ah! This means this person thinks THIS!” instead of looking at the entire statement as a whole.
This death of nuance has been coming for quite some time, as the world enters the “soundbite generation.” It’s a shame because people can learn so much by looking for context, or a deeper explanation to events. Humanity has fallen into a watch, react, and fight mode of thinking, instead of talking to others.
The most recent example of this comes from the pages of Vanity Fair. The magazine decided to print their own version of comments by the co-creators of the Batman villain “Bane,” and his comparison to the new president (for those wondering Trump did sound like Bane from Dark Knight Rises, while also doing his best Andrew Jackson imitation). In the piece entitled, “Bane’s Creators Agree Trump’s a Batman Villain – and They Support Him Anyway,” Vanity Fair attempts to paint Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan as dyed-in-the-wool Trumpkins.
The twist? Though Dixon agrees that Trump is “like a Batman villain” in “many ways,” he doesn’t exactly mind the comparison: “I think those that oppose him fail to understand that a lot of those tics and mannerisms that they see as faults were positives to those who voted for him. The bluntness. The swagger,” Dixon said. He added that he was and is a Trump supporter—and that he found Trump’s inaugural address inspiring, Bane-ian as it may have been: “It was also a warning to almost everyone seated behind him. He’s going to keep being Trump with no plans to compromise. This is going to be a wild ride.”
Nolan, though apparently slightly less enthusiastic than his longtime collaborator, is in the same boat. He doesn’t object to comparing Trump to a super villain—“politicians and public figures are fair game for jokes and satire”—but he does support the new president: “I voted for Trump in the general election,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Let’s see what he does before we lose our minds. He couldn’t be worse than the entrenched establishment we’ve had for many years.”
The real twist is what Dixon and Nolan actually told The Hollywood Reporter. Presented below without edits.
THR: What did you think of Trump’s inaugural address?
Chuck Dixon: It was much like his other speeches. But I saw that as a good thing, the sealing of an oath he made during the campaign. Basically, I’m not going to forget my promises. It was also a warning to almost everyone seated behind him. He’s going to keep being Trump with no plans to compromise. This is going to be a wild ride.
THR: Trump has some classic comic book villain qualities. He’s rich, powerful and has a way with words. What is your response to people like Mark Hamill and others making connections between Trump and DC villains such as Bane and The Joker?
Dixon: We have a right to be disrespectful to our elected officials. They are, after all, just one of us. Not popes or kings. And Trump does have that kind of outrageous charisma that invites satire. But I think those that oppose him fail to understand that a lot of those tics and mannerisms that they see as faults were positives to those who voted for him. The bluntness. The swagger. Like how they used to mock George W.’s inarticulateness though his devotees found them endearing. On the right Obama was made fun of because of his aloof manner. But his followers saw that as regal.
Is he like a Batman villain? In many ways he is. But our last guy in that office often reminded me of a Bond villain. So there you go.
Nolan: Politicians and public figures are fair game for jokes and satire. I think that sometimes these entertainers/comedians cross the line and are mean spirited, though. Some trolls are even going after the President’s young son, and I think that is despicable.
THR: How are you feeling about President Trump? Were you a supporter during the election?
Nolan: I am willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see what he does before we lose our minds. He couldn’t be worse than the entrenched establishment we’ve had for many years.
I’m a life-long registered Republican but the party of Reagan has left me and others behind. They have lost their identity so now I think of myself as a Constitutionalist. I voted for Cruz in the New York primary because of his adherence to constitutional principles. I voted for Trump in the general election.
If the President comes through on his many promises, a stronger more robust economy, a more affordable and better healthcare system, respect from our allies and fear from our enemies, then yes I think this is the right step. If not, well, the beauty of our republic allows us to kick him out in four years.
Do you see the difference? Dixon and Nolan’s comments were completely misconstrued in Vanity Fair, taking away a very nice defense of the First Amendment and the right of the people to do satire. Dixon, who is a friend, also likes to toss in the occasional aside, as a joke for people to laugh at.
The two creators are obviously quite angry about what Vanity Fair did.
“Typical spin from the far left media,” Dixon told me. “Trump certainly has the bombast of a Batman villain. If this were 1966 he’d certainly be asked to play one. But as I never said that he was villainous, only that he had that kind of charisma shared by some of the more erudite Batman bad guys. I also stand by my comparison of Obama to a Bond villain, effete, verbose, elitist, smug and with a plan for world domination. Hugo Drax from Moonraker comes to mind.”
“The height of lazy journalism,” Nolan chimed in. “[The Vanity Fair author] took the work of [THR’s] Aaron Couch and parsed together a story that was misleading at best because the original quotes didn’t fit her progressive agenda. Shameful.”
It’s disappointing because both men gave a variety of comments, some joking and some completely serious. Using quotes to fill in sentences is a part of journalism, as long as the context is presented in its entirety. Chopping up quotes to fill an agenda is not something worth doing.
But let’s give Vanity Fair the benefit of the doubt. It’s completely possible the author misread what Dixon and Nolan were saying, and saw it as a total endorsement of Trump, instead of what it actually was. I’ve done this before and have had to apologize. Vanity Fair should do the same to Dixon and Nolan.