Pretty much everyone who knows anything about so-called "Pop Culture" over the last 50 years knows who Stan "The Man" Lee is. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, he got into writing for comic books at a fairly young age. From his very humble beginnings at Timely Comics (the precursor to what would by the early 60s be known as Marvel Comics), where he was basically a "go-fer", getting people's lunches, erasing excess pencil-work from daily art sheets, making sure ink wells were full for artists, etc, he eventually got a chance to realize his life-long ambition to be a writer, working on a story for Captain America #3, published in May 1941. He would go on to be a writer for several of the early proto-Marvel "Golden Age" heroes, including Captain America, Prince Namor the "Submariner", and the original android Human Torch. He also created such characters as The Destroyer and Jack Frost (essentially a proto-Iceman).
By late 1941, at the tender age of 19, due to industry giants (and co-creators of Captain America) Joe Simon and Jack Kirby leaving, Lee was made the editor of Timely Comics, a post he go on to more or less hold until 1972. He joined the Army in 1942, doing mostly repair work before eventually becoming one of a handful of individuals given the designation of "Playwright". After WWII, he returned to Timely, which would by the 1950s become known as Atlas Comics. Unfortunately, during the 50s "McCarthy Era", comic books came under serious attack due to being deemed "harmful" to children's minds (essentially what they said about rock music as well), most superhero comics fell by the wayside. While DC Comics somehow managed to "Soften" their biggest iconic heroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, which all continued to publish throughout the decade, Atlas Comics did away with all of their heroes, which meant Stan was left writing a wide variety of "non-harmful" types of stories, such as romance, science fiction, westerns, war stories, mysteries, etc.
By 1961, he had become depressed and disenchanted with comic work, finding it creatively stifling and unsatisfying. Lee has in the past credited his wife Joan, as the one who convinced him, before he quit, to write "one comic you'd be proud of". So no longer caring a bout the still-lingering ban on superhero comics, Lee created what would become known as "The Fantastic Four", the first official superhero comic of the newly named Marvel Comics. This was an instant hit, and Marvel encouraged him to make other new heroes, so over the course of the next few years, Lee (along with several artists), became a one-man creative powerhouse, giving birth to the likes of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Ant Man, The Hulk, The Mighty Thor, The X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, and more. He created some of the industry's first and most popular female superheroes, like The Invisible Girl, The Wasp, Black Widow, The Scarlet Witch, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), and Medusa and Crystal of the Inhumans. He also created the first two major black comic superheroes, in the form of African prince The Black Panther, and Harlem vigilante The Falcon. He continued writing comics regularly until near the mid-70s, by which point he became more involved in developing certain Marvel properties for television.
|Most of this was started by one man.|
Now, why is all of that important to know? The easy answer is to give you proper background and understanding of the man. His dream was to be a novelist, which is why he chose the pseudonym "Stan Lee" when he started writing comic books, because he wanted to reserve his real name for "serious work". He never did get around to that "serious work", instead becoming one of the founding fathers of the comics industry. Where he was once slightly embarrassed due to the stigma associated with it, to admit to people that he wrote comics, as it was not seen as a "real job" and comics were seen as trash, he eventually embraced his place in the world, and even took the name "Stan Lee" legally. Today, he is one of the most well known and beloved "Pop Culture" icons in the world, and responsible for most of the top beloved characters people spend billions of dollars to see movies of every year.
And then, at the ripe age of 95 years old, having just lost his wife of SEVENTY years to a stroke in 2017, suddenly "allegations" surface that old, infirm Stan Lee, old and frail enough to apparently need at-home nurses, that Mr. Lee was allegedly "groping and otherwise harassing" said nurses. And, in the new "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" climate we've created, suddenly social media dogpiles the man. Everyone is immediately CERTAIN that they "weren't surprised he'd do something like that". A man whom millions claim to love, suddenly becomes vilified online, with people just automatically believing that he MUST be guilty, that he's a sexual predator, a misogynist, basically a monster. You even have tons of people flat out stating they wished that when they saw his name "trending" on social media, that it was because he had DIED, rather than these "groping" allegations, which are of course "So Much Worse". You also had a sizable amount of folks proclaiming their worry, NOT for this man's honor and reputation, but that these allegations might somehow "hurt the box office" of the upcoming Black Panther film. Yes, there are people SO invested in the success of the "first big budget black superhero film" (It's Not), that they care more about THAT, than they do the good name of the very LEGEND WHO CREATED THE CHARACTER.
That is how far gone our society, Identity Politics, and this toxic "Believe Women" culture has gotten. The wildfire of accusations to prominent male celebrities and entertainers (almost entirely white and of course, heterosexual), spreads almost out of control. And in the midst of it all, MOST people seem to just blindly, unthinkingly, immediately believe that EVERY single accusation must be the 100% truth, and that EACH man who is accused, is Automatically Guilty. The fact that SOME accusations might be bullshit, that SOME of these men, many of whom loudly proclaim their own innocence, doesn't seem to phase, let alone occur to most Americans on social media. And that is both disturbing, and terrifying.
|His partner of 70 years.|
As the title of this article postulates, WHY this Stan Lee accusation matters, is complex. But the first and most important reason is this: While everyone seems to be automatically jumping to the conclusion that it MUST be true, the fact of the matter is, the so-called "Source" of this leaked accusation, comes from none other than The Daily Mail, a notorious smut rag, also known as a "Tabloid". A "news outlet" that deals in trashy stories, most of which are complete and utter garbage. An outlet that ALSO, amongst other things, offers its readers regular chances to "see female celebrities nude/topless", in what are either outright faked images, or non-consensual paparazzi photos. It matters, because the alleged "source" is anonymous, the alleged nursing company is anonymous, and not a SINGLE nurse that has supposedly levied these complaints and claims against Mr. Lee, has been named. Zero official or police reports have been filed, zero charges made. What we DO have to go on, however, as pointed out in this articulate and level-headed AV Club article (written by a woman), is that Mr. Lee, through his lawyers, have claimed that a former nursing firm which he employed, has been trying to get money out of him via threats of these "allegations", and since he refused to give them a dime, they "went public" with it. Not to the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal, or hell, even FOX NEWS. Nope, they "went public", without naming themselves OR the supposed accusers, to the lowest rung on the "news" ladder, The Daily Fucking Mail.
And WHY this accusation, and ALL of this information, is important, is because regardless of the veracity of the "source", regardless of the extremely dubious nature of the "news outlet" that leaked the story, the fact is, SO many people, women AND men, were immediately ready to believe that Stan Lee is guilty. No details needed, no facts need be confirmed, no self-defense on his part necessary. Just, open and shut, he's a straight white (never mind that he's Jewish) male, he was SUPPOSEDLY accused of sexual deviancy, he MUST be Automatically Guilty. And THAT is the problem. Not that a 95 year old man MAY have grabbed a handful of some nurse's ass. If he DID, that ISN'T ok, and it WOULD be wrong, though there are far worse things in the world. But that isn't the issue here.
The ISSUE, is that regardless of the FACTS, which most people gleefully not merely choose to ignore, but do not even bother to PURSUE for themselves at all, you have literally millions of people sitting on social media, waiting like so many salivating vultures, for the NEXT man to be proclaimed guilty in what has become the "Court of Public Opinion". It isn't even necessary to have a trial anymore. It isn't necessary to PROVE that someone did something wrong, that they are ACTUALLY guilty. It doesn't matter if they're completely INNOCENT, and the mere existence of an allegation is going to completely destroy their career and their life. What matters is that the general, most especially social media prowling public, is SO ready to believe that ANY (straight) man could be a disgusting, harassing, assaulting, raping monster, that the very second even an allegation as utterly VAGUE and questionable as this issue with Stan Lee drops, they are ready to pounce on it like lions awaiting their next meal.
|Not So Blind After All...|
A question I'd like to ask, to all of those who were/are so very willing to believe that a man like Stan Lee would do this, and are so ready to think "of COURSE he's guilty", is, simply put: "What would you do?" What would any of YOU do, male OR female, if you were suddenly blindsided by accusations that you KNEW to be false, you KNEW you were innocent, but the REST of the world is automatically ready to not only assume, but to PROCLAIM your Obvious Guilt? What if you were immediately assumed guilty of something, which cost you your job, your connections, your endorsements, any projects or prospects you may have had, or WILL have in the future, all on someone's word, and public opinion? No court, no trial, no "Delivery of Justice". Just You're Accused = You're Guilty. Period.
How would Stan Lee's wife of 70 years feel, he person who knew him best and his biggest supporter, to suddenly see her husband's name dragged through the mud? How is his daughter, or ANY of his surviving family and friends, supposed to feel? Do you expect that THEY should also all automatically assume he's guilty and a monster? Or do you expect that they should do what ANY good family and friends who actually CARE about someone, would do, and stand BY him, and believe when he says that he didn't do it, that he DIDN'T DO IT? The problem we're facing, is that in people's zealousness to root out the very real and longstanding issue of harassment and assault in the entertainment industry, people have adopted this ignorant mentality that EVERY man who is accused, even if that's ALL it is, is a vague and baseless accusation, IS guilty, regardless of whether he actually IS guilty or not. To many, it doesn't even MATTER if a man is guilty, because as I've seen it stated many times, "I have no problem with innocent men suffering, if it means that more women are safe."
I hate to break it to feminists and so-called "Social Justice Warriors", but that statement does NOT represent Equality OR Justice, at all. The very fact that if a woman was met with accusations like this, that she would either immediately be assume to be innocent, or worse, that it would likely be hypocritically dismissed, is not lost in this situation. If, just as a hypothetical example, let's say actress Betty White was levied with the EXACT same accusations, that she groped and harassed nurses, even MALE nurses. Would you like to take a guess at what public opinion and reaction of that exact same scenario, with the genders reversed, would be? I can't of course state for a fact, but I DO feel pretty damn confident in guessing that she would NOT be vilified at all. If anything, people would probably laugh at it, saying something like "Oh yeah, I could see Betty White doing something like that, dirty old lady!" Or perhaps "C'mon man, she's old, let her have her fun before she goes!" And regardless of exact public reaction, I could almost guarantee that it would not be taken very seriously, and would NOT be faced with the same level of social media hostility and ugliness that Stan Lee's accusation has been. And that, dear readers, is complete and utter hypocritical bullshit.
|Ready for the next burning.|
Honestly, just putting myself out here, as I did a couple days ago when this "news" first leaked, to dare, to have the AUDACITY to defend Stan Lee's legacy, and his honor, could be damaging to me in a very real way. For instance, as a writer, a writer who is writing novels and looking to finally get published, hopefully sooner than later, I am fully aware that in today's climate, I could very realistically be endangering my ability to even GET a literary agent. Why do I say that? Because the reality today, is that I am a (straight) male, and by virtue of my even publicly speaking OUT in favor of Mr. Lee, let alone writing an entire thought-out article trying to DEFEND him, and to DECRY this mob mentality of "Automatic Guilt Based on Gender", I am risking what is tantamount to a form of "Guilt By Association". Many agents, or publishers, could see that I am someone publicly DEFENDING a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct, period, and say to themselves "I'm not going to work with THAT kind of person".
Because that is what this is all about. Stan Lee, by merely BEING accused, regardless of his very probable (in light of known facts) innocence, is automatically assumed by the greater public to now be a monster, and I, as one of the VERY few having the audacity (or if you'd prefer, "brass") to publicly defend him, am then guilt of at the VERY least being seen as somewhat "Monster-Adjacent". The problem with Mob Mentality and Group Think, is that if you dare to go AGAINST the Mob, if you dare to think for yourself and go AGAINST the Group, you're automatically a monster. People that once "liked" or "supported" you, can and will, on a dime, turn on you and act like your worst enemy, or block you from their lives.
And that is what Mr. Lee is in danger of, as well. Even if he is able to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, publicly, that he absolutely DIDN'T grope or harass anyone, the damage, as they say, may well have already been done. Many of the people who were ready to rabidly pounce on the idea that he is a"Sexual Predator", even IF they just moments before considered him a great and beloved person, are liable to CONTINUE thinking ill of him, regardless of proven Innocence. And part of that, is due to this notion of "Believe All Women". The dual implications of which being, that first and foremost, ALL women are, at ALL times, honest and truthful and trustworthy, and they would NEVER be dishonest, or conniving, or have ANY sort of malicious or harmful intent behind levying accusations at anyone. Or as I have alternately had it explained to me by many, "These women have no reason to lie". Except that EVERYONE can, will, and DOES lie. The implication is also that all women are automatically innocent and helpless victims, who could only ever be RISKING themselves by accusing a man of mistreatment. The REVERSE implication, of course, is that ALL men are Automatically Guilty of any possible accusations, regardless of burden of proof, regardless of the alleged Rule of Law. Law doesn't even often enter into the situation in this new climate. It is, rather, Public Opinion, swayed heavily by Social Media, which proclaims a man Guilty. And by these public "rulings", men have lost their jobs, and their reputations and lives are essentially destroyed, even if they in reality did nothing wrong.
The very ASSUMPTION that, purely based on gender, women are Automatically Innocent and Honest, and men are Automatically Guilty and Lying...is not only disturbing and scary, it's also very frustrating and angering. I do not, and HAVE never, assumed that there aren't SOME men in the entertainment industry, in so-called "Positions of Power", who ARE in fact predators and monsters. Harvey Weinstein, after all, was fairly easy to believe being a piece of human garbage. And for the record, as if I need to continue stating it, I HATE the existence of sexual legitimate sexual harassment and assault. I HATE that any women are ever abused or victimized. To me, it not only violates the person, it violates what I believe is supposed to be the SACREDNESS of human intimacy and sexuality. The very existence of abuse, much less RAPE, makes me sick to my stomach. But that doesn't mean that I, not only as a MAN, but as a free and independent thinking HUMAN BEING, am going to blindly believe that EVERY man, or every PERSON, who gets accused of something, is Automatically Guilty. The very idea is Intellectually Bankrupt, and shows not only a dismissal of value for actual Equality and Justice, but quite frankly, an open disdain for it. Assuming a person is Automatically Guilty of ANYTHING, let alone based on the simple fact of something as arbitrary and uncontrollable as skin color, or gender, is in point of fact, a MOCKERY of so-called "Justice".
|Still a Legend.|
Now, if it weren't obvious, I would like to wrap this article up by stating that, yes, I personally consider Stan Lee to be Innocent, and these accusations against him to be Complete Bullshit. Does that somehow make me a "BAD PERSON", for standing up for one of my childhood heroes, and having the audacity to proclaim that until PROVEN otherwise, that he is, as far as I'm concerned, Innocent? Fuck no, it doesn't! Am I willing to put myself in the public crossfire, and as previously stated, possibly even do some damage to my OWN reputation and future prospects, to defend the man and his honor? Obviously, I am.
It bothers me QUITE a bit, that all it takes is one accusation, and to apparently a great many, that's all it takes. A man they once loved and admired, now automatically a piece of human garbage, regardless of proof. The fact that someone would actually say that they'd rather Stan Lee be DEAD, than to merely be ACCUSED of such a thing, because the obvious implication is that Accusation = Guilt. The fact that, even if he IS innocent, for many, this is all it takes to permanently tarnish his image and reputation, in the mind of someone who doesn't bother taking the time to consider actual facts and think for themselves. And the very idea, that in the public consciousness, to many at least, when Mr. Lee DOES die someday, they will no longer mourn his loss and honor a Legend. Instead, they'll make derogatory remarks about ALLEGED acts he committed, and only think of him as some kind of "letch", instead of the great man that he honestly probably is.
Does my proclaimed love of Mr. Lee, and statement that he IS in fact one of my heroes, make me biased in the matter? Of course it does. But I'm going to let you all in on a little known secret: EVERYONE is Biased, and EVERYONE'S opinion is Subjective. Life experience, and personal opinion, by their very NATURE, are purely subjective. And what's more, I would rather be biased due to my LOVE or ADMIRATION of a person, than due to the obvious "background static" bias that MOST people on social media seem to be operating on these days, to be biased due to HATE and ill intent. The fact is, I DO believe Stan Lee to be a good and honorable person, and I thus believe him to be Innocent in this fiasco. But I ALSO believe that based on what little facts are actually known, which is FAR more than most who were ready to burn him at the Twitter stake can say.
Frankly, if he turned out to be guilty, I would be disappointed. But I wouldn't regret putting my "neck on the line", so to speak, to defend him. Why? Because he's a hero of mine, a legend and an icon. If he really DID grope or harass some nurses, that is shitty of him, and he should apologize. But even if he WERE guilty, that doesn't mean he's a "monster", nor does it make him less of a legend. It would make him flawed, and human, and someone who had a moment of stupidity or weakness, as ALL humans do, in some form or other. Just as I was unafraid to publicly discuss, much less DEFEND the honor and character of former NFL player Ray Rice, who by the way ACTUALLY committed an act far worse than groping, I am unafraid of the possibility that Stan might have done it. These things DO come in degrees, after all, and while ALL acts of harassment or assault are bad, they are not ALL equal, not in the eyes of the law, and not in reality. Ray Rice got drunk and got in an idiotic scuffle with his drunk fiance. Yet THAT fact doesn't make him a monster, it doesn't mean he's a bad person, nor does it mean that he should have been (and continues to be) ostracized from the NFL, and from public life. And if THAT'S true, than Mr. Lee playing "Grabass" doesn't make him a monster either, nor does it mean HE should be demonized or vilified or ostracized.
Having SAID that, I do believe him to be Innocent. But as the title of this article postulates, it's honestly BIGGER than whether or not Stan Lee groped or harassed anyone. The issue here, the only thing that is truly "Problematic" (though I loathe that moronic term), is the very FACT that so many millions of people would readily believe, without any proof, without any actual THOUGHT process on their own part, that he's Automatically Guilty. THAT, to the intellectual and thinking mind, to a mind that ACTUALLY valued Equality and Justice, should be EVERY bit as important and meaningful as ACTUAL acts of harassment and abuse are. The greater public should care JUST as much about a person's possible INNOCENCE, as they so very obviously do a person's possible VICTIMHOOD. Women (and people in general) should NOT have to live in fear of mistreatment. But by that same token, men (and people in general), ALSO should NOT have to live in what is becoming a very real fear, a very real reality, of their own possible accusation, and IMMEDIATE Automatic Guilt in the eyes of the public. Crucified by the faceless masses, strangers AND people they actually know, on no stronger a basis than "He's male, he MUST be Guilty".
BOTH are Equally Wrong, and if you don't honestly see things that way, I'm sorry, but that makes YOU part of the Greater Problem, NOT part of the Solution.