In the pop culture rush to celebrate the N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, I realized something. The mid-to-late 1980s was a creatively original time period for both music and comic books. It gave us the socially conscious and often dark hip hop of Public Enemy and N.W.A. It also gave us the dark, dystopian graphic novels Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.
The struggling street level darkness of N.W.A. and the socially conscious commentary of Public Enemy was distilled by other performers and record labels into a nihilistic, live for the moment, slash and burn party mix. It brought out performers who told stories of alienation, misogyny, turf warfare, and community destruction. It germinated a feral distrust of authority that has helped raise modern youth who view police and local government as the enemy; the obstacle to their vision of freedom.
The dystopic graphic novels, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen resonated with the impotence felt by people who valued a highly ordered society. These titles spurred books that viewed fascist vigilante responses to the disorder in the streets. The comic book market was flooded with comics in which the “anti-hero” became a judge, jury and executioner type of vigilante who took it upon themselves to “solve the crime problem.” This disregard for citizens has led to a mind set among the “law and order” community that individuals are guilty until proven innocent, which gets underscored by the slightest resistance by individuals to interact with law enforcement.
Each of these seminal artists and works provided fresh insights into the struggles involved in creating an egalitarian and equality based society.They provide contrasting views and ideas that could help further the benefits of society. However, the mass replication and repetition of the themes involved has led to a highly polarized situation between government and citizens in today’s political climate. The reactionary shock caused by repetitive titular themes has broken down the process of respectful understanding. This shock shades and skews the message received by the listener because they are still hostile to the speaker. I just hope that no one decides that the only solution to today’s problems is the one taken by Ozymandius in Watchmen.