Pop Culture

Jellybean Memories

By The Reverend
June 15, 2004 - 11:39

"You sold us out, Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you to. My parents taught me a different lesson... lying on the street, shaking in deep shock, dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to." --Bruce Wayne, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #4 ("The Dark Knight Falls") by Frank Miller, 1986

JELLYBEAN MEMORIES I've been very conflicted since the news of Ronald Reagan's passing on how I wanted to remember America's 40th president. In the 1980s, I was far too young to vote, and an enjoyable, conflict-free childhood seemed to indicate that the presidency at the time was taking care of our country just fine. Now as a far more conscientious observer of world affairs, with 20-20 hindsight vision, I can safely say that Reagan is absolutely not a president I'd vote for now as a self-professed liberal (I don't see it as a bad word). Rather than attempt to go back in time to attempt to detail how Reagan influenced my life from third grade up to high school, it's probably easier to outline my conflict in points of interest since the news broke June 5th, 2004…


  • Save for the obvious with a deposed Richard Nixon, I'd have to say that one of the first times I got an idea that the Reagan administration was not all wine and roses was thanks to Frank Miller's work in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In this groundbreaking miniseries that revived the Dark Knight to glory, Batman's former ally Superman was illustrated as an enemy, not because he somehow made a switch to supervillainy, but because he merely agreed to serve as a Yes-man for the president while superheroics in general were outlawed. What was funny in 1986's DKR was how the story took place in an unknown future, where Bruce Wayne was roughly in his fifties, the Kryptonian Man of Steel had barely aged, and the U.S. president was still a chipper yet ruddy-complexioned Ronald Reagan (though never directly addressed as such), somehow enduring to run America for God knows how many terms after the Constitutionally-allotted two terms had long since been served. The Cold War had not yet ended when DKR was released, but it certainly gave me my first taste of political dissention.


  • Looking back now over the last twenty years, Reagan may have been the last president to overtly be acknowledged as the one with his finger on The Button. Even today, as George W. Bush trudges this country through his war on terror, rational Americans, have not been given just cause to view Bush as a guy entertaining the notion of nuclear assault the next time a plane gets flown into a building. But Miller depicted Reagan in DKR as an almost Oz-like presence in America ( "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"), and in the book the president actually does go ahead and direct missiles at our foes across the Atlantic for an unseen transgression in a fictional Central American country. Just imagine if that did happen if something was amiss during the U.S.'s involvement in Central America in the 1980s. Dark Knight Returns may have been the first time that comic book readers of my generation were offered a dissenting view of our government when we were consistently led to believe that everything was hunky dory. Reagan had an uncanny knack for putting a positive spin on just about anything. As an eighth-grader then, I developed an idea that just because the man in charge says everything's okay doesn't mean it's so.


  • For good or for ill, America was unequivocally at the top of its game during Reagan's presidency. I say this on behalf of the country in the most simplified sense, because I know there are plenty of downtrodden Americans over the last 25 years who would beg to differ. Republicans became known to a lot of folks as the party for the "haves" due to economic policies that best benefited the upper class in America while Reagan was in office.


  • Despite some obvious ultraconservative leanings, Reagan was the president who finally got a woman into the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor is living proof that Reagan was not all that afraid to think outside the box, and the productive partnership he had with Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on global affairs was also a good example of this. To be fair, though, Thatcher deserves just as much credit, if not more.


  • Reagan was the one who revolutionized cribbing pop culture references to suit his agendas. When a Democratic congress attempted to pass legislation to raise taxes because, you know, Reagan spent ridiculous amounts of money on the military to show up a tired regime that was already on the way out (the Soviet Union), he egged them on to make his day (now we know where W. got the gall to challenge Iraqi uprising with his "Bring it on" bravado). Opportunistically rallying around Bruce Springsteen's hit song "Born in the U.S.A." seemed like a swell thing to do until you realize that the song was written as a commentary on the disillusionment of U.S. war veterans who came out of Vietnam ten years earlier. And speaking of disillusioned Vietnam vets, if anyone out there recalls the movie First Blood, Sylvester Stallone played a disgruntled vet who snapped when he realized his country no longer wanted him. How convenient that when the story John Rambo was later reinvented as an action movie franchise that Reagan attempted to liken his role as leader of our country to that of the one-man army who got the chance to exact revenge on his war tormentors overseas. Communists beware!!!


  • I learned that it's okay to forget important details in life if it helps get you off the hook in legal proceedings. "Were you told about company funds being diverted to an offshore account?" "You know what? I really don't recall." Works every time.


  • Looking back, even without Frank Miller's help, Reagan comes across as quite the cartoon character. Just how bad were things in the 1970s that this guy was somehow the savior of the U.S. in the 1980s? Pretty dreadful, to be sure. As much as I mourn for the family that had to endure ten painful years caring for a man ravaged by the insidious Alzheimer's disease, it would serve the public well to now reexamine Ronald Reagan's body of work and not the image to see why we're in such a mess right now as a country viewed by too much of the outside world as a global threat. One of his most diligent, yet thoroughly misguided disciples is currently in the driver's seat. Lord knows I always prefer to look forward (something, ironically, that Reagan was lauded for), but I'd almost kill for the 1980s the way things are now.

  • Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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