Reader Request 2005: Beatles, Batman and They
These from Greg Morrow:
Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Superman or Batman?
“He or she” or singular “they”?
First: The Beatles, obviously. First, they’re not pathetic posers like the Stones. I mean, Mick Jagger went to the London School of Economics. He’d be a banker now, if it weren’t for the Stones, whereas Lennon would have been the most sarcastic milkman in Liverpool. If he were lucky (Keith Richards, incidentally, would have become an Anglican minister. Trust me on this). Rock and Roll saved the Beatles; it merely was another economic oportunity for the Stones.
Second, the Beatles had the stones (so to speak) to break up and stay broken up, meaning that their canon is undiluted from years of post-creative suckage. The Beatles era is nine years, 1961 – 1970, and in those nine years, they sucked exactly twice: The Magical Mystery Tour (the TV show, although the album squeaks by), and Let It Be (the album, although the movie squeaks by because of the rooftop concert). (Some people will tell you that half of the songs on the White Album sucked, too — but since no one can agree on which half, the Beatles are still golden). Meanwhile, the Stones were notably more inconsistent during their legend years (Satanic Majesties Request, anyone?), and it’s an unassailable fact that there hasn’t been a good Stone album — or come now, a good Stones’ song — since Tattoo You. There are 24-year-olds running around who have never not known the Stones to not suck, and that’s just sad. Or to put it another way, the Stones have sucked more years than they were ever good.
Now, I can see how some of you might say it’s unfair to diminish the Stones’ better work because of the unregenerate crap emanating from Steel Wheels or Voodoo Lounge. And 100 years from now, everything the Stones did after 1981 will have vanished in the fog of history and they’ll probably look better. But in the here and now, two and a half decades of suckitude counts against them. In contrast, Paul McCartney’s nearly three decades of solo suckitude do not count against the Beatles, because the Beatles can’t be blamed for “Say Say Say” or Liverpool Oratio. That’s all Paul, baby.
Also, in 100 years the Beatles will still be kicking the Stones’ asses (except for Charlie Watts. Charlie rocks). Really, I’m surprised this is even a matter under consideration any more.
Second: Batman, and again I’m surprised this is an issue. Look, Superman got his superhero-ness handed to him on a platter — dad punted him to a planet with a yellow star and lighter gravity, and that’s all she wrote. Superman didn’t have to do anything to become Superman. Whereas Batman worked for it. Yes, Batman did have immense wealth left to him by his parents, while Superman grew up in a humble small town in Iowa. But, you know, a guy who can compress charcoal into diamonds with his bare hands is not someone who has to worry about his economic situation, either. Take away Superman’s undeserved advantages and you’ve got a moderate Republican representative from the great state of Iowa. Take away Batman’s undeserved advantages, and he’s still friggin’ Batman. No offense to moderate Republican representatives from the Midwest, but I know who I would rather be.
Third: They. There are times when sexual differentation is grammatically relevant, but most of the time it really isn’t, and there’s not a single person who actually believes that the generic “him” isn’t actually the work of some long-dead grammarian with a micropenis and a pathological fear of speaking to chicks. Screw Mr. Micropenis. Long live “they.” Having said that, there are times I’ll use “he or she” or will use “him” or “her” generically, because I want to. I’ll also use it when I’m writing professionally, because it’s not generally worth my time to piss off a copyeditor, whose job it is to preserve the long-dead Mr. Micropenis’ editorial strictures because that’s what their employer demands of them. I’ll just use it on my own time and maybe as more people think as I do, the great publishing houses of the world will tell the unlamented Mr. Micropenis to take a hike.