Controversial self-help guru Jordan Peterson seems to have directly inspired the latest incarnation of the Red Skull, an iconic Captain America villain, in the Marvel comic written by author/Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In said comic, Red Skull preaches his “Ten Rules for Life” (Peterson’s self-help book is called 12 Rules For Life) and talks about “Chaos and Order,” and “The Feminist Trap.” Captain America even mentions a young boy “disappearing into the internet,” emerging with a “new theory of the world” fed to him by Red Skull.
Captain America goes on to say, “[Skull] tells them what they’ve always longed to hear. That they are secretly great. That the whole world’s against them. That if they’re truly men, they’ll fight back. And bingo. That’s their purpose. That’s what they live for and that’s what they’ll die for.”
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Peterson’s work would recognise Coates’ source of inspiration (it’s not exactly subtle). And the ideological resemblance was not lost on Peterson himself, who retweeted a picture of the comic panel with the caption, “What the hell?”
Peterson later tweeted, “Do I really live in a universe where Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a Captain America comic featuring a parody of my ideas as part of the philosophy of the arch villain Red Skull?”
In both the comics and MCU, Red Skull is either implied to be a fascist, or depicted as an outright Nazi, which I suppose fits with Peterson’s love of rigid hierarchies and uncomfortably close proximity to race-and-IQ-obsessed lunatics like Douglas Murray and Stefan Molyneux.
But Peterson is not a fascist; he’s a self-help guru, skulking on the fringes of the alt-right, repackaging outdated conservative values for alienated young men. Peterson also promotes a quack diet that consists solely of beef, salt, and water, which sounds like the kind of miserably restrictive diet a disciplined, self-flagellating psychopath like Batman would enjoy.
Ironically, Peterson’s stated values probably place him closer to the ideology of the typical comic book superhero, rather than the archetypal supervillain; the vast, vast majority of superhero stories see caped crusaders fiercely protecting the status quo, unjust hierarchies and all, while supervillains tend to have grand ambitions to reshape the world.
And Peterson, who has shown nothing but contempt and cynicism towards protesters and activists (i.e., young people fighting for a better future), is very much a protector of the status quo. Indeed, Peterson seems to view activists as akin to the raging hordes of alien invaders we see in Marvel movies.
I don’t think Red Skull is a particularly clever allegory for Peterson – if Peterson really did dwell in the Marvel universe, he would almost certainly be arguing for the right of Iron Man to dispense justice and drop deadly drones, on the basis of his formidable income bracket and social status.