Oscar Wilde once said that "life imitates art far more than art imitates life," and that observation typically holds true; after all, cliches become cliche for a reason. In modern superhero storytelling, however, the opposite of this adage is becoming more apparent when it comes to Nazism.
Marvel Comics set social media (and even local news outlets) ablaze when word broke that Captain America's entire legacy was a facade. The Steve Rogers you thought you knew was secretly an agent for the evil organization of Hydra, and had been the entire time. It wasn't a ploy setting up a third act twist. It wasn't Rogers going undercover to take out his nemesis.
Simply put, Marvel made Captain America a nazi.
Hop across the pond to DC Comics, and fans are also getting their own doses of National Socialism. Nightwing: The New Order is limited series featuring Dick Grayson as the leader of a government organization that is charged with hunting down and eliminating metahumans, making the plot line a clear reference to Hitler's Third Reich.
Then, The CW's slate of DC adaptations is taking its own stab at the subject. During this year's annual crossover, the heroes of the Arrowverse are set to take on superpowered nazis during a four-night event titled "Crisis on Earth-X," and images from the set featuring Overgirl, the parallel world's nazi version of Supergirl, have caused yet another stir online.
The omnipresence of nazi-themed stories is starting to take a toll, and understandably so. When American citizens can be seen walking the streets of our country wielding nazi symbols and espousing nazi propaganda, at what point does imitation get a little too close for comfort? Should fiction take a step back when the issues it presents aren't fictional at all, but are currently a real and serious problem?
The short answer is, yes.
One of the biggest issues regarding the current onslaught of nazi themes and fascist characters in superhero tales is also the most basic. Ultimately, when an individual picks up a comic book, goes to the movie theater, or flips on their television to watch an episode of a superhero series they enjoy, they are more often than not seeking escapism. Whether it be for the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to finish an issue, or the forty-two minutes it takes to watch a standard episode of television, people want to forget about the problems of their day-to-day lives, not have them brought to the forefront.
This isn't to say that readers should live their lives blissfully unaware of what is happening around them, but people are so plugged in to the events of the world these days, whether it be it from updates on Twitter, Facebook or local news outlets that we don't need yet another way to be reminded that awfulness exists.
Watching Americans holding up nazi flags in Charlottesville can't help but feel like a betrayal, even if you don't know any of the specific people involved. There is no reason why we need to also see Steve Rogers standing on the wrong side of history in our comic books.