Jordan Peterson ‘shocked’ by Captain America villain Red Skull espousing ‘10 rules for life’

Alison Flood
·3 min read

In the new issue of Captain America, the superhero’s longtime nemesis Red Skull espouses his views about “10 rules for life”, “the feminist trap” and “chaos and order” – and Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson is none too pleased.

Written by the award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Marvel comic features a version of the villain who looks to radicalise young men by telling them “what they’ve always longed to hear … That they’re secretly great. That the whole world is against them. That if they’re men, they’ll fight back. And bingo – that’s their purpose. That’s what they’ll live for. And that’s what they’ll die for.”

Peterson, the self-styled “professor against political correctness” who wrote the book 12 Rules for Life and is adored by young white men who feel alienated, describes chaos as being “represented by the feminine” and says that “the masculine spirit is under assault”. He took issue with the characterisation. “What the hell?” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, after the comic was brought to his attention.

Peterson went on to post a series of his own adages, superimposed on an image of Red Skull, including: “The secret to your existence is right in front of you. It manifests itself as all those things you know you should do, but are avoiding”, and “If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth. If you cling desperately to an ideology, or wallow in nihilism, try telling the truth.”

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“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?” Peterson later asked, adding: “It’s hard not to be shocked by the sheer surreality of the time we inhabit ...”

The comic sees the baddie plan to stage demonstrations with the men he has radicalised online. “To his countrymen, Captain America speaks of dreams. He does not understand it’s not the dream that moves men to the boldest of action, but the nightmares,” says Red Skull, as the comic shows images of rioting men across the US, wearing Red Skull and American flag masks. Red Skull goes on to say: “What has happened to the men of the world is truly one of the great tragedies of our time … I offer you the sword of manhood.”

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During Donald Trump’s presidency, Red Skull was also used to highlight the self-aggrandising speech of Trump, with an anonymous Twitter account superimposing Trump quotes onto panels from the comic. “I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey (I’ve done it before!)” shouts Red Skull in one example; in another: “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

Coates won the National Book Award for Between the World and Me, an examination of America’s fraught racial history, and was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2015. He has also written for the Black Panther comics series, and is writing a forthcoming Superman film.