Ted Cruz speaks during a Senate hearing.

Ted Cruz Demonstrates Once Again That There’s Not a Single Piece of Pop Culture He Actually Understands

Has Cruz actually read or seen Watchmen?

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Ted Cruz is apparently still recording his podcastThe Verdict, which he launched back during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. Back then, he used it as a platform from which to spew an incredibly biased version of the impeachment process. Now he’s using it for … well, I don’t exactly know. Like most of you, I assume, I choose not to subject myself to that kind of torture, so I get to forget Cruz’s podcast even exists until he says something so egregiously inane that it transcends the conservative media bubble. This is what happened when he got Watchmen and The Avengers trending for all the wrong reasons.

Cruz used those properties to try to dunk on people on the “left” who care about the environment.

“What is interesting in Endgame is curious,” he said. “Have you noticed in how many movies how often rabid environmentalists are the bad guys? Whether it’s Thanos or go to Watchmen. Where the view of the left is people are a disease. They buy into the Malthusian line that there are too many people in the world, that people are bad and everything would be better if we had fewer people. I mean, Thanos wanted to eliminate 50 percent of the lifeforms of the universe with one finger-snapping.”

There’s just so much wrong there, as Twitter was quick to point out.

Not only does Cruz fundamentally misunderstand the plot of Watchmen and the essence of the Avengers‘ Thanos, but his idea isn’t even an original one. This take on villainous environmentalists was a big talking point after the release of Aquaman, which would have been a much better reference for Cruz than Watchmen, which has zero to do with environmentalism.

At the time, our own Princess Weekes tackled the issue and broke down how it’s a hell of a lot more nuanced than “environmentalist = bad”:

What’s so compelling, now more than ever, about this kind of antagonist is that we live in a time when climate change, pollution, and issues of protecting our future environment are coming to the forefront. Orm is wrong for wanting to kill billions of innocent people, and his war is truly just a way for him to deal with his sad “un-favorite” issues, but pollution in Atlantis is still an issue, and what is Aquaman going to do about that?

Thanos’ plan isn’t going to stop problems with resources, but the problems that come from overusing our resources won’t become an issue of Avengers-style justice until literal warlords pop up and take them into Mad Max territory.

I’m not siding with the villains, but I do think that it’s odd that the people who are often depicted as fighting to save our planet from the internal issues and forces are always motivated by self-interest and power. Those who do genuinely care, care to the degree that they think humanity is a crutch to protecting our future.

This is far from the first time Cruz has misunderstood a piece of pop culture on such a basic level. He’s even done it with Watchmen before, back when he named Rorschach as one of his favorite superheroes, apparently not realizing that if you identify with that character, well, you’ve basically failed the Rorschach test for humanity.

There was also that time Cruz said that “the Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson and the Republicans are, happily, the party of Homer and Bart and Maggie and Marge,” as if that’s a bad thing for Democrats or an accurate representation of the rest of the characters. (Remember how Marge was a teen activist? Also, Maggie is a baby, therefore fairly apolitical at the moment.)

Or the time he tried to “smarm-splain” Star Wars to MARK HAMILL, completely misappropriating the message of the franchise. (He also once compared Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act to Darth Vader and the Empire.)

Just last week, Cruz demonstrated a misunderstanding of Star Trek (not for the first time) in trying and failing to compare the Politico staff’s disgust over giving Ben Shapiro a platform to the assimilation of the Borg.

The weirdest thing about Cruz’s total misunderstanding of all of these properties is that he identifies as a fan—sometimes a super-fan. He loves The Simpsons but clearly doesn’t understand the characters at all. Rorschach is one of his favorite “superheroes” but he thinks Watchmen is about a “rabid environmentalist”?

The best part of Cruz’s misguided fandom, though, is just how much the creators of the things he says he loves hate him in return. Mark Hamill has made his disdain clear. Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) took Cruz to task for his comments about The Simpsons. And Ted Cruz quotes The Princess Bride so much that Mandy Patinkin and later basically the entire cast have begged him to stop.

Ted Cruz is exhausting but at least we get to enjoy the perpetual dunking.

(image: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.