It is easy enough to rebut such complaints about Samurai Jack case-by-case. But the underlying attitude from which they derive is much more pernicious, and much harder to combat. It is a vision of art that is fundamentally rooted in identity and context. All art will, to some extent, reflect the identity of the artist and the context in which it was created. But the best art rises above that context, using the particular to reveal something universal about the human experience. The best art can entertain, enlighten, ennoble, and inspire us, regardless of who we are and who created it. The ultimate tragedy of the social-justice warriors is that they deny the possibility of such transcendence in favor of endless political nitpicking and problematizing . The rest of us shouldn’t let their misgivings ruin our appreciation of Samurai Jack ’s beauty.
All of these are symptoms of the same disease: a manic reinterpretation of “democracy” in which everyone must have their say, and no one must be “disrespected.” (The verb to disrespect is one of the most obnoxious and insidious innovations in our language in years, because it really means “to fail to pay me the impossibly high requirement of respect I demand.”) This yearning for respect and equality, even—perhaps especially—if unearned, is so intense that it brooks no disagreement. It represents the full flowering of a therapeutic culture where self-esteem, not achievement, is the ultimate human value, and it’s making us all dumber by the day.