At one time or another everyone has wanted to be a superhero. Who hasn't imagined what it would feel like to stand victorious, fist raised, cape flowing? There's something honourable about battling evil, about wanting to make the world a better place. There's also something distinctly adolescent about the idea. It appeals to our basest desires of wanting to be powerful and universally adored. But isn't fighting a noble cause supposed to be a reward in itself? Isn't that why, after the villain is vanquished, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, and Clark Kent don't stick around waiting for the news vans to show up?
Apparently all the comic books that marijuana activist Marc Emery read as a kid were missing the last page.
Interspersed between numerous news clips and interviews in the documentary Citizen Marc, your animations depict Emery as a bespectacled, chiseled superhero with a receding hairline, battling against the Big Bad Government of Canada—and anyone else who dares keep him from his goal of legalizing marijuana. The tone is perfectly balanced between mockery and begrudging admiration. After all, Emery may be a cartoonish megalomaniac, but he also may be right when he claims to have done more than anyone else to advance the marijuana movement.
Citizen Marc, instead of lionizing Emery, portrays him as a narcissistic mercenary. This is clear in his origin story: Emery's love affair with the almighty dollar began as a pre-teen, when he started selling comics to friends, an endeavour that he tells us soon had him earning more than his father. At seventeen, Emery dropped out of school and bought the City Lights bookstore in London, Ontario, the site of what he calls "The Prophecy". A woman fell in front of his store and had a vision of three symbols pertaining to him: a dollar sign, a spiky leaf, and a brain with a cage around it.
It could only be more ridiculous if he was bitten by an infected spider. Oh yeah, that happened too.
Unlike most superheroes, who are content to toil away in obscurity, Emery seems to get stronger with every self-aggrandizing publicity stunt. Sure he's the Prince of Pot, but he's also the King of Over-Sharing. It must have been difficult for you and the filmmakers to decide just which period of his life to animate. But you chose well. Against a black background, you outline our caped cannabis crusader in white with the initials M E on his chest, dropping green seeds over the world in his attempt to "overgrow the government." You show this Ayn Rand-loving libertarian shoveling money into a fire as he buys his way into politics. You depict this sound-bite machine as a modern-day Moses, who inserts himself into religious imagery and bathes in cannabis oil (like Jesus, he claims), referring to his toker acolytes as "the chosen people." Your simple black and white animation is the perfect juxtaposition for a man whose ideology is painted in broad strokes of grey.
In all superhero movies there are the innocent bystanders who watch helplessly as their city gets hijacked. Citizen Marc shows us that it's not the citizens themselves, but their movement that is being hijacked by Emery's ego (which, one of his detractors observes, "is 40% of his body weight"). The narrator tells us, over your animation of Emery throwing fireballs at a sentient government building, that his capitalist views and anti-government message aligns him more closely with the Republican agenda. This plays rather strikingly against the footage of Gandhi and Martin Luther King—two masters of civil disobedience to whom Emery guilelessly compares himself.
We all know how superheroes get around; Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, Spiderman has his webs, and Batman has a flashy car. Citizen Marc seems content to let The Prince of Pot hoist himself by his own petard.