Brow Beat

Jordan Peterson Is Shocked to Discover His Resemblance to Nazi Supervillain the Red Skull

A split screen showing Jordan Peterson on the left, wearing a gray plaid suit and blue tie, and a page from Captain America on the right featuring the Red Skull, a Nazi supervillain.
A real-life comic book character! Photo illustration by Slate. Images via Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images and Marvel Entertainment.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian professor of psychology who was embraced by right-wingers in 2016 after refusing to honor his students’ requests to use their preferred pronouns, then leveraged his YouTube channel and fear of political correctness to build a career as a self-help guru to the alt-right. He also appears to be the basis for the current incarnation of Marvel’s Nazi supervillain the Red Skull, who has returned to the comic book universe courtesy of Between the World and Me writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is currently wrapping up a 2½-year run on Captain America, and in Captain America No. 28, which was released on March 31, the Red Skull has a YouTube channel that looked very familiar to Peterson, except for the red skull part:

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A guide to the jokes here: Peterson is the author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos and Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and believes “the masculine spirit is under assault,” but if he’s praised the genius of turn-of-the-20th-century Austrian politician and notorious anti-Semite Karl Lueger, he doesn’t seem to have done so publicly. (That is probably a joke about Peterson’s interest in Carl Jung.) Peterson was also unhappy with a series of panels in which Captain America explains to a police officer the way the Red Skull recruits lost young men to his cause:

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So why is Red Skull doing a Jordan Peterson act to begin with? It’s complicated! He’s been appearing in Captain America comic books since 1941, so his full backstory is beyond the scope of this article, but he’s a Nazi, and in most versions of the character, his trademark red skull is a mask. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hugo Weaving played him as a man whose face had been disfigured by Super Soldier Serum:

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In recent comic books, the Red Skull is dead—he’s died several times, at this point—but before his most recent death, he managed to transfer part of his consciousness into the body of Aleksander Lukin, a former Soviet general who is also out to get Captain America. Unfortunately for their plans, Lukin also died soon afterward, but his wife Alexa had him resurrected with the help of Rasputin—yes, that Rasputin—and the Red Skull comes along for the ride, in kind of a Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde situation. In Coates’ Captain America books, Cap’s enemies are recruiting disaffected American white men, just like certain political movements we could name, and the Red Skull’s YouTube channel is part of that effort. Unbeknownst to the Red Skull’s fans, he’s using them as cannon fodder in an effort to ruin Captain America’s reputation, at one point detonating a bomb designed by Agatha Harkness—yes, the witch who appeared in WandaVision—in the middle of one of their protests. Coates has two issues left to resolve the story, and Marvel is promising “an epic fight to the finish with the Red Skull,” so expect the Marvel Universe’s answer to Jordan Peterson to be back in prison or suspended animation or temporarily dead very, very soon. Meanwhile, our universe’s Jordan Peterson has decided to lean in:

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At this time, it is unclear if Jordan Peterson is sharing his skull with a resurrected member of the Nazi High Command, or stockpiling Agatha Harkness–designed witchcraft bombs, or relentlessly pursuing vengeance against Captain America. But it’s undeniable that he and the Red Skull have similar YouTube channels, so it’s probably best not to take any chances.

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