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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Marvelous Guest Post

Upgraded from a comment in the Moot by my friend Jim Fehlinger:
A friend of mine, off from work between the holidays and with the rest of his family out of the house for the duration, invited me over this past weekend to binge-watch movies on his big HDTV. We started with the recent SyFy Childhood's End and ultimately graduated to... three of his favorite Marvel superhero movie adaptations -- the first installment each of Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers.

I hadn't seen any of these before -- I don't keep up with comic-book movie adaptations. I enjoyed them well enough, and my friend is a more-or-less sophisticated consumer of these things (he's pushing 60; he's no 12-year-old). But in the context of my past almost-20-years' exposure to the on-line transhumanists, I now find this sort of entertainment disturbing on several levels. The feeding of adolescent-male narcissistic power fantasies (however perfumed with ostensible "altruistic" motivations in the diegesis -- the interior story line), the militarism, and the atmosphere of American exceptionalism are certainly bothersome, but what I find most irritating these days is my certain knowledge that some people, of whatever age (physical or mental), absorb these fantasies as though they constituted a real paradigm for "the future". All these thoughts were hovering in the back of my mind even as I was still appreciating the movies at a 12-year-old's level. Afterwards, I mentioned these reservations to my friend, and he acknowledged them rather perfunctorily, but I'm afraid he doesn't "bellyfeel" them as much as I do at this stage of my life. ;->
I must say, I am mostly uninterested but mildly disturbed by these Marvel blockbusters myself as well. I mean, I loved the high-camp cocoliciousness of Flash Gordon and still quite earnestly enjoy re-watching the first big Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. I mildly enjoyed the Burton Batmans and the first couple of X-Men movies, but since Wolvereen is for me the least interesting imaginable focus of a narrative I can't say that they have held my attention through the endless sequels. Many of the more acclaimed recent super-hero adaptations have struck me as just dull and dumb (the Spiderman flicks through to the various Leagues of superheros banging into things in their underwear movies) or, as you say, politically pernicious (the Tony Stark and gritty Batman re-boots seem to me to be libertopian softcore porn for man-children). I don't say too much about this because I assume there may be generational cues I am missing out on that contribute to the pleasures many otherwise smart, clued-in people seem to attest to in all the fandom generated by these things. But I must say, I find most superhero movie franchises these days quite disturbing in rather the same ways you seem to do. While it would be hilariously idiotic to treat these pyrotechnical displays as futurologically predictive in any literal sense, I do suppose in all that spectacularly devastated infrastructure there is in these films an allegorical return of the repressed reality of anthropogenic climate catastrophe and a pleasurably cathartic payoff to compensate all the learned helplessness and consumer complacency of moviegoers complicit in this still ameliorable disaster. Anyway, it would be interesting to see if other readers have different takes. For added pleasure, I'll also append this, because the word "marvelous" always pushes a particular button for me:

1 comment:

Elias Altvall said...

Since I am a huge comic book geek and enjoy the movies I feel as though i should defend these movies at least to some small extent. First it is all ways are to talk about these movies or any movies like they are one huge thing and not seperate entities, of course now marvel is trying to do a comic book thing of collecting them together in one universe on the other hand it does not take away from the fact that these movies exist thematically, symbolically and story wise in different corners. Are some of it a power fantasy? OF course that is a unsophisticated analysis that leave much to be desired for example Batman is a psychologically trouble man with too much wealth for his own good it is never really clear that he is actually helping the corrupt situation in his city at all. Tony Stark is an alchoholic and semi fascist that is pretty much proving that a private person having to much power is perhaps not a good. Captain America (especially Winter Soldier) can be look at as a very new deal liberal coming to our time to be both dissappointed and amazed at what we have achieved.

There are still (even in the comics i am afraid) the air of american exceptionalism about Superheroes but I have started to realise that it might be that way for more than one reason and it might have little to do with a writers personal opinions which is superheroes are almost only existent in America if you look at the comic book culture and developement in other nations what we find is pretty everyone being influenced by them but rarely being able to create straight versions of their own there are only exceptions that prove the rule with Japan getting the closes but still being very very different. The reality of the fact is Superheroes were actually created less as escapism and more as way for certain people to deal with the deppression and other political movements at the time. I mean in the early comics Superman fights wife beaters, banana republic dictators, corrupt buisiness people and fascists to name a few. Because let face reality here Grant Morrison is correct in asserting that Superheroes are or can be mythology as in universal characters that can be applied in many stories and contexts. Does this mean there can be no superhero stories that are without american exceptionalism? Of course not, a example is All-star Superman.

Now these movies coming out now are a very varied sort like I said above. For example the hero of hope and change is now a murdering fascist who as far as I am concerned is a NAME ONlY Superman.

For me I always find the argument that Superhero movies (or comics) are power fantasies to be very weak (not necessarily wrong), because it mostly never is a proper analysis of course this still does not mean that you have to like it. In fact I pretty much suspect if I were not a comic book geek I probably would not appreicate these movies that much neither but Now i am a geek so I like them. But Just like with all things you have to think critically about them. Except Avengers which is awesome because It is a silver age comic made film, it is dumb nonsensical and somewhat weird.

I hope Wonder Woman beats the crap out of Name Oonly Superman and Frank Millers Batman in the Movie, doubt it but hope is still a live in this geek.