Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

So I'm a feminist, left-wing, pro-BLM, pro-LGBT, etc. Proud SJW, is what I'm saying. And I love film criticism that thoughtfully examines how representation falls short. But God, I fucking hate "woke" criticism and internet culture when it becomes a brainless exercise in generating clicks through manufactured outrage.

For instance, this English professor recently attempted to make the case that Lady Bird plagiarizes an earlier movie about a Latina woman called Real Women Have Curves (article here). And all she does is regurgitate tropes common to both regardless of context and say this proves that Lady Bird is a white woman ripping off a piece of Latinx art, claiming that anyone who says otherwise is hysterically defending their white idol. This woman very charitably went through and gave a point-by-point rebuttal, thank God.

This shit is ludicrous, and you see it more and more often. Some of the examples of "plaigarism" cited by the initial article are:

- Both movies feature a young woman who wants to go to college on the East Coast in contrast to her mother's wishes
- Both movies take place in a distinctive city
- Both movies feature a boy with whom the protagonist has a sexual relationship

Examples that are more specific than that are either misread or outright incorrectly remembered by the author. It's this horrendously sloppy piece of criticism that mistakes tropes for theft, and anyone who criticizes it can be dismissed by the author as trying to prop up their white hero.

I just worry that we're heading into an era of online discourse where it doesn't matter how closely one actually reads a film or how well they actually understand the nature of what they're talking about—all that matters is who has the most woke take, and anyone who attacks that take is guilty of bigotry. That makes me sound like a paranoid white guy, and I'm really not—so many of the people who are hysterical about "SJWs ruining my media!" are just infantile children, and they've definitely had a more damaging impact on discourse to this point. But I just can't express how frustrating it is when someone doesn't do their homework but is able to rebuff all critiques as stemming from hidden bigotry rather than addressing the possibility that maybe they're just not that good at this watching-movies thing.

The same thing happened with Noah Berlatsky recently—he published a hastily-written piece, in Playboy, of all places, accusing Phantom Thread of misogyny and Paul Thomas Anderson in general of being obsessed with worshiping white male geniuses. When a bunch of women pointed out he'd completely misread the movie's portrayal of a toxic relationship and that they loved it, he had the gall to dismiss them as being apologists for the patriarchy. A white guy pulling this sort of shit when women are the ones arguing with him is just indescribably infuriating.

Failure to recognize that the presence of tropes does not constitute banality/theft is bad enough in and of itself, as are flagrant misreadings of works of art. Couple that with this attitude that if what I'm saying is "woke" enough it's beyond criticism, you have a recipe for shrill, sloppy film analysis that is useful to precisely no one.

(Just to make up for the whiney harshness of this post, here are some links to a few of my favorite genuinely fantastic feminist online critiques of movies.)

Last edited by DarthPraxus (2018-01-25 20:31:24)

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

It does seem that the extreme left are more than happy to attack anyone on the left whilst making no comment whilst the right run amuck...

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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

To a lesser impact I'm rather "over" alternative interpretations of common media. You see this with Disney a lot, since it's such a touchstone.

Beauty and the Beast: Haha, Stockholm Syndrome, am I right?!

That was amusing when I was in college. Here we are ten years later and everybody has edgy interpretations of everything and every piece of work has some reason that you should feel terrible for enjoying it (Idiocracy supports eugenics!).

Then again, just because I'm ten years out of college doesn't mean that people ten years my junior aren't in college, and some of it's being written for them. But it's still exhausting and annoying.

Boter, formerly of TF.N as Boter and DarthArjuna. I like making movies and playing games, in one order or another.

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

^ Matt Zoller Seitz had a great Twitter thread on this issue a while back—so many online film critics are just completely devoid of any sort of historical context, and when they "discover" an idea they think it must be new even when it stretches back generations.

There's also just a point where it crosses the line from well-intentioned but uncharitable into straight disingenuousness. Like, Gone with the Wind deserves to be called out and reevaluated vocally because its racism and pro-Confederate revision of history were horrendous and ahistorical even at the time of its release. Ditto Lovecraft's absolutely vile racial bigotry. You'll never hear me saying otherwise.

But then you get people who decide to do something like shit on The Rocky Horror Picture Show because it's no longer up to code in how it treats terminology for trans individuals, which just willfully disregards how historically important a film it was for the LGBT community. Or, to name an example that's more personally irritating to me, people will criticize Malick's The New World, which is among other things a devastating critique of imperialism and white incursion on Native Americans, because it doesn't depict the rape of Pocahontas at the hands of the Jamestown settlers and thus isn't "woke" enough. Which disregards the fact that a.) oral tradition regarding the rape of Pocahontas wasn't widely known until 2007, two years after the film came out, and b.) A FICTIONAL MOVIE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A HISTORY TEXT IN EVERY PARTICULAR.

It's vitally important that we critique art from political and social-justice perspectives, but it's just as important that we do it the courtesy of taking it on in its own terms.

EDIT: That MZS thread, for the curious.

Last edited by DarthPraxus (2018-01-25 21:49:33)

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

Faldor wrote:

It does seem that the extreme left are more than happy to attack anyone on the left whilst making no comment whilst the right run amuck...

...what the hell are you talking about? What a baffling claim to make.

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

I think he means uber-progressives make meals of each other more than uber-conservatives do.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

I am so. very. tired. But here are some feelings.

DarthPraxus wrote:

so many online film critics are just completely devoid of any sort of historical context, and when they "discover" an idea they think it must be new even when it stretches back generations.

"Deeply worn out" definitely describes how I feel about so called "woke" criticism and I would like to wave and say yes, hello, woman of colour here, DarthPraxus is not being paranoid, this really does suck.

Context is so fucking important, and in short supply on the internet, as is nuance.
Look, when people criticize Tumblr SJWs for jumping down someone's throat because they are behind on the "right" language or whatever, I get it. But I also remember that a lot of Tumblr peeps are still teenagers and they're discovering issues for the first time. You're supposed to grow out of that shit. You're supposed to learn some history, learn how to argue, learn how to listen to other people. Learn to take criticism.

You can have nuanced and conflicting feelings about A Thing (see Stephen Fry's Wagner & Me; see also me watching Gone With the Wind). But that's not quite as catchy as a hot take on the latest movies.
Meaningful criticism should enlighten us. I think it should encourage questions, and it definitely should not be presented as the definitive interpretation of what it criticizes.

Long sigh.

The other thing that makes me tired is people trying to tell me how all millennials are _______. People seem to have lots of opinions about my "generation" and my future.

If it's not about musicals, I probably don't know what I'm talking about.

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

Alice! Wonderful to see you pop in again.

LatinAlice wrote:

The other thing that makes me tired is people trying to tell me how all millennials are _______. People seem to have lots of opinions about my "generation" and my future.

I don't know what you're talking about. *munches avocado toast*

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

At this point I just like ridiculing millennial criticism. "I don't know guys, I'm really feeling like Applebee's tonight but we're supposed to be killing casual dining. If word gets out I'm breaking our boycott I won't get my participation trophy."

Boter, formerly of TF.N as Boter and DarthArjuna. I like making movies and playing games, in one order or another.

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

^related, this is my favorite thing.

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

smile Glad to be here!

When it comes to avocado toast and ridiculing millennial criticism, I must direct you to my girl Katie and this very special episode of Millennial Meals (Of course, every episode of Millennial Meals is special)*.

Yes, I blatantly stole her joke.

If it's not about musicals, I probably don't know what I'm talking about.

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

I bought Coco on bluray. It doesn't work. I went to return it and Walmart man said they wouldn't accept it because it had been opened. He said it was because of copyright law.

It made me so fucking angry I had to leave because the alternative was to fucking drag him over the counter and bash his skull in with one of the little rope-holder things that creates the line at the service desk.

I told people back in the day that Bluray was a fucking mistake. I still hate it. It's the worst format for any media that has ever existed. It is fucking trash. I hate HATE the film industry, they way they distribute media, the strangle-hold they have on politics and the way they've convinced every idiot on the planet that perfectly legal things are illegal.

This disc doesn't work on my player, and it's not really because the disc is defective. The disc doesn't work because whoever wrote the software that runs this particular disc fucked something up or used some language features that my player doesn't support, so it essentially crashes my player. I can't return it because my receipt fucking vanished into the aether at some point last night, but the way the guy worded it made it sound like even with a receipt the best I could hope for would be an exchange of the same title.

The irony? Now that I can't return it, I am FORCED to try to rip it or download it and burn a bluray version of it so that I can actually watch the movie that I paid for. They are MAKING ME copy it. Which is perfectly, 100% legal, by the way. It is absolutely not illegal to make a copy of a movie. It is absolutely 100% not illegal to download them. It is only illegal to distribute them without a license that allows you to do so. So right now I'm thinking the best thing I could do is to just download an already ripped and formatted version ready to burn onto a bluray.

Like...  I have the DVD version that comes with it as well, but I want to watch the HD version I paid for.

Having looked on the interwebnets, apparently the latest Thor movie had the same problem as Coco, in that my player won't play it. This is the issue with this fucking format. DVD / HDDVD had standardized systems that you HAD to support, and those systems were generally pretty simple to author to because all you really had to do was create a very XML-like file that told the player where the tracks started, what channels were available and which ones to play. There was a tiny little bit of ram that stored flags for which tracks to play and where to go / activate when buttons were pressed on the remote. It was simple and easy and everyone was playing with the same toys.

Bluray is Java. I knew this was a mistake from the very beginning. This is the third Bluray I have bought that didn't work on the player I had at the time. I will see if there is a firmware fix for this. I will see if there is an update. After that, I will just download the movie. And if that works, then I will just continue to download any Disney-related movie until I am assured that this is no longer an issue. I will not be throwing away any more money on Disney's trash anymore. Fuck them, fuck Marvel, fuck everything.

The fact that it has to load any sort of java at all is bullshit from the get-go. The way they distribute the movies is trash. If it were any other media there would be a massive outcry. If every legally purchased music file from i-tunes had a minute-long intro with clips from a couple of other songs and an ad for how awesome MP3s are and a disclaimer about not stealing the music you were about to listen to, people would be absolutely shocked, stunned, horrified, etc. But that's what they do with movies EVERY TIME. It makes me fucking furious, and it makes me even more furious that no one else seems to be as furious as me.

Rant over. I have to go legally steal a movie now.


Hey, the movie's actually pretty good. Too bad the people who paid to make it are satan.

Last edited by Squiggly_P (2018-03-11 22:10:24)

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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something
It might be another failed attempt at copy protection (we've seen many of those over the years).

This whole "copy protection" thing has never "protected" anything, it's been only a major annoyance to buyers like us. With Blu-ray, there's at least a possibility of firmware upgrade. When the distributors started to introduce deliberate bad sectors to DVDs (after they finally realized that CSS is a joke), the discs wouldn't play on some old players and most of them didn't have upgradable firmware. Hell, even in the VHS days, Macrovision used to screw with some TVs. Home video distributors have always been assholes who punish paying customers.

We all float down here...

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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

Don't try playing Blu-Ray on a computer!

"Hey, you've got two monitors, I refuse to play"
"something something piracy"
"But if I wanted to pirate it, I would be watching it by now?"

Extended Edition - 140 Solo: A Star Wars Story!
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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

Oh, dude...  The reason I have a bluray burner in my other PC is because I wanted to just play them on my computer. I bought the burner and I bought legit playback software (like $100 software back in the day just to play a disc...).

It didn't work because I didn't have a compatible video card. So I bought a new video card. $300.

It didn't work because I didn't have a compatible monitor.

So the burner was $200, the software was $100, the video card was $300 and I would have had to shell out another $200-ish bucks for a new fucking monitor. So I paid $50 for a player instead and ripped the burner out of my PC and replaced it with something that didn't make me want to kick my PC through my wall every time I looked at it. Fuckers cost me $600+ dollars and I still couldn't just watch the fucking movies.

Meanwhile, HDDVD was over there being all "I'm a cheaper to produce, open format that requires no licensing and I don't have that stupid region locking nonsense going on so you can play whatever movies from whatever country you'd like, meaning that people who are into foreign films could just get the shit straight from the source..  don't mind me...  I'm just way better in almost every way..." Also a lot of the studios supporting HDDVD were putting minimal bullshit on the discs at the time. Universal's releases often didn't even have main menus. They just started playing when you put the disc in. Like...  You put the disc in and the actual fucking movie started playing after a logo and the default piracy screen. Boom... 30 seconds at the most and you were watching the movie.

Fucking blurays can take 20 minutes. The Blade Of The Immortal bluray I also bought yesterday had like 4 trailers and then launched into fucking ads for charities and websites and just PRODUCTS and shit. Like...  What in the everloving christ? It's not even just trailers for movies anymore and ads for bluray. It's ads for fucking websites and other bullshit now. Probably a solid half hour of garbage before the movie.

The only thing that would make it more of an authentic theatrical experience now would be if they occasionally popped up fake little cell-phones onto the screen, had the audio contain ambient whispered conversations and people eating shit loudly and texting and then had the fucking filmmakers show up to walk in front of the screen every ten minutes and then sit behind you and shove your seat occasionally. Maybe even randomly they could have the disc just stop working halfway through and make it not work again for 24 hours. Also, they could hook it up to your AC unit so they could turn the temperature down to about 50 degrees.

Just spit-balling here on ways they could possibly make watching bluray be any worse than it currently is...

Last edited by Squiggly_P (2018-03-11 22:39:12)

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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

Going back to the MCU discussion we had early on in this thread: I've been finding FCH hit-or-miss lately but this essay of his on Infinity War and the problems with growth/meaning that lie at the heart of the MCU nails it. Spoilers, obvs. Excerpt below:

The most frustrating moment in the entire MCU comes during a late, pivotal moment of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Right until that point, the film is telling a clear story about Tony Stark’s hubris: how he was acting out of fear to invent a super protective A.I. robot entity thingy that went rogue and started wreaking havoc on all their lives. It’s a clear lesson about how fear begets more violence. But then the problem becomes two-fold. 1) Tony does ultimately not actually lose anything or suffer a great cost, especially given that Jarvis is not actually dead but about to be revived in a moment of cheating death. And more problematically, 2) Tony’s way of ultimately “learning” to solve this hubris is to literally do the same exact thing and put A.I. into another robot. His fellow Avengers literally scream at him, pointing out this exact flaw, and Tony can only yell back, “trust me this time!” because this is literally the only argument he has. There is no other grander point to highlight. He’s just stubbornly doing it again…and it works. Vision comes into the picture, Jarvis is restored, he proves he’s a good dude, and no matter what beautiful a gloss they put on learning to trust him (and him casual picking up Thor’s Hammer is the best moment of the film), it’s all just a distraction. One that comes back to that inescapable problem of these films: Tony didn’t learn anything. More importantly, he really just doubled down on his hubris and it paid off. And if you haven’t noticed, this behavior has started happening all the damn time in the MCU, which brings us to the devastating realization underneath all the charm, tension, and gloss:

Nobody changes and the lessons don’t matter.

Last year, people thought I was surprisingly tough on Spider-man: Homecoming, but I got to the crux of the issue when I wrote “When did [Peter] psychologically learn this lesson in terms of the dramatic action? Even Peter’s moment of looking at the reflection in the water and him being “nothing without the suit” was originally a comment about his character and his reckless philosophy. But instead of tapping into that, it’s instead used as a rote unphilosophical mantra that allows him to be able to push the rocks up now just because he pushes real hard. It certainly feels triumphant, particularly because we just saw him be weak, but it doesn’t actually make sense to the overall lesson, theme, or philosophy.”

Again, even on the character arc level, this just speaks to the MCU’s affinity for “the texture of change” as opposed to the scariness of actual change. It’s all making something seem like a big deal in the moment, but it really has no effect on anything, especially the endings. For instance, this film makes a huge deal of Peter wanting to remain a “friendly neighborhood Spider-man,” before Infinity Wars thrusts him to an alien planet to fight a guy who can literally beat up the Hulk. Sure, Peter Parker tries to make some kind of defense about there being “no neighborhood,” but then the film hangs its hat on the fact that it literally doesn’t make sense. There’s no actual lesson learned here by either of them (worse, at literally any point, Dr. Strange could portal him home to safety). Things simply have to move forward because it’s time for them to move forward within the MCU machine, rendering these themes mere impasses in pursuit of the obligatory. So Tony “knights” him as an Avenger. It’s a funny moment, but it only exists because the alternative is that Spider-Man is not in the movie, which is as cynical a narrative choice as I can think of.

But it’s utterly par for the course in these films. Again, nobody really changes and the lessons don’t matter. People railed on me when I pointed out that Captain America: Civil War basically ends with a half-hearted “undo” gesture and they argued, “don’t worry, this will have a huge consequence in Infinity War!” I knew it wouldn’t because I know these movies. And yeah, the only consequence amounted to a slight moment of awkwardness where Tony didn’t want to make a phone call so someone else did. That’s literally it. Even Rhody’s injury means nothing because he still gets to walk around on magic robot legs and still be War Machine. And what were the dramatic personal consequences of Hulk leaving Black Widow at the end of Ultron? Well, they stare at each other awkwardly for five seconds in this film and then it’s never referenced again.

Any time I point this stuff out, people exclaim, “they’ll deal with that in the next one! The next one!” And if I have to hear that one more time about any of these damn movies, I’m going to lose my mind. Because I’m not arguing for “answers” or anything so insipid. I’m arguing that the movies still absolutely need to create meaning and change within a single narrative. A narrative that needs to be dramatized. Because what happens when you defer that? You’re just playing a rigged game, one that will go on forever if you keep assuming the next one will address it. And I’m sorry, but the only way to win a rigged game is to realize you’re being had and stop playing. The characters (save a few) have become completely static. And that’s where you realize one of the uglier hypocrisies about these movies…

For films that are so insanely great at crafting likable characterization, they’ve become so bad at the most important element of writing characters: meaningful arcs and psychology.

Which brings us to one of the central problems of Infinity War: it’s portrayal of Thanos. It’s worth noting that he is effectively the driving force of the story…which is cool! There’s nothing wrong with the villain being in the pilot seat and this is actually the case with most films, here it’s just a little more clear. Moreover, I actually like what Brolin’s doing with it a great deal. He brings weight, gravitas and surprising emotion to his performance. And because the character is genuinely allowed to be dangerous, this automatically shoots Thanos up the ladder into becoming one of the handful of solid villains in this series. But the not-so-little problem underneath it is that his character makes no sense whatsoever.

“But how could that be? He explains exactly what he believes!” 

Ah yes, the whole “villain explains their philosophy,” trope. Thanos tells us all about his belief in balance and how it’s the only way to save the universe from depleting resources and extinguishing itself. It is, of course, a hooey philosophy that doesn’t actually mean anything and which nobody really relates to on a psychological level. Heck, Kingsmen already blew the lid off that psychology to show it’s nothing more than a thinly-veiled belief to justify naked self-preservation. Which highlights the exact truth of characterization: it’s never about the philosophy, it’s the psychology behind it. To wit, Marvel’s phase one was so successful because it understood how much psychology mattered with the main characters. It tackled Tony Stark’s hubris and belief that his actions could have impact on other people and how consequences would change him. It showed where Cap’s utter willingness to put others before himself came from. It explored Banner’s depressive fear that his actions could have an effect on others. And no one underwent more of a psychological change than good ole’ Thor (just as no one’s evolved more since). These were real people going through real things that human beings can relate to. And now, with Thanos, we get the idea that’s he’s emotionally affected by things…but there’s no expressed psychology underneath it.

Nowhere is this more evident than in his relationship with Gamora. I know that Thanos loves his daughter because he tells us so. I just genuinely have no idea why he does. And neither does Gamora. It comes as a complete surprise to her. But of course it’s a surprise. There’s no dramatically expressed reason for it. We’ve see them interact, but there are no real specifics to their relationship. No psychology between them. No story. Just expressed feelings about how he hoped for better from her and that she always hated him. Even in their flashback scene, he picks her presumably because she “stands up and asks him a question,” but it’s not actually playing at anything within psychology. The scene, along with everything else, is an example of the writers trying to engineer an affectation, but not a story. And as a result, it doesn’t matter how good Brolin and Saldana are acting, it can only evoke our sympathy, not empathy.

So we may understand how Thanos makes us feel: scared and threatened, but we truly don’t understand what makes him him. I know we get a quick flashback to the glory of Titan and how it’s all gone now, but it can’t help but feel so damn perfunctory. And as a stark counterpoint, compare him to what made Erik Killmonger the most compelling villain in the MCU. We not only understand exactly who this person is, but why he is, and how he directly relates to the experiences of so many who have been left outside the fortunate glory of super-heroism. It was all psychology and impact. Heck, it’s a movie that literally portrays his “inner child” and how that affects his behavior. And it all cascades into thematically-rich, deeply-meaningful stuff, which ends up being completely dramatized. It’s the kind of character work that is coherently worked right into the story and conflicts, which is absolutely critical for a movie like this.

Think back to most maligned villain of the MCU, probably Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. Now, there’s the obvious reasons for this in that he’s sort of just a static bore with no real human expression within the story, but it’s worth noting he is actually given a baseline psychology that makes sense. His people lived in the world before “light” was born, then they were displaced, banished into a prison world, and now they are back to take what is theirs. This makes “sense” because we are literally told all this. But we don’t care because we never see it dramatized. We never see his sense of loss, or emotion, or much of anything. We never get the specifics that haunt him or how it all comes to tie into the overall story. There is no “psychology as story” here.

And it can’t help make me think of Thanos’s story from the actual comics, which is far more compelling from a character perspective. “Cursed” by a disease that makes him look different, he suffers great abuse from his mother, to the point that she wants to kill him on sight. But rather than this having an immediate effect, Thanos spends his childhood running from his pain, wanting love, trying to please as most children do. He essentially becomes a love-craving pacifist child who thinks this will bring him what his heart wants. But by the time he grows up, the consciousness of this pain of abuse and neglect come to fruition. And so he turns to nihilism to cope. And to cope further, he falls in love with “death.” But Death is not a mere concept in this world, you see. It is actually a cosmic entity personified by a god. And he tries so desperately to please her by killing more and more and more, all in her name.

Yeah, this is big time resonant psychology stuff. And you wouldn’t have to look far into the news to see the way this could play into a commentary on misogyny and the creepy and possessive stuff men do “in the name of” women and love, all to get what they feel they are “owed.” It could be deeply powerful and resonant to today’s world. But why not go with it? Too hokey to be in love with a god? In a story that’s already full of gods? The grim truth is it’s just “safer” to go with a blind commitment to a vague philosophy (that no one actually believes in real life) and put in some nice textural scenes that make it seem like there’s something deeper going on, even though there actually isn’t. And thus, the fulcrum of Infinity War and all the pain in the universe ends up resting in the fact that some nonsensical dude likes balanced daggers…you’re just not supposed to think about it.

Perhaps it would matter less if something was actually going on with literally anyone else. Yes, I understand that characters are made sad and angry within the events of the film, specifically Starlord. But the closest we come to story is one scene of Thor expressing his feelings of loss, but there’s no time for that, he’s gotta go build a god weapon! Meanwhile, Banner can’t Hulk-out for reasons we do not yet understand. Tony issues some lip service about a wedding before rushing off to trouble and it’s barely referenced again. And Cap, the heart and soul of the franchise, is literally doing nothing but showing up. But I get it: everyone’s too busy running around trying to die. And after all this build-up, it’s a genuinely scary and visceral experience to have. And I even fully understand that if you squint, you can make out a little lip-service about how the film is really about not trading lives and giving into despair (which is exactly what Thanos does). But I can’t help but care about how little of the story is brought to forefront of the dramatized text, to the point that it feels like it’s “about nothing.” Within that realization, we come to a deeply irrevocable problem of semiotics…

Something always means something.

[. . .]

What are all these movies really about?

Which brings us to the one true sin of the MCU, which is that the meaning of the movie comes from the combination of all the points I have been making and how they have to operate in interlocking, faux-change perpetuity. No, it’s not as lazy as some anti-capitalist screed about how they keep wanting to make billions and billions of dollars (though it’s worth mentioning). It’s how all those things come together to create a certain a dire thematic statement within the story about the heroic and human condition.

When you look back at Greek myth and its treatment of “superheroes,” all with their own gods, half-gods and titans, you realize how many of the stories are just fables; morality tales with lessons of hubris and pain and suffering. They’re parables meant to inform us about our own human shortcomings. You know the stories, Icarus flying too close to the sun; Achilles and that pesky heel. But the one I always think about is the Prometheus myth, in which the protagonist steals fire from the gods to give power to man. There’s no other myth that so captures the story of what “superheroes” are about. To be given power far beyond measure and to put us on par with gods? Greek myths are always metaphors for power. And the point is that Prometheus is, of course, punished for this action and in a pretty grizzly way. But note that in Greek myth, the gods aren’t so much about challenging authority, but challenging fate itself. Particularly in the notion of what happens when you try to cheat death. This is precisely why The Wire got so much mileage out of using the structure of greek drama. It was comparing the lumbering bureaucratic nature of our modern institutions to “challenging the fates,” the consequences of which show our powerlessness and how we learn to cope in human ways. Like all stories, it was about our faults and failures.

But modern superhero movies have a completely different notion on their mind, largely because they’re about the empowerment fantasy. You’ve stolen fire from the gods and now you can do things beyond your wildest imagination! Isn’t it so cool!?! This is all part and parcel of why the messaging of “with great power comes great responsibility” has to matter the more than ever. Just as consequences and growth really have to matter. Which just makes me cringe when it comes to how insanely irresponsible some of the MCU movies have gotten when it comes to these fronts. It’s not the lack of death and “stakes,” but the lack of consequence and depth they represent. For if you can always stubbornly press forward and just yell “trust me this time!” If you can always hit “undo.” If you can never, ever truly suffer, nor spend time examining it, then you are lying about the consequences of stolen fire. And it’s the reason the best superhero stories are always about cost. They’re about how truly difficult it is to do the right thing; not how hard it is to defeat someone.

And so when I look at Thanos, the MCU’s own mythical mad Titan, I can’t help but realize that Marvel’s got it backwards. For it is Thanos who is the god that the Avengers will need to come to grips with. But instead they’ll press forward in pursuit of resurrecting the dead. And how many times have we had a feint of death before resurrection already in these films? Cap. Thor. Bucky, Loki, Jarvis, Pepper, T’Challa. The list is endless. And right at the biggest moment, right where the snap of consequence has to matter more than ever…

The MCU is once again going to be about cheating death.

Because damn the gods! Damn suffering! Damn cost! I’m a superhero, dammit! I’m charming and people like me and they don’t want to see me go! And I can’t help but think about how much this attitude has a lack of permanence—has not only cost comics and the MCU, but us. I think about how many people can’t handle the basic dramatic stress of Infinity War and seeing our heroes in danger. I worry about how all the old lessons of Walt Disney’s original ethos, and the emphasis on understanding loss and consequence, could help prepare us to face the pain that we experience. For so many stories are designed to teach us the incredible healing and human power of sadness. But instead, we have a story of denial. About the “heroes” who have fought tooth and nail against it at every step. It is like re-writing the story of Bambi so that the character will go into fires of hell to undo death itself. And if we let ourselves go past “the feeling” of loss in Infinity War, a movie that is ostensibly very much about cost and consequence, we will see the larger metaphor for what it is…

What if Prometheus stole fire and instead of being punished, fought back and killed the gods themselves? What if the lessons learned along the way didn’t matter? What if hubris was rewarded? What if we could snap our fingers back when god snapped their fingers against us? What if we could make it so that we were great at beating fate and could be much more awesome forever without much cost along the way? I imagine you’ll tell me that “they will address it in the next one!” But they won’t. We know they won’t. Not just because of what’s been announced in some trade, but simply because there’s too much at “stake” for those who are ordained to seek perpetuity. And with this film, they have the gall to look you in the eye and pretend they’re really finally doing it different. But it’s the worst kind of lie.

And I can think of nothing less heroic.

Seems to me the DiF guys hit the central point of this all the way back on their Thor commentary. Nice work, guys.

Last edited by DarthPraxus (2018-05-01 20:01:15)

Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something

MCU = WWE without the trailer-trash stigma.

And just like that...

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Re: Thread for Being Non-Fatalistically Deeply-Worn-Out About Something


Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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