Lance Scranton: Hidden agenda
My good friend Shane Hadley has gotten me totally immersed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He got me one night when we were discussing movies and their intent beyond the cinematic part. I was intrigued because I’m always thinking about themes, characters, and perspective of authors when I read and teach literature. I began by watching “Iron Man” a few years ago and by the time I finished “Spider-Man: Far from Home” last week, I was totally sold!
The Marvel Universe is replete with themes that should speak to just about everyone and I started to make a list of the more obvious:
Every good movie has love in the plot somewhere, but Marvel takes it a step further with characters whose personal safety takes a back seat to their willingness to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of others. When Black Widow makes the ultimate sacrifice and then Iron Man as well! You can see the obvious characterization of people who are willing to put everything on the line for the sake of those they love but also for a far greater purpose — to stop evil. Think of all the people throughout history whose ultimate sacrifice has given us the liberties we enjoy everyday.
Fanatics always enter the Marvel universe with some pursuit that they believe will avenge some wrong or right the universe. Thanos is by far the most impressive Zealot in cinematic history. Who wouldn’t want to have the “power” to save the universe by snapping your fingers and half of everyone in the known worlds dissolves into nothingness? But as great as saving the universe sounds; it is our humanity that separates us from becoming Pol Pots, Hitlers, Mao Tse Tung or any other “sterilizer” throughout history. Each superhero implicitly understands the intent and consequence of wielding so much power in the self-righteous pursuit willing to use any means necessary. I’ve always thought that if environmentalists really believed in their extreme solutions. they might inject some personal responsibility into their solution and pursue options that reduce completely their carbon footprint.
Staying with the zealot theme — Why doesn’t Thanos include himself in the diabolical formula to set the universe right? Always be aware of the people in powerful positions who believe that because of their wealth or power they should be exempted from the natural consequences of the decisions that they make. Sure is easy to make rules that you know you’ll never have to follow or be affected by, but Thanos does do a great job selling his ideal. He just wants to save the universe from ultimate doom and destruction by using doom and destruction as his salvo of choice. It’s hard not to think about those who tell us how we should protect the planet as they live their lives however they choose because they really aren’t the problem — you are!
Thor wallowing around with a beer belly and a rotten attitude playing video games! Who would ever have thought! But he eventually snaps out of it with the help of his superhero friends and gets back on track. Spider-Man whines and complains about how life has treated him until his buddy asks him what he is going to do about it. Victimization is a popular motif in movies today but you wouldn’t be much of a hero if you sit around feeling sorry for yourself all day — possible exception Hemingway, but that’s another column.
Stories teach us lessons and reinforce the ideals we all like to see in others and ourselves. Marvel has done a great job of embedding powerful and important themes in their movies.