Wednesday, February 21, 2018
No I Shouldn't and I Won't
The Washington Post published an opinion piece on why Zack Snyder was a godsend to superhero movies. I find myself disagreeing with it on every possible level. Snyder doesn't understand comics, characters, or why heroism is so necessary. I'd go so far as to say that Snyder doesn't understand masculinity either.
But that's not the chief mistake of Bunch's article. "There’s no idea behind the Marvel films writ large, no overarching thought" he complains. And this is where I truly disagree with him. Marvel's films, by and large, are based upon one very simple (but powerful) idea: heroism is a gift to mankind, but especially the person that the heroism channels itself through. The person and the heroics he performs are not the same thing. Tony Stark isn't an interesting character because he's snarky, it's how he manages to be in the right place and time for everyone, especially himself, that's so compelling. Thor is interesting because, despite his arrogance, he continuously learns that he's not the only fish in the pond and he has to serve those around him for his life to really have meaning. Captain America, who already had these lessons down, had to be shown that the power to effect change is not inborn but is a gift for those who are humble enough to realize it's not all about them. It's masculinity, clean and simple, and in a world where toxic masculinity is upbraided and confused with actual masculinity the real thing is attractive in ways we can hardly fathom.
Someone who is actually masculine does not confuse the power he wields with himself. Unlike the feminine, which is an inborn trait, masculinity is not inherent to males, but is something that is gifted, given by others. That's why so many traditional cultures have coming-of-age ceremonies for men. Their masculinity is given to them in these ceremonies and they are transformed. It's also part of the reason why superheroes jump around in bright and colorful outfits and why traditional religions usually have men dressed up in bright and colorful robes. The fact that in any other context they'd look silly is missing the point: their station is conferred by something greater than themselves. Us Christians call it "God", while atheists mistake this higher power for society or a social contract or what-have-you. The point is that the hero (who, in this sense, can only be male) has been chosen for his role, unworthy as he is of it at times. That's why Marvel's movies do so well: they've dialed this up to 11. One might blame them for their repetitiveness but in a world where actual masculinity is at an all-time low I think they can hardly be blamed for playing a card no one else will play.
There's SPOILERS in the next paragraph. If you haven't seen The Last Jedi yet now's a good time to stop reading.
So no, I'm not going to miss Snyder's horrific vision. I'm glad DC changed their minds and I hope that they never go that ridiculous route again. We as a nation really need men, real men, men who are aware that they've been given a gift and they're the only ones who can use it. Hopefully DC figures this out and how to do a darker take on the theme, because we need that too. Although, if the backlash from The Last Jedi tells us anything, it's that DC should get used to controversy if they go that route. I say go for it. Rattle some cages.