Marvel At It

By Jon Elordi

Conservative and right-wing Twitter will tell you that Marvel movies are bad. They’ll claim that everything about the movies is ironic. That they undercut any sincere scene with a throwaway joke. And to some degree, they’re right. Marvel movies seem to be uncomfortable with earnestness. The movies have some earnest moments, but they’re few and far between. I have no argument against this. Marvel movies do this, and it can get annoying. However, it’s a stylistic choice that might be necessary. The plot of every movie is the destruction of the entire universe. The snark keeps the movies light, which keeps them fun.

The alternative to the snark is a melodramatic film about a green monster and several insect-themed superheroes saving the world. And that would be so much worse.

The other argument against Marvel movies is that they have dumb or simple plots, and for some reason, this is bad. This is a bad argument. They may have a simple plot structure. Yes, it is a mere simplified hero’s journey. But this is good. Why? Because the hero’s journey points higher. To a virtue. Which means they point to God.

Every. Single. Marvel. Movie. Is. About. Something. Honorable.

The Marvel movies teach lessons. They preach the virtues of friendship, love, community, self-sacrifice, and they love humanity.

The dominating ideology of the West fundamentally hates humanity. I routinely hear Climate Zealots claim, “There are too many people on this planet.” They hate humanity. Canada and Europe have begun instituting medically assisted suicide. They call it death with dignity, but it’s not dignified. They hate humanity. And don’t even get me started on the abortion lobby. They hate humanity.

Marvel stands against this. The main villain is Thanos. He wants to destroy half the population in the universe. He loses in the end. This is Good.

Winter is Coming

The other series that dominated the 2010s was Game of Thrones. Aside from the gratuitous nudity, conservatives, and right-wing Twitter tend to have a more opinion of GOT. They’ll argue it’s interesting. That GOT is unpredictable. It doesn’t play by the rules of normal storytelling and shows the world for how it actually is. I again have no argument against this. GOT does all those things, and it is fun. However, it is enjoyable because it is novel, not because it is good.

If Marvel is a mere hero’s journey, the GOT is mere subversion.

We learn this lesson in the first season. Ned Stark is a good man who has been thrust into a prototypical hero’s journey. Except at the dark night of the soul, he doesn’t come back against all odds. He gets his head chopped off. In front of his children. And the story moves on.

The world of GOT is not only unforgiving but actively cruel. It takes the familiar beats of storytelling and uses them against you to break your heart. It points to nothing higher. If anything, GOT’s message is not to bother with virtue; it’s likely to get you killed and humiliated. There is no redemption. Only an empty death. And a world that moves on without you.

Game of Thrones is maybe postmodern. It’s definitely nihilistic.

Side Note: This is why GOT will never and can never have a satisfying ending. Accomplishment is not possible in this world. Love can’t conquer all because love was massacred at the red wedding. George RR Martin created a flat, nihilistic world. It’s why it was hard to care about the white walkers. Was humanity even good in this series? Perhaps Westeros would have been better off with the white walkers. There was no good guy. There was no virtue. And with that, there can be no ending.

The goal of an adventure is to climb a mountain. There are no goals on a flat plane.

The Winter Soldier is Coming

Plato famously did not like the poets. His Socrates suggested the expulsion of all poets from society. And I sympathize with the notion.

Art, in the modern sense of the word, influences and moves society. Art is imitation. It is mimetic. Both in a metaphysical sense(Plato) and in a social sense(Girard). What we see in art will be imitated by the public. We can’t help ourselves. It will influence us. Even the Twitter personalities pushing back on Marvel are doing a form of anti-mimesis. They see Marvel influencing the culture, so they take the opposite opinion to not be like the rest of society. The joke is on them, however. Marvel has influenced them just as much, if not more.

And that’s the point. Art will influence you no matter what. Apathy is unlikely. You will be confronted. Society! Will be confronted.

So, would you rather have society confronted by a snarky superhero saving lives or a nihilistic political drama?