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‘Avengers’ Indoctrinates Us-Citizen-Hordes for War

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The Avengers movie is based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It was released early in May and broke records by amassing $500 million at the domestic box office. Worldwide it has exceeded $1.2 billion.

According to Joanne Laurier of wsws the movie cost $220 million. A group of superheroes attempt to save the earth from an alien invasion.

Sam Jackson plays Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, a peace keeping agency which secretly is evolving wmds to help do this. How "pragmatic" of it. Actually, I was relieved to see this issue gave at least a couple of the superheroes pause for what disappointingly turned out to be only a second or two or maybe three in the one-hundred forty-three minute movie. Of course, conditions were so dire from the get-go there was no time to really explore any hypocrisy and darker agendae for the “good guy” “American” corporate overlords. Kind of like when 9/11 happened and full throttle anything goes reactivity went into gear and apparently, imho, hasn’t stopped.

The supposedly admirably independent superheroes charge forward to protect the globe and particularly Manhattan from violent overthrow and/or destruction since that is what they can’t help but do. Hordes of hapless citizens – us -- scurry about below the superheroes’ ever-changing perches like deranged ants as the superheroes do their “stuff”. It is all about might for ... well, let’s call it just off the tops of our heads, "lesser-evil right."

The superhero with the biggest conscience at times appears to be the doctor mode of the Hulk. The Hulk is the most monstrously irrational when he – it – goes into its enraged superhero mode. A mass of formidable aggression, kind of like the US/NATO killing machine in power and in lack of impulse and boundary control.

Laurier elaborates nicely:

Marvel Comics’ rise to prominence had a certain association with the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. Marvel prided itself on presenting the characters’ complexities and even serious failings, in opposition to the more stolid, one-dimensional Superman and Batman of DC Comics.

Thus each Avenger in Whedon’s film has his or her individual dilemma. The Black Widow wants to make up for past misdeeds; Thor has to settle accounts with his fallen, evil brother, Loki; after being encased in ice for decades, Captain America wonders whether there is a place in the 21st century for him and his old-fashioned patriotic gung-ho; Iron Man Tony Stark needs to prove that he is more than a selfish billionaire playboy; Dr. Bruce Banner, who when angry becomes The Hulk, is ministering to the poor in India when we first meet him, an undertaking he reluctantly abandons for the planet-saving mission.

And so on. None of this character development, however, goes beyond a few introductory lines of dialogue or bits of action. The audience quickly learns what to expect from each and every character, even taking into account the plot’s inevitable twists and turns.

The name of this movie game is NON-STOP TITILLATION of visual and auditory mayhem. Laurier:

The film, primarily a series of individual and large-scale combats, is a spectacle of contemporary film technology and special effects. One impossible feat follows rapidly on another, separated by interludes of largely clichéd dialogue, pieces of plot exposition and rather labored attempts at humor.

One hundred and forty-three minutes of head-pounding bombast, The Avengers is an exhausting experience. The filmmakers make certain that the viewer has as little time or space as possible for reflection and critical thought.

It was, indeed, an impressive, eye- and ear-filling rollercoaster ride that never bored. But again the money statement Laurier makes:

The filmmakers make certain that the viewer has as little time or space as possible for reflection and critical thought.

Feel the sensation, America? Especially young and impressionable America? Breathless adrenalin-addicting violence. What a rush!!!! And the superheroes are fighting the mechanized aliens who are not like any other global humans, right? I mean the mechanized aliens don’t look like us enough, right, to fulfill that subliminal role? And could never in a million years represent a demonized set of other human beings of course! (cough, cough … choke!)

Laurier makes some salient points:

The movie’s final segments are saturated with 9/11 imagery—firefighters and policemen to the rescue of wounded and soot-covered civilians, followed by collective mourning. Captain America, a World War II veteran, brings “a little old-fashioned stars and stripes” to the party and tycoon Tony Stark demonstrates that the top one-hundredth of one percent can be a force for good. Whedon’s film omits the fact that Stark Industries is a weapons manufacturer and Stark’s past nemeses have included Arabs and Persians arranged in West-versus-East combat.

In the wake of 9/11 and the proclamation of the “war on terror,” and in the midst of a relentless drive to war with Iran, what is the overall message and impact here? There is no reason to impute to the filmmakers deliberately retrograde political motives, but have they thought at all about the implications of their work?

snip

Those who maintain that the population gets “what it wants” self-servingly forget that audiences have no say in the production of the mass entertainment inflicted on them. Giant conglomerates make all those decisions, and work at every point within the framework of their financial and ideological interests

The resurgence of superhero films in particular is the result of various factors and really deserves its own special study. Economic, social and artistic issues come together here.

If it could, presumably each Hollywood studio would make one or two colossal films a year that would earn billions. Intriguing human stories and artistic presentations of life are inconveniences for studio executives, which they dispense with as much as possible in an effort to get to the business of emptying their customers’ pockets.

As numerous commentators have pointed out, film adaptations of comic books have the advantage of built-in popular familiarity and bases of support. In addition, a successful adaptation may generate a vast amount of cash in terms of product tie-ins (clothing, games, fast food restaurant items, toys) and so forth for the fortunate entertainment giant in question.

Taking no chances, the filmmakers have made sure that The Avengers is star-packed, and in numerous cases (Johansson, Downey, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Jackson and even Gwyneth Paltrow in a small part, Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders) the performers have a genuine following or popular appeal.

But there is more going on here.

Again, a number of critics have pointed to the manner in which superhero films dress up American reality, brutal American imperialist reality in particular. A 2008 article, for example, at the Cleveland Indy Media Center, opines that “[t]hese superheroes have been harnessed in support of our dying imperial project, promising a renaissance through which our superior strength, and unrivaled human wisdom, are finally and fully unveiled for the world’s adoration and humble acquiescence.

snip

The very nature of the form operates against, although it does not make impossible, the working through of the intensely complicated problems of modern life in a mass society.

Why is it not possible to present an accurate picture of the world and its complexities without legends, superheroes and superheroines? This genre is not working through any serious issues in an honest way. It mythologizes in dishonest ways.

snip

… Its [The Avengers’] view of humanity—at a time when wide layers of the population are beginning to return to the global political arena—is that of a helpless, faceless horde. Clearly, film industry executives in general and the political-media establishment have a less than selfless interest in skewing social reality and diverting people’s attention from it.

Decades ago, superhero movies and television shows were tongue-in-cheek. Today’s films present their comic book characters with a high degree of self-seriousness. They have a different tone and mood than their cartoonish ancestors. Even though it has a certain playfulness, and allows all sorts of physical mauling to go on, The Avengers still treats its characters with undue reverence.

The rise to prominence of the superhero comic book trend in film, putting aside for the moment the question of its artistic value, has an objective significance. It coincides with the global economic decline of the US and the deteriorating social conditions of the population. Unwilling and intellectually too impoverished to look reality in the face, Hollywood increasingly resorts to “solving” America’s and the world’s problems through simplistic fantasy. It makes up for the military fiascos and social disasters it can’t and won’t represent by inventing cartoonish successes and triumphs that should convince no one.

Such films, insofar as they have a major impact, which is questionable, tend to reinforce and exacerbate the wishful thinking and illusions of a somewhat stunned population that has not yet for the most part consciously grasped the real causes of its predicament.”

Alas, the Avengers, super-powered misfits, assemble and try to rescue or at least avenge the world for the one percent "good guy overlords" (cough, cough, choke!), as the 99% population of us represented as ants a/k/a mere collateral damage fodder flash condescendingly on the screen. We are even more infinitesimally-reduced there in our dark audience perches, enthralled by the celebs' athletics (in reality those of their stunt doubles), to reflect on the toxic mirroring by the Hollywood one percenters of how POWERLESS and INSIGNIFICANT we are or, rather, they want us to see ourselves as being!

More media lessons in learned helplessness! (Heavy sigh)

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goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

It was a snoozefest. I don't get all of the hype around this movie. The first Batman with Jack Nicholson as the Joker was so much better.

And when I say snoozefest, I mean I literally fell asleep about half way through. There's only so many action sequences a body can sit through before the sense are overloaded and have to check out for awhile.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I can't believe you fell asleep halfway through with all the violence and sound before you, but yes I appreciate that there is a saturation point. it was like watching a series of violent accidents one after another -- RELENTLESSLY. Astonishing visuals but such violence. And the superheroes so grim and so near robotized in their fighting, and conditions so DIRE .... This is the role-modeling for American youth ... and the youth the movie gets exported to and what Godawful message that is sending about what the "faux-good guy American overlords" MUST LAUNCH to protect "American interests" while pretending they are protecting "Americans" jeopardized by "aliens" ... and the citizenry painted as I said as so much insignificant and profoundly powerless collateral damage fodder.

reslez's picture
Submitted by reslez on

average everyday citizens were portrayed in this film, and the heroes were seriously trying to help them. In other superhero films the non-superpowered citizens really are useless ants who only get in the way.

Did you notice the "rah rah" presentation of NYPD cops shooting at aliens? Yeah right. In reality they'd stand around in riot gear and arrest fleeing citizens for jaywalking.