Super(hero) PAC?


Maybe I'm giving too much credit to Hollywood studios, but you've got to suspect that they are aware that there's a big-deal election happening in November and so they might be marketing and releasing films with that in mind. Maybe not so much to influence the outcome of the election as to exploit audiences' feelings about it. Movies, in part anyway, being one way for people to deal with such weighty matters as the destiny of our country via the safe and indulgent medium of mass entertainment

So inevitably I'm thinking that "The Avengers" has some kind of political subtext. After all, it's closing in on a billion dollars in grosses worldwide, which is probably almost as much as Karl Rove has amassed in his "American Crossroads" super PAC.

Nor am I the only critic twiddling my thumbs about this; a number of writers have pondered the meaning and ramifications of such a megahit in an election year. In a posting on his "New Yorker" blog titled "The Avengers' Not Unlike an F-16 Stunt Run," Richard Brody describes the film as "an impressive feat of cinematic engineering, a work of prodigious skill and efficiency that carries out its cartoonish mission while addressing graver concerns-the construction of a post-9/11 revenge fantasy that takes place against the backdrop of unpopular foreign wars."

In her article "‘The Avengers': Good, evil and politics" on the "Washington Post" website, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite points out that "The Avengers" is "a snapshot of our cultural struggles as a nation" in which those who should be protecting us are "more interested in fighting each other." They are "heroes driven by their own internal demons far more than they are by a desire to protect humanity" and therefore illustrate the country's "empathy gap."

There are many other analyses from all parts of the political spectrum. Anthony Kaufman in his article "The Politics of ‘The Avengers'; Or, Can Clean Energy and Old-Fashioned Jingoism Mix?" at "Indiewire Hollywood" sums up some of these interpretations from the left, right, and middle and concludes: "they're a hodgepodge of political views and ideological undercurrents, colliding with each other to create a mainstream entertainment that, if you look close enough, manages to uphold old-fashioned reactionary American values. Here, it's such myths as militaristic might, individual sacrifice and the renegade American hero -- although, it also seems to throw a bone to contemporary liberal views on energy policy at the same time."

So maybe "The Avengers" is kind of a Rorschach test. Or, to use a more recent analogy, an ideological "Etch-a-Sketch." Judging from the film's record-breaking performance at the box office, perhaps it could be a winning campaign strategy as well.

My own opinion about all this is in flux, but I think a key to the meaning of such movies lies in the nature and identity of the bad guy. In this case, it's Loki, the Norse god of... Mischief?


I'm not impressed. True, I had a cat named Loki, and he could sometimes be a handful.  But as I noted in my review of the movie, Loki reminds me of Woody Allen as the court jester in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex."

What does he want? He's upset because his dad, Odin, always liked Thor best. Poor baby. He wants to be worshipped, like Joss Whedon is now. So he, tiresomely, needs to conquer the world with an army of orc-ish dolts on flying skidoos who are pale imitations of the evil Bot army in "Transformers 3."

This is a bad guy with the moral gravity of a contestant on a reality TV show. But then again, that's been the tone so far of the media coverage of the Presidential election.

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