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
critic twiddling my thumbs about this; a number of writers have pondered
meaning and ramifications of such a megahit in an election year. In a
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
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
spectrum. Anthony Kaufman in his article "The Politics of ‘The
Can Clean Energy and Old-Fashioned Jingoism Mix?" at
Hollywood" sums up some of these interpretations from the left,
right, and middle and concludes: "they're a hodgepodge of political
ideological undercurrents, colliding with each other to create a
entertainment that, if you look close enough, manages to uphold
reactionary American values. Here, it's such myths as militaristic
individual sacrifice and the renegade American hero -- although, it also
to throw a bone to contemporary liberal views on energy policy at the
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
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.