I have had it up to my eyeballs with superheroes. They were invented for 12 year olds to ease them into and out of adolesence, not to keep society perpetually in adolescence. We have the technology to do the harm that the villains do – and we use it. We don’t possess the super powers the heroes have and we largely ignore our own capacity to do good in favor of sitting, mouths agape in service to the glorified high provided by gratuitous violence and rampant disrespect for human life and dignity. Batman, as I recall, does not have super powers – he is mortal. He, nor anyone like him, came to the rescue when the Joker came to call in Colorado.
Are we learning anything yet?
I understand parables and fables and the constructs of fiction and I like special effects. I love movies, have always loved movies, have found tremendous solace and wisdom in movies. Movies are not an escape, though, if they don’t feed all the parts of your mind, and if you don’t do anything beyond the screen that comes from thoughtfulness. I realize the need for escapism borne of a poor economy and a real world punctuated by war and senseless violence. Back during the Great Depression the folks we now call The Greatest Generation turned to movies that shared their pain and lifted their spirits (The Grapes of Wrath, It Happened One Night, Public Enemy, 42nd Street, Top Hat, Red Dust, Rebecca), not sociopaths and explosions that stoked their anger and underscored their impotence. We have some lovely movies out now (Moonrise Kingdom) but they are not the ones that have PR budgets in tens of millions, midnight showings and top grosses (pun intended). We set Hollywood’s priorities with our ticket money and our internet hits – what are we telling them?
Yes, our leaders in government, politics and religion are failing us (and some of them are stoking our anger, too, with their politics of divisiveness, class warfare and hate), but maybe if we gave them the same level of attention we do these overwrought, overviolent and oversexed films they might have some incentive to get some work done. It’s not enough to weigh in about the latest cable news brouhaha – we need to understand what is actually happening. It’s work. It’s important. It’s the kind of thinking that makes you mad in a good way. We desperately need heroes in real life, and we will not find them at the movies. We will find them in the mirror.
Addendum: Ross Douthat from The Times weighs in.