Published May 9, 2019
“The end is in the beginning and yet you go on.”― Samuel Beckett, Endgame
The biggest export the US has is its culture. Whether it’s in the American outpost of Australia or some shanty-dweller in Africa drinking a Coke, the US has its tendrils everywhere. Everyone, everywhere must have their desires satisfied so long as they share the same desire. Aside from exporting democracy via the military industrial complex, the other method of propaganda is through the movie industrial complex. Lately Hollywood has been stepping up the offensive.
You don’t have to go far to find someone lamenting the corporatism of film, and how they are canvases on which to hang advertising. Luke Buckmaster is savage in his treatment of these big budget films, saying, ‘They are elephantine slabs of advertising, obviously, representing an era of advertising and brand management on an unprecedented scale.’ Not only are they opportunities to advertise, say, Star Wars Doritos, but they become an entity beholden only to themselves. Movies like the Avengers and the Star Wars sequels are whole worlds available from which to pluck stories and they advertise themselves in this regard. The fans don’t necessarily go because they expect the movies to be good; there is a guarantee of paid tickets because the fans simply must see what happens, however lazily delivered. Avengers: Endgame is a record breaker in this regard. It has earned over $2 billion in 12 days and is the fifth movie ever to do so and will likely overtake Avatar at time of writing. It is also the end of era, tying together years of films across the Marvel Cinematic Universe and bringing all our favorite heroes to a stunning finale. Or, that was what was assumed.
Endgame may the completion of an arc, but its handlers are treating it as a transition movie for MCU Phase 2 (OK technically it’s like Phase 4 or something, but I’m talking ideologically). Technically, there is not much wrong with Avengers: Endgame and it does what it sets out to. But 95% on Rotten Tomatoes? It’s bland, mediocre, by the numbers. Plot wise they dug themselves into a hole with Infinity War and had to use time travel to fix it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver spectacle, but like most blockbusters these days it feels empty because of its inevitability. There is zero weight because you can guess the outcome, and the actors at this stage are merely repeating lines with little fervor. That said, the box office result means we are guaranteed endless spin-offs all preaching the progressive line.
In the movie Tony Stark is able to solve the time travel conundrum by using a Möbius strip, and like a Möbius strip you can place your finger on the narrative of the MCU and trace it until it magically turns into progressive propaganda. It is ridiculously manufactured. Take for example the mention of homosexuality inserted so jarringly into a group help session run by Captain America. Pro-LGBTQI fans were dismayed how off-handed it was and how Marvel hadn’t done enough to stop gay erasure – but the complainers get it so wrong. The studio knew precisely what it was doing. Excuse the crude metaphor, but pretend you’re about to get fucked in the ass. The burly bloke behind you doesn’t want to ruin you or turn you off future rodeos, so he eases in slowly at first. Just the tip. That’s what scenes like this are, slow dripped morsels of the homosexual agenda to plant the idea in the heads of average folks. It’s painfully obvious if you are ready for it and yet at the same time most viewers will be oblivious and absorb it unconsciously. Fabrications are inherent in the very make-up of the movie. The entire contrived time travel sub-plot is not only a deus ex machina the writers pulled out of thin air. Since the main draw card of these movies has always been the characters who fans see as avatars for their own wishes, the time travel will allow endless spin-offs and many more opportunities to implant certain messages. In Endgame we see the passing of the torch and a change in magnitude to the diversity path that started with Captain Marvel and Black Panther. From here there are many branches.
There is a lot going on in the movie and it is almost schizophrenic in what it wants to say. There is the environmental message brought on by half the population disappearing. This is touched on by Tony Stark when he asks if his daughter wants to eat crickets on lettuce. An on-the-nose discussion between Rogers and Romanoff goes as follows:
Steve Rogers: You know, I saw a pod of whales when I was coming in, over the bridge.
Natasha Romanoff: In the Hudson?
Steve Rogers: Fewer ships, cleaner water…
It’s not hard to think that these characters would have preferred Thanos’ mission if they had been able to keep all their friends. While the environment is important, the stronger message is of toxic masculinity and how to deal with it. In the ruins of a #MeToo world this movie is a beacon for women everywhere. After years of Marvel undergoing scrutiny by the prog masses and media for every little misstep, the studio is pivoting to Full Diversity Mode. Let’s not concentrate on the females though. Yes, Captain Marvel is sporting a pixie cut and will probably become a lesbian. Yes, there is a slow motion group-up of all the female heroes as they, as a unit, attack the patriarchy in the guise of Thanos. What is far more interesting than the overt girl power scenes are the subtle negs on the male characters. Here are all the main ones:
Bruce Banner/Hulk: The movie takes place five years after the events of Infinity War, and in that time Banner has managed to merge the Hulk brawn with his own brains creating the best of both worlds. He becomes the archetypal model for male viewers as he shows that me must harness their toxic masculinity in order to be the best they can be. Some cheap laughs are attempted as the Nu-Hulk acts out some performative masculinity by pretending to be filled with rage.
Hawkeye: In the opening scene Hawkeye loses his family in what is a cheap knock-off of the cold open from The Leftovers (a show that did the whole disappearing population schtick with far more aplomb). From there we find out that he has decided to take out his anger by attacking various Mexican drug cartels and Japanese Yakuza gangs around the world. He also sports a Dickie Spencer/Alt Right haircut and it’s not hard to see him as exemplifying seething male rage, someone unable to deal with not getting his way. He is finally placated with the emotional labor of Black Widow.
Thor: Often the comedic relief in Avengers films, he is again at the end of cheap jokes. Thor is unable to reconcile his godhood with the fact that he feels that he failed to stop Thanos. He has also lost all male influence in his life and when we meet him again five years later he is a fat, incel gamer slob with mummy issues. When he goes back in time he finds his mother who soothes his soul and convinces him to take up one more fight. In the end he passes on the duty of Asgard to the black Valkyrie with the pouty lips.
Captain America: As the most noble of the superheroes, the Cap’s arc is an interesting one. They couldn’t denigrate him, so instead when the Avengers win the day he decides to abandon them all and take up the ‘trad’ 50s life, complete with loving wife. Once he’s had his share he returns to the present timeline and passes on his shield and mantle to a black dude.
Iron Man: Possibly the most interesting character arc, Infinity War ended with Tony Stark surviving and Endgame finishes with his death. Like many in the dissident right wish to do Tony retreated to the woods after Thanos’ victory and lives with his family and drinks bug juice (yes, they really do push bug eating in the movie). He is reluctant to change the past (possibly a metaphor for colonialism) but eventually does it out of the goodness of his heart and sacrifices himself for the greater good.
As you can see, all the male characters (if they aren’t beta softies like Ant Man and Peter Parker) have stepped back and let new personas have their turn in the sun. What were once strong male symbols have been subverted, and now these ciphers will set new examples. Specifically, the nerdy men who initially went to these movies will see that it is better that they step down and let women and POC take charge. Will this be a success? Didn’t the fans come to these movies because they loved these men who kicked ass? Now that they are gone will Marvel movies still be able to rake in the cash?
Almost definitely. Disney Marvel is taking over the business and they have the best franchises, all of which are pushing the progressive message. As Bret Easton Ellis says in his book White, “With fewer and fewer corporations now running the show, (and soon it might just be one) fellow comrades might need to adhere to their new rulebook: about humor, about freedom of expression, about what’s funny or offensive.” The key to the movie is when Thor’s mother says: “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” What are the viewers meant to think if they are a white male but that they must atone for their sins. The message is clear: don’t try to change the inevitable.
And isn’t that what Thanos says? That he is inevitable? Thanos is the domineering embodiment of male patriarchy. He is abusive to women, he is single-minded in his mission and for all those reasons he has to be wrong. So no, he is not inevitable. The old ways are dead and the story has just begun.