I have recently began watching the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, mostly out of curiosity. I’ve been enjoying it! Ridiculous C.G.I, good humor, some good acting, hilarious plot holes, and, perhaps surprisingly, some interesting moral arguments here and there. For example (obviously, spoilers follow):
- Ironman 3: The anonymous nature of true evil.
- Captain America: Civil War: Who watches the Watchmen?
To say that I am wasting my time trying to find morality in Marvel movies because their focus is on the CGI and action is an all-or-nothing statement, and experience has shown that all-or-nothing statements tend to be null. Unfortunately, watching Spiderman: Homecoming, one of the latest additions to the series, has left me troubled.
This movie essentially reboots the character of Spiderman and casts him within the modern-day framework of the Avengers.
About ten years after the Battle of New York, featured in the end of the first Avengers movie, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a “typical” white teenager who has found himself “blessed” with extreme agility and physical prowess. During the day, he is a sophomore in a STEM-oriented highschool in his home NY burrough of Queens. During the night, he is neighborhood-friendly vigilante Spiderman. Using a make-shift spider suit, he shoots webs from his hands as he hops from building to building, thwarting petty crime and being the all-around neighborhood good guy. He is being put up by his aunt Mae (Marissa Tomei) in Queens, whom he views essentially as his mother. It is implied by the movie that Peter’s parents are either dead or unavailable.
During the airport confrontation featured in Captain America: Civil War, Spiderman was on Tony Stark’s side. For his services, he is given an advanced suit and a “line” to Tony Stark’s personal assistant, Happy. Excited, Peter manages his daily routine in such a way that he finishes school duties as fast as he can and then he joins the so-called “Stark internship”, which is essentially a misnomer for “I’m fighting petty Queens crime until Happy calls me for an actual mission.”
The movie is entertaining. There’s short, biting humor, some funny highschool stereotyping based on a teenager’s changing body and psychology, Holland is a very good choice, and so is Keaton (Vulture, the main antagonist). With Keaton’s character, however, begin some problems.
Statement #1: “Evil government” here to steal the fruits of your labor
The movie actually begins with a shot right after the Battle of New York, so there’s a flashback to 10 years before “present day”. The Vulture leads a team of scavengers who are collecting and sorting the alien invasion’s fallout (exotic minerals, weapons, fuel). This “business” is lucrative, since it was made obvious from the invasion proper that the materials the aliens use have significant energy and weaponization parameters that could revolutionize human industrial endeavor, at both a small scale (small / medium businesses) and large scale (factories). Of course, peddling the weapons themselves in the black market is the most straightforward way for a quick, huge cash flow. The Vulture is obviously interested in this latter venture (he is the arch-villain, after all).
The Vulture has assembled this team by using his own money, arranging for trucks to bring the workers from other areas of the country, set up tents, equipment, arranged buyers, etc. Very few minutes into the movie, an unnamed federal government entity swoops in and informs the crew that as per a certain Executive Order, the area is now under the jurisdiction of the Feds. The people making up this entity are portrayed very coldly, in sharp black suits, led by a seemingly emotionless and detached woman, who responds to The Vulture’s protests with “sorry, there’s nothing we can do”.
And it is these protests that are the problem. Perhaps in an effort to offer some kind of logical basis about how Keaton’s character actually ends up being the Vulture, the movie shows what this governmental overtaking means for Keaton and his crew; Keaton has “overextended” (verbatim), assembling this crew using his own finances and bargaining with significant income that can support the families of his workers. This he makes quite evident to the officials arriving on the scene, even punching one out of sheer classic white man working-class frustration.
Dude, no. Alien shit has fallen from the sky. The CDC and DHS MUST weigh in on how much of this stuff is radio-active and all-around dangerous. Just because you went out on a limb to help people with what is a most definitely illegal operation doesn’t mean that the government is the bad guy here. You’re the idiot. Not to mention that it’s quite clear what you’re planning on doing with the weapons.
In times such as this that an inbred anti-authoritarian is head of State and his Neanderthal – level supporters equate government with spending and spending is bad and taxes and don’t take my freedoms and other such BS, this is not something that you want to popularize.
Statement #2: “Ultra (???)-liberals” are annoying
One of the protagonist’s friends is a young girl with a strong political stance. She is not comfortable with the status quo and displays a very distinct way of thinking and a general aura of not being comfortable in her own shoes, since other people have had, have, and will very likely still have it worse than her. She is forced to read a piece of dialogue where she tells the protagonist and his best friends that it’s somehow completely natural that they have no friends (see statement #4) and that she doesn’t either. Of course. Politically involved people are outcasts that should have no friends.
Statement #3: Thighs over brains, yet again
The protagonist’s erotic interest is an oversexualised senior. The girl playing is very beautiful, no doubt. Tall, beautiful skin and lips, deep eyes, beautiful hair.
And that is pretty much her role in the movie. In a STEM-oriented highschool, the directors have the opportunity to elevate the position of women by clearly depicting desirable role models: a beautiful woman who can also enter a lab and make the same mistakes and the same breakthroughs as everybody else. Instead, she’s leading the debate team, and her own contributions to the debate team are from the managerial standpoint. Nowhere in the sequence of the movie is there a single implication that this woman, in addition to visually striking, can be intelligent.
Statement #4: Geeks are unpopular and unattractive
This hits home a bit, since I’m a computer geek. The protagonist’s best friend is portrayed as an overweight, unpopular kid who, when not in the lab or not hacking passwords, spends his day eating Cheese Puffs and watching Netflix / getting high (the last activities are not actually portrayed in the movie, but anybody with half a brain -in short supply these days, I know – can tell that this is exactly the mental picture that we are fed with). No, Jon Watts. Geeks can wear nice clothes, or not. They can be sexually active, or not. They can eat Cheese Puffs, or Quinoa soup and salads. They can be not stereotypes. It’s their choice. Show them this. Give me something original. Give me a geek that is actually grounded in the real world. Tell our undergraduate students who are struggling to find their identity that it’s ok to be socially awesome, sexually active, politically involved. Show them as I see them in reality, people who are struggling emotionally yet are growing in all sorts of weird ways. Give us an original example of what is really going on. Challenge my worldview. You have the power; your audience is millions that are watching the show absent-minded or high: tickle their subconscious by passing the right message.
Some might say that I’m being over-sensitive and over-feminist. The latter word makes no sense in Jasonland and it’s quite dangerous, but this is a discussion for a different time. But I very much want to apply emphasis on the use of the preposition “over”: No. I am not being over-whatever. I’m just challenging your world view. I’m challenging dangerous stereotypes. There exist stereotypes that are either not dangerous at all, or, if we want to ground ourselves in the real world where absolutes don’t exist, infinitesimally dangerous. For example, stormtroopers in Star Wars always missing their target, which extends towards pretty much every action movie there’s ever been: bad guys are terrible shots. I guess this stereotype could be harmful if people want to go out there and shoot criminals, since in the real life, even a bad shot is better than a movie bad guy shot….
In a time when we hear all kinds of degrading comments about minorities and women, with the very president having suggested groping women’s genitals, we have to look deeply into our own behaviors and our inputs and thing: “how did this make me more into a Trump today?” Or, we can choose not to and continue the proliferation of male-only jokes, and “no girls in guys’ nights”. Because we want to be sexist and call women “bitches” and we don’t want girls around because they will be offended. Yeah, of course they will. You’re calling them bitches. Would you like it if women called you or the entirety of male-hood a bastard or an asshole during ladies’ night? Do you not get aggravated when you hear statements such as “all men are the same”?
It’s very, very easy to get offended without trying to rationally think why the other person is thinking the way they are thinking. I have to put myself in the equation because lately I’ve been hearing so many things that defy my logical pattern of thinking that all I get to is contradictions. But it’s much harder, and a sign of a better person, a person I want to become, to be able to understand how the person reached the conclusion, and whether they are “over” – sensitive or “over” – not sensitive. Maybe then I wouldn’t be calling Trump supporters Neanderthals.