Books & Culture

Six Conservative Principles Hidden in the #MCU


- July 20th, 2019
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Marvel Studios on Saturday announced “Phase Four” of its blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films at the San Diego Comic Convention. Moviegoers can look forward to many more heavily hyped, CGI-driven adventures with their favorite superheroes for years to come. 

Last weekend, my son insisted that before I could watch “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” we had to prepare by first watching the new Avengers movies and the earlier Spider-Man movie, “Homecoming.” Something struck a familiar chord. Did the screenwriters of the Marvel movies slip in conservative messages like subversive Disney artists used to sneak in naughty images in the animated reel? Could it be that from deep within the belly of Hollywood’s fortress of liberalism, a band of conservatives used their craft to spread real conservative messages into the American zeitgeist? 

Consider these six plot points that advance some right-leaning notions:

1) There is nothing so dangerous as the self-righteous zealot willing to employ any means necessary.

Thanos convinced himself that the entire universe was overpopulated to the point that it could only be saved by wiping out half of the population. One is reminded of Paul Erhlich’s alarmist 1968 bestseller, The Population Bomb, which many have noted, “contributed to a wave of population alarm” and led to draconian population control measures including forced sterilizations, coerced abortions, and laws restricting family size in countries such as China, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.  

Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s, that 65 million of them would be Americans, that crowded India was essentially doomed, that the odds were fair “England will not exist in the year 2000,” and that “sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come.” By “the end,” Ehrlich meant “an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.” The New York Times noted that the population of the planet has since doubled with no mass starvation. Yet the current global warming doomsday predictions bear a striking resemblance to those of Ehrlich’s. Humans, it is said, cause climate change. Therefore, the solution to climate change is that we need fewer humans, suggested Paul Ehrlich who, 50 years later, is still channeling his inner Thanos.

2) The powerful love to exempt themselves from their own policies.

Thanos’s grand plan to solve overpopulation involved disintegrating half of everyone by choosing them at random regardless of wealth or social rank. Everyone, my son astutely observed, except Thanos himself who never considered making his own life subject to the random chance of universal genocide. Instead, Thanos planned a bucolic retirement on his own planet with a cabin and a farm. One is reminded that America is ruled by an elite that does not wait in the security lines for commercial air travel, send their children to public schools, and pays the low rate of 15 percent capital gains tax instead of the much higher income tax burdens it uses to keep the middle class from transcending its station. 

3) There’s nothing so ugly as self-pity. 

In “Endgame, we find the hero Thor has spent five years wallowing in self-pity on a couch with a beer in one hand and a video game controller in the other. All this self-pity led the god of Thunder to develop a wicked beer gut and an ugly drinking problem. 

Similarly, when Peter Parker in “Far from Home,” lashes out at the character Happy Hogan over the series of failures and bad luck that made his current situation seem hopeless, Happy snaps him out of the funk by asking, “What are you going to do about it?” 

The ability of the hero to overcome injury, bad luck, and unfairness make for a compelling movie. Audiences and people in real life grow weary of self-regarding stories of victimhood. Sharing and support groups need to wait when there’s real work to do.

4) As Jesus would say . . .

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The principle forms the core of the Christian faith but also makes a compelling storyline. 

Over and over again, the heroes risked themselves sometimes succumbing to a permanent death as the fetching Black Widow (played by Scarlet Johansson) who intentionally sacrificed her life for the mission. Similarly, Iron Man willingly sacrifices his life to win the final battle with Thanos. Other times, the series called to mind the resurrection promised by Jesus as in the case of Spider-Man, who was restored to participate in a final battle between good and evil in “Endgame. 

5) Teaming up without identity politics. 

As the viewer watches Peter Parker mix with his high school contemporaries, one might briefly wonder about the ethnic identity of MJ or his best friend Ned. East-Asian? Latina? Pacific Island? Does Flash Thompson have some subcontinent origin? The movies cast these actors into a totally organic and authentic melting pot without attempting to pigeon hole any of the ethnic identities. 

The upgraded diversity is accomplished without a hint of grievance or inter-cultural conflict. Listening to the Left, one would think that racism in America was on the rise. In fact, workplace discrimination complaints have been in a long-term decline since peaking in the mid-1970s. One author recently acknowledged that “Americans are becoming less racist and homophobic,” according to new research. What would happen to the modern Left without racial divisions and grievances? They may get to find out as Americans increasingly find themselves melting together as friends and neighbors.

6) Capitalism rocks! 

In a world in which government planned the fairness of outcomes, a comic-book writer would not have given birth to a multi-billion-dollar empire. At the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel treats fans to a brief tribute to the late, great Stan Lee. The father of Marvel is shown rubbing elbows with the top stars in Hollywood in the costumes of the characters he created in the 1960s and 1970s. Phrases like, “exploitation,” “greed,” or “selling-out,” have no place in the tribute which shows a joyful Lee thrilled by the nakedly capitalist triumph his creations achieved. 

In a world in which the entire mainstream media seem to share a single leftist script-writer, it’s an encouraging sign that a few bands of rebels in Hollywood can find a way to slip in a counter-counter-cultural message in a fun yet compelling story. Part of this might be out of necessity. Movies with preachy leftist themes flop. Hurray capitalism!

Photo credit: Daniel Fung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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