When Heroes Kill – Marvel

This is part 1 of 2 in a post about how villains are defeated in recent superhero films. For part 2, covering DC films, please click here.

I’ve been thinking about what it means when superheroes kill on the big screen. Part of what superheroes are for us is “bigger” heroes: they do things we can’t, whether it’s fly, or survive a bullet, or talk in a scratchy voice while hanging upside down dressed like a bat. But our heroes are also a mirror inviting us to become more like them in the ways that we can: Steve Rogers proves he should be the trial case for the Super Soldier Serum when he throws himself on the grenade his squad thinks is real, as everyone else backs off in fear; Spider-Man runs into a fire to rescue someone from being burned alive.

That raises the question: when we see superheroes kill, are we watching them do something we can’t, something we shouldn’t but sometimes have to, something they do as soldiers, or … something we’re supposed to be inspired by?

Spoilers ahead.

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Why I’m Not Scathing Spider-Man

This past week, as the closing credits were rolling on Spider-Man: Homecoming, my fiancée turned to me and said, “Does it make me a bad feminist that I liked that more than Wonder Woman?”

I may not be able to rule on the feminism, but I’m with her: Homecoming may not have reached as high, either technically or as a social icon, but it did its job of entertaining really well.

Is it fair to compare the two? You be the judge! Spoilers past the fold!

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Wondering About Wonder Woman

I was a week late to seeing Wonder Woman, missing my chance to help it break opening-weekend records. But like many, I’ve been caught up in the excitement of finally seeing a modern-era female superhero onscreen. Read on at your risk — if you choose to travel forward from here, you can never return to this unspoiler’d paradise!

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Generation Theory: A Latter-Day Phrenology

Around 1796, a Viennese physician named Franz-Joseph Gall explained to the world that the brain has about 26 organs, each of which grows when used, and shrinks if left unused. Gall told us that the skull changes its size and shape to accommodate these patterns, and that the character of a given person could be determined by measuring his or her skull! The scientific study of phrenology was born, ready to categorize the world!

Derivative branches of science sprang up, with craniometrists and anthropometrists offering their services to measure the brains and bodies of people and offer suggestions about their capacity for academic achievement or criminal propensities.

Yes, it was a good day for the social sciences, to be able to confidently predict aptitude and behavior by measuring the skulls. Apart from the fact that it was all, of course, bunk.

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X-Men: Apocalypse: Strength and Systems

Here’s a spoiler-filled post about the new X-Men: Apocalypse film! The film isn’t particularly deep philosophically, but they peppered it with some interesting concepts that let us do a bit of “moral empiricism.” Spoilers past the fold — you’ve been warned!
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Spider-Origins

Here’s something new for this blog: I’m going to share my “homework.” I’ve enrolled in the EdX.org course “Rise of the Superheroes,” and the assignments have to do with tracking the origin and history of a character. I chose Spider-man, because he was my childhood favorite and because I know most of the major story lines. And I feel like I’ve already struck gold. To the point that I want to nitpick with the course’s original assumption: that superheroes are modern day versions of permanent godly archetypes. Here’s what I wrote, slightly cleaned up:

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Civil War: Friendly, Neighborly, and Not Quite Enough

IMG_9115So, among my Civil War posts, this is really more a matter of personal preference than any sort of thought or analysis.

I didn’t like their Spider-man. Spoilers ahead.
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