I’m going to start this column with a simple statement. Marvel Studios are responsible for the rise of Donald Trump.
Before an army of cosplaying fanboys burns down my house, perhaps I should elaborate. Trump holds himself up as a modern ubermensch; a demi-god who with a click of his stumpy fingers can build walls, invalidate science and deport millions. He’ll lead his people into the sunlit uplands of peace and prosperity – without any of them having to do a damn thing.
In Europe we have a simlar culture – all our populist pedagogues (Le Pen, Hofer, Farage), come with total domination of their parties and a messianic internet following. It’s most pronounced in the Netherlands, as burqa-bashing bogeyman Geert Wilders is technically his party’s only member. Together they’re ready to personally avenge the villainy of the shadowy ‘liberal establishment’, led by Robert Redf- I mean the EU.
This is where Marvel comes in: when we go and see a superhero movie, we don’t generally identify with whichever caped crusader happens to be plat du jour, we identify with the people they’re saving. We’re not the hero, we’re the cowering crowd, just wanting to feel safe.
It’s an established phenomenon that audiences choose their popular culture based on their environments. During the war years comedies and musicals abounded, as people sought an escape from the difficulties of their daily lives, while in times of prosperity the theatre-going public flock to the cathartic tragedies of Shakespeare, Pinter and Miller. Today, we’re choosing superheroes; perhaps seeking our very own deus ex machina to sweep in and save us, no questions asked. And in what year did Iron Man, the herald of this new world order first hit our screens? 2008: the year the financial crisis laid off millions, sent suicide rates skyrocketing across the western world, and eternally tarnished globalisation.
Marvel movies and Trump speeches have two key things in common – quick, logic-defying fixes, and deeply underdeveloped villains. Beware of men wearing capes; they probably cannot fly.
The comic book canon has even become aware of it’s own commentary: “we on this planet” muses Vikram Gandhi in Batman vs. Superman, “have been looking for a saviour…and when this saviour character comes to Earth we want to make him abide by our rules?” “What if,” inquires Suicide Squad’s Amanda Waller, “Superman had decided to fly down and grab the President of the United States right out of the Oval Office?”
Well, he just did.
So, let’s make a deal: you spend the two hours you would have spent on the next Genericman movie devising a real life solution to a real life problem, and I cross-my-heart-pinkie-promise that next time I’ll write an Editor’s Note actually related to the paper.
Anyways, you got off lucky this time. My original draft for this column was entitled ‘Nouse Year’s Resolutions’.
It could have been so much worse.