Yes, I really am going to say something that could be perceived as critical of the world’s currently most popular movie, Avengers Endgame. Yes, I saw it and yes, I for the most part very much enjoyed it. (No, I’m not insane to raise this topic–well, I may be insane, mind you, but this particular post isn’t a result of any potential insanity of mine 🙂 . ) Yes, as my title implies, I think part of the plot of Endgame really does strike me as if it were driven by the concept of Social Justice as understood in the modern sense, with the movie in fact removing power from white male figures (i.e. the white patriarchy). Though in all cases but one, the story does this gracefully.
SPOILERS by the way. No, I’m not going to spoil the whole movie from start to finish, but enough, including its ending.
First, I must say that pretty much all of you probably had a nicer cinema experience than I did. The showing was 3D but I got handed glasses that were not wrapped in plastic–they’d just been thrown in a box from the last person to use them. Mine were noticeably greasy and I never quite managed to get them clean. The theater in the Central American country where I currently am is one where if anybody opens the door into the theater from the lighted hall behind the entrance, light gets cast onto the screen in front. Not so much that you can’t see the movie anymore, but enough that you know the door is open. And yes, the door wound up opening many times during the 3 hour film…distracting (and I’m not even talking about the seats or anything else).
Now that I’ve written enough text to let someone who doesn’t want to see spoilers pull away without seeing anything of substance, let me say my original dissatisfaction based on the movie itself (and not just its viewing conditions) centered around the character of Thor. By the way, I’ve publicly objected to Pagan deities as characters in films that I want to watch, since real-live people actually worship these deities to this day, including Thor (and the Thor-worshipers I’ve known were not offended in the slightest that their god was portrayed as type of space alien–Neo-Pagans are not usually dogmatic about any type of doctrine). But putting that objection aside, let’s look at what happened to Thor as a character. Thor, driven by a sense of failure to kill Thanos before he could eliminate half the universe, was eager for revenge, eager to undo his failure. He even kills in cold blood a rather defenseless Thanos (who technically should be put on trial or something), yet this brings him no sense of relief. Fast forward to five years in the future in New Asgard, and the story reveals that Thor spends all his time drinking beer, eating junk food, and playing video games. He develops an obvious beer gut.
Actually if the point of this turn of events was to show that Thor went through some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was overwhelmed by a sense of loss and failure and turned to eating, alcohol, and video games as a result his PTSD, the story would simply be showing one possible results of PTSD. Yet in fact, the story plays Thor’s fall from self-control for laughs, another character commenting at one point that cheese whiz runs through the Asgardean’s veins. At one point Rocket the Raccoon slapped him in the face to get him “to snap out of it.” The Marvel movies have dealt with Tony Stark’s PTSD with insight and grace, yet by making Thor a joke, Endgame undid a lot of the sensitivity Marvel movies had shown previously on this topic.
Yet as I thought about what was going on in the story more deeply, I realized that something important seemed be happening other than playing something serious for jokes (or “fat shaming” for that matter). I couldn’t help noticing a pattern in the movie involving the main body of white, male superheroes, who were among the most popular of Marvel’s characters. Four “white patriarchy” characters in effect get either removed from a position of power or get eliminated from the story in Avengers Endgame. Those characters are Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, and yes, Thor.
Tony Stark dies with no obvious replacement, though his wife Pepper or daughter may fill that role. Bruce Banner seems to have been injured by gamma ray exposure and goes into what may be retirement with no clear replacement. Steve Rodgers literally retires via time travel and hands his shield over to Falcon (who happens not to be white). Thor is not eliminated as a character for future stories, but he is greatly humbled and gives up his kingship to Valkyrie, who is a woman (and not white).
And as these white male characters were cleared out of their formerly dominant roles by the story, note the inclusion of a number of prominent non-white or non-male characters in recent Marvel films. Most notably Captain Marvel. Is it just a coincidence that so many characters a SJW might consider emblematic of patriarchy (and white patriarchy no less) were eliminated from the story universe? That they seem to be getting replaced by a more diverse cast?
Someone might correctly point out that there are still plenty of white male characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and yes, that’s true. Yes, but there aren’t as many anymore, are there? And the ones that are left are nowhere near as strong, nowhere as near emblematic of “patriarchy” as many modern people see it.
Yes, it does seem to me (my personal opinion) that a number of the plot elements in Avengers Endgame were driven by social justice considerations. But let’s give credit for good storytelling where it’s due. Three of the white males retired from their positions of power in the MCU were given good sendoffs. Hulk and Iron Man make heroic sacrifices. Steve Rodgers went after his heart, seeking the love of his life. Only with Thor did the movement of the plot seem crass and forced.
That’s my take on this one element of Avengers Endgame. What are your thoughts on this topic?