Like a large portion of America, I watched the finale of WandaVision this week.
And, before I continue, I know this isn’t what I said I’d write about. I will, forever and always, stop myself from making promises about what I’ll write on Sunday, because it almost always changes.
The thing is, like anything, WandaVision is prone to takes. I have friends who loved it and friends who hated the finale so much that it ruined the entire rest of the show for them. That is fine and totally normal. I still really enjoyed it while (as I usually do with absolutely anything) acknowledging that it was not perfect.
That said, I couldn’t help thinking about the weirder, hotter takes that’ve popped up about the MCU lately. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure the take I’m thinking of is a recent development, but I only recently heard about it.
It’s the idea that the MCU . . . glorifies the military?
Like, I’ve seen this vehemently passed around Twitter by someone who attached a photo of Brie Larson posing with fighter pilots.
And, I almost never use this platform to be like, “People’s hottakes are stupid.”
But holy shit is that a stupid hottake.
If you’re a person who believes in that take, I’m sorry, but it’s just a bad take. However . . . there is absolutely a solid, reasonable take available (one that I really think needs attention), and I am going to lay out that take in this post. Because I don’t think MCU films are all sunshine and rainbows (I straight-up hate a bunch of them), and I think superhero movies in general need a reckoning when it comes to this one issue.
But first . . .
The Stupid Military Industrial Complex Hottake
The belief: MCU films portray a worldwide police state as a good thing that is both essential and inevitable.
When I hear a take like that, my immediate reaction is, “Hmm. Is that true?” Because, ya know, I always want to deliberate and consider issues and, especially, criticisms of things that I like.
But, the weird thing about this hottake . . . is that Iron Man–like, part-fucking-1–portrays military weapons-mongering as wrong. It’s not a huge moral, it’s not given a ton of attention, but that lesson is a sizeable, noticeable part of Tony Stark’s arc. He goes to sell weapons to the someone, gets captured, is finally forced to come face-to-face with the violence and death his weapons cause, and decides he’s not going to take any more military contracts or sell weapons.
Part of the tension in Iron Man 2 is that James Rhodes, Tony’s friend, takes one of his suits and brings it to the military, and, yes, the soundtrack goes all brassy when Rhodey lands the high tech power armor at a military base (absolutely not a good look). However, even that moment does not equal “police state propaganda.” Does it show the military through a rose-tinted lens? Yes. The first Captain America also does that. Do either movies show anything that actually suggests it would be great if the military controlled the world? No. Does S.H.I.E.L.D. as portrayed in the first Avengers movie come close to depicting a “world policing organization” as good? Sure. There’s outright talk among S.H.I.E.L.D. agents about missions in other countries. It’s typical spy shit, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is never shown enforcing a 6PM curfew on protesters, but still, a bunch of American spies in a giant floating fortress that has stealth tech is absolutely not a good thing that was, undeniably, portrayed as cool.
But . . . All of the films I just mentioned are followed up by many films in the franchise that work directly portray police states as bad.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (a movie I hate), makes a very (beating you over the head) obvious case for a police state being wrong when Tony Stark tries to create one–with a legion of robots controlled by a single AI–and it creates a monster, for which everyone else on the team is understandably pissed In my opinion, the film doesn’t stay pissed at Tony nearly long enough, but there is a scene where everyone is mad at him and he’s played almost like a mad scientist.
Captain America: Winter Soldier focuses very, very heavily on how bad it would be for the military to obtain weapons they can use to “neutralize threats before they happen.” “Enforcement of the law through fear is wrong” is seriously a main theme of that film.
Captain America: Civil War actively challenges the idea of government control to the extent that it basically makes Iron Man a villain.
Both Infinity War and Endgame have the heroes fighting a militaristic dictator who wants to impose his will on everyone.
Even fucking Captain Marvel has a hero fighting a duplicitous space government that demands control from everyone.
And, seriously, between all of those movies, there are a bunch of N/A’s like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy that don’t glorify military might at all. In fact, I think the first Captain America is the only film where the American military was even portrayed as competent; every other movie has military personal in the background, getting their asses kicked, including S.H.I.E.L.D. more often than not.
So my point here is no.
If you ascribe to this hottake, you’re absolutely right to think that something is off about the MCU, but it’s not this. If the final goalpost is, “Well, in Endgame, they show that the heroes are, like, monitoring Earth,” then, seriously, just stop, because that’s a group of 5 characters trying to find problems to fix, not a militarized force monitoring the world. The films just don’t glorify the military or support the idea that the world is inevitably heading toward a necessary police state.
However . . .
MCU Films, Like Most Comic Book Media,
Absolutely Glorify Capitalist Control
Part of the reason I’m so annoyed about the military hottake is because it’s drawing attention away from a conversation that should be had about the MCU and too many comic books.
They glorify Capitalist ideals. Like, right out of the fucking gate, in your face, a lot of comic book media does it, because many of the superheroes who are popular now were made here in America, the Capitalist shithole of the world.
Seriously, it’s not even a contest. Iron Man was the guy in the MCU, and his entire thing was that he was a rich genius who was rich because he was a genius and a genius because he was rich and only he was capable of saving the universe!
I mean, you can contest this with the two, major cases where he was portrayed being completely wrong about big issues in the MCU (again, Age of Ultron and Civil War), but Iron Man was still the billionaire, Private Sector savior that the American government keeps saying exists but fucking doesn’t really.
Like, don’t get me wrong–I love Iron Man–but he glorifies a system that ruins countless fucking lives on the regular. He is a fairytale–born out of old timey America’s love of industry and business.
🎶 Just 👏 like 👏 fucki-i-i-ing Batman! 🎶
Yeah, that’s right. The same way Tony Stark is a rich dude who gets to be the bestest superhero ever because he has money, so is Batman. In fact, Batman goes around and studies a ton of martial arts (and whatever else a writer decides at the moment) because he’s rich. Because Capitalism is great, you guys. If it wasn’t for Capitalism, Batman wouldn’t have the amazing car he uses in Batman V Superman to explode people who don’t have as much money as he does–don’t you get it?
Look, I’m not going to pretend the majority of superheroes are rich, because they aren’t, but two of the most popular ones in the world are, and they seriously aren’t the only ones.
Oliver Queen is another rich kid.
Aquaman (who I didn’t even realize was rich, but he’s the king of the vast majority of livable space on planet Earth, so of course).
Thor (also a literal prince).
Black Adam, which I only mention because we’re going to get a movie for him–get ready.
Wasp is rich, which I didn’t even know.
And, for sure, there are a bunch of rich villains on both sides. It’s not insanely on the nose with Batman’s villain being, like, “The Socialist!” (although I’m not going to look it up, because I’m fucking sure there is a Socialist villain somewhere out there). But when a villain with money exists in the same world as a hero with money, the problem in that equation ceases to be the money. And before anyone is like, “Um, actually, Lex Luthor is Superman’s villain, not Batman’s,” holy shit, the point is that modern superhero media glorifies Capitalism by presenting rich dudes who go out and beat the shit out of people they don’t know as a good thing. We should be questioning that.
In the MCU, Iron Man is already dead and, hopefully, they’ll replace him with someone who isn’t a mascot for Capitalism. But Batman is alive and strong, mercilessly beating the shit out of people in the trailer for his new movie. And. I. Hate it.
Because we shouldn’t live in a country where some people are so rich that the law doesn’t apply to them while others are so poor that they need to work multiple jobs and come home too tired to do anything but go to sleep.
Or, at the very fucking least, when Iron Man decides he’s going to make an AI that’s going to police the planet Earth because he’s a genius and it’s okay, he should be punished really heavily for it instead of being given a pass for the world to see.
And when Batman beats the shit out of someone or indiscriminately murders them (which he just canonically does now) and the music swells and gets super triumphant, maybe we question why the rich people who made The Batman commissioned other rich people to write that music.
“Why do they want me to get super excited when Batman punches an underprivileged stranger in the face 8 times?”
And what does that say about them?
Thanks for reading. This one’s been brewing for a while because it’s an issue I’ve had with comics in general for some time, but I only just realized it applies to the MCU. I guess that in the same way that the Punisher is significantly less appealing now after 2020, rich assholes who people deify are always going to be a sticking point for me.
If you enjoyed this post, I’ll be back next week to talk about something less . . . charged. Maybe. Not definitely, but maybe?
Until next time, take care, and if you see Love Crunch Espresso Vanilla Cream Granola, just trust me, it’s the crack of granolas. Like, obviously not something you can have a lot of, but if you want to treat yourself, it’s insane. Okay, bye!