(Please don’t take this too seriously. I beg of you.)
I’m watching Age of Ultron as I write today and I need y’all to understand that this movie is really just keeping me going because James Spader as Ultron is unfortunately My Thing. But what this movie makes me think of – aside from how bad Whedon’s writing is from start to finish – is how the MCU often frames the reasonable negative backlash to the Avengers and the superpowered US Military Interventionalism they represent as The Ultimate Villainy.
In Age of Ultron, there are murals and graffiti in Sokovia that are against the Avengers and US intervention on their behalf. Because Hydra (who are Nazis, not even Nazi coded or inspired like the Empire or First Order in Star Wars) are the folks spurring the backlash to the Avengers, the hatred is framed as irrational and evil –
But at the end of the day: no one wants US interventionism except those that profit from it.
It’s not irrational or evil to want the US and its superheroes to stay way the fuck over there and leave your country alone. Consider also that in this case, other countries are supposed to have their own heroes and villains. The MCU fails its own worldbuilding by having the US be the birth and sole home of superhumans – aside from
mutants “miracles” like the Romanov twins and the legacy of the Black Panther – and then setting those heroes up to be kind of like… world cops. It’s so deeply, disturbingly USian that Sokovians are framed as wrong for going “GTFO please” and like they need widespread interventionism.
But it’s also a thing that happens in other movies? Even Black Panther. (We’ll get to that in a second.)
First, let’s talk about Civil War. How are the Sokovia Accords a thing we’re supposed to be okay with at any level? It’s a thing that started because of… more US interventionism (entirely unsanctioned) but then levels up to have the US push a global world cop control of who can hero anywhere even though… Civil War is only the second time we’re told that there are heroes anywhere else with T’challa’s first appearance as Black Panther. (Not to both sides… or neither sides it all, but come on!!)
Then in Spider-Man Homecoming we have the whole “the villain is anti Tony because Tony cost him his livelihood sort of” thing that doesn’t track. Yes, I aired some kind of irrational grudges about that film and some sharp Tony Stark hate years ago, but I have since watched Iron Man 3 and now I see where the MCU failed him and his fans. BUT I’m still annoyed at how the villain in Homecoming is literally an everyman kind of criminal. He’s punished for trying to help clean up the city he lives in after the Avengers helped destroy uh… most of New York. His income is snatched from him and we’re told to empathize with… not him. Toombs is Not Wrong for sort of being an anti-capitalist villain. (He’s not actually anti-capitalism because he’s clearly fueled by a love of making money as much as he views what’s happened to him and other people who can’t thrive in a post-Hero world as super unfair.)
Black Panther frames Killmonger as the villain primarily because he’s like “Black revolution should be violent and swift” opposite the helpful CIA dude. It’s a trend in the MCU to make the radical dude the villain, exaggerating what their base concern is or making it impossible to connect with because it’s like “I want to make sure that no one goes hungry” as their base motivation, but then following it up with the villain saying, “by making it imperative to eat other human beings for all meals”.
Like Killmonger isn’t wrong about antiblackness and about the privilege of Wakandans in the face of historical oppression Black people face worldwide… but they couple that with his whole “Black people should rule the world under the Wakandan Empire” thing which of course is impossible to accept or approve of.
And so, at the end of the film, he’s dead and Wakanda – via T’challa – is liked up with the CIA and open to the American Way. Wild?? Worrying?? Annoying as shit!!
(Thanos and Ultron specifically have no good points. People just say they have good points because they over identify with those weirdos. Anyone like “the way to solve over population is by destroying half of the population” or “that robot was right to try and destroy the world because he went on the internet once” probably:
- Doesn’t understand that overpopulation is a fash myth developed to excuse genocides
- Is ignoring that Ultron definitely chose to go after the wrong people after his turn of being Extremely Online…
Run away from nerds who feel that way, I guess.
Also, I paused watching Age of Ultron to watch Markiplier play Huniepop 2 and write this so if I’m entirely wrong about the plot of that film… I accept your scorn.)
I compare this to the villains in DC (comics, films, and external universes like Wildstorm via The Authority where the villains are wrong, the heroes are wrong, and you’re wrong as part of the audience. Like I can’t imagine a DC movie trying to frame Darkseid as the bad guy but then his whole thing is widespread education and literacy programs for children with a side of… “so the kids can go forth and slaughter in my name”.
But that sometimes feels like the MCU way.
(Again, this is like 45% a full on fever dream of a joke. PLEASE do not explain the MCU to me. I’m truly just fucking around here.)