So OK, no arguing with the box office. Comic book heroes are boffo with the cinema public. Of course that public is largely confined to the 13 to 35 year olds for whom brawn, beauty and boffo are what count most. Still, the comic book phenomenon is far too sweeping to smugly sweep under the rug of the audience’s silly puerility.
There’s something more going on here.
Taking a second look, you notice an equal number of screen villains too. A kind of perfect counter-point of villains to heroes to go with our popcorn. First, the horrific villains — from the ever popular Vampire and Zombie to the grotesque baddies made up with some rather badly made rubber faces. Then, the hallelujah comic book heroes — Batman, Spider Man, Captain America, Iron Man.
Life doesn’t get much neater than that!
And that may be precisely what’s going on here. In a world running wildly off all the tracks we were taught to travel on, life often seems out of control. I mean, who can calculate the swamp of statistics being thrown around D.C. like hand-grenades…? Who can fathom a recession that simply won’t stop receding…? Who can measure the actual geopolitical dangers to our civilization when we know only what we are supposed to know…?
Drum roll! Fanfare! Enter one of Hollywood’s heroes to smite the might of the evil ones! We cheer in our seats because, well, because sitting safely in our seats in the cocooned theatre is the best place from which to spot and slaughter the bad stuff in our lives!
Call it fun. Call it catharsis. Call it whatever fits your need. But later over pizza and beer at your favorite watering hole, come on now, don’t you feel just a little safer about your unsafe world? Sure, you know it’s all make-believe. Still. we all want to believe, need to believe, in the little pit of our tummy that there really are people in our world taking care of us.
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