Apr 22, 2015

How I Killed the Movies


'It’s hard not to fall in love with the Superman of the thirties, but then what’s not to love about Depression-era America? The Depression itself, I suppose, but if that goes into the debit column, to too does Tin Pan Alley and screwball comedy, Cole Porter and Cary Grant, and all the other all the other popculture born of that era’s unbeatable mix of wish-fulfillment, pluck and grift. As Gerard Jones makes clear in his zippy history Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic-book, superhero comics were largely the creation of Jewish ghetto kids from Manhattan’s lower East Side — scrawny, near-sighted, sci-fi-loving nebbishes who could sketch but not speak to the beauties they saw at school, and who lapped up the deeds of Tarzan, Charles Atlas and Douglas Fairbanks, before fashioning their own amalgams of rippling musculature and idealism to “smack down the bullies of the world,” as one of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel put it. These days, I look at the abundance of merchandise and movies aimed at kids like me with the wonder and confusion of Hiep Thi Le wandering through the vastness of an American supermarket for the first time in Oliver Stone’s Heaven and Earth. A form tilted towards underdogs has become the plaything of bullies — soft-power workouts for the coach-potato Dauphins of the world’s single remaining military colossus. Today’s comic books movies are dreams of power with their roots in weakling wish-fulfillment all but eliminated: the civilian alter-egos of the Avengers and the X-Men barely get a look-in, these days, while the mortals with whom they once enjoyed romantic dalliances  are banished from the summer’s high-impact smasheroos and demolition derbies. The form has entered it’s decadent phase of superhero-on-superhero violence and synergistic mash-up: these guys only mix with other superheroes, like A-list celebrities, or Royals.' — from my Intelligent Life column

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