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I’ve seen a lot of complaining about the MCU since Thor (2011). While that film did deserve some panning, the greater significance of those criticisms was that they were the first I remember of many, many, many criticisms to come for the Universe and its offerings.
From whence did a general distaste for the MCU come?
Red Letter Media is where I first really began hearing about superhero movie burnout (I wanna say around their review of Ironman 3 (2013) ….goofy ass film that it was, but kinda good still), and while I can apprehend that frustration in the abstract, it seems like an ungenerous lead weight to hang around the neck of every new superhero film or series.
To be clear, I love RLM’s reviews and have watched most of them. That said, there are times I disagree with them. And if I’m being honest, this post was prompted more by the Facebook group, Red Letter Media Endless RichEvansPosting (and who knows who’s running that group!) than any recent review I watched of theirs. But the tale of the memes there is that beyond generalized superhero fatigue, there are some irksome woke politics being bandied about in a polarizing way.
I have devoted a lot of time and attention to digesting the MCU stories (some of them repeatedly) and so I feel I am as qualified as anyone to speak on them.
Who am I? (Skip to next section for reviews)
If you’ve been reading this blog since its inception in 2013 (or if you go further back to the 2011 blogspot days (The Most Interesting Blog in the World) you’ll know that I have been at odds with woke politics on some level from Trump v Hillary onward. Since that summer of 2016 (‘Summer of Sam [Hyde]’) I have kept my edge and avoided mental and moral docility with a steady diet of Jordan Peterson, Million Dollar Extreme, The Joe Rogan Experience, Hermetic philosophy, stand-up comedy, and right-wing politics & meme groups (what can I say, the left can’t meme…).
Being an unmarried 30 something male during Trump v Hillary was like being a suburban white kid when The Marshall Mathers LP dropped; the gravity was inescapable and it made me feel righteous and justified (it still kinda does). The legacy of TvH is a complicated one because Trump was telling us things that were true but which also needed scrubbing before they could be adopted productively (by me). ‘Scrubbing’ is a pretty sterile term so I’ll cal it what it is: From Summer 2016 until Summer 2019 I dealt with feelings of resentment, hate, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, self-harm, and longing for catastrophe. In reality I was learning to have worth and set boundaries, but anyone who puts up a boundary, whether a picket fence or border wall, must seem like an intolerant tyrant to someone else.
(*Note: With regard to the MCU and Star Wars (another universe I had grown up with), there was all manner of cuckoldry afoot during these years (Captain Marvel, Solo, the Sequel trilogy, Black Panther) and such blatant disregard for what I wanted to see was irksome—whether I was ultimately right or wrong.*)
Still, I wasn’t quite worth anything yet—I was still exhuming deeply embedded bullshit in the core of my being—but the fences were up at least. What I later realized (right before doing peyote in January 2021) was that doing ayahuasca (Jan 2016) had put me on a multi-year path of self-discovery where I had to purge deeply entrenched emotions, traumas, pathological anatomical structures, and misapprehensions about the world.
Ayahuasca truly sent me to hell, and anyone who got close to me during those first few years thereafter got caught up in my hell.
I did keep going though. Looking back on some of the ideas I held at the time and the things I said, I’m glad I was able to vomit them up in the nerf’d space that is social media, rather than going out and acting them out for real.
Playing guitar started to turn things around for me in 2018, while subsequent psychadelic experiences kept the tempo of self-discovery brisk. Thankfully, those and other concurrent and earlier investments in self began to appreciate and the fences I had established now actually protected something of value. Possessed of said value (at least by my own estimation) I felt a lot better about the world and unlocking the gates of the fences more liberally.
Now that you know who I am…..
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Over the last few weeks I have been watching She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. I like it and I’m going to continue watching it. Have there been missteps? From my perspective, yes, but at the same time I know women and they misstep and/or say cringe shit all the time so its actually kind of realistic.
How likely is it that a chick lawyer is gonna have a RBG bobble-head in their office? Pretty goddamn likely.
How likely is it that an empowered woman is gonna reference possible murder as a consequence of not keeping their cool? Pretty goddamn likely.
If I met Jennifer Walters at a bar we would probably butt heads and I might be provoked into saying something sexist like, “Calm down, pussycat!”
I don’t think that makes me bad or her a feminist martyr, but I think it does indicate that the higher the level of verbal sparring you do (and she’s a lawyer), the greater the imperative to never let ’em see you sweat. When I’m bantering with someone I’m gonna play with their feelings, and if progressive womanism is what they got their (safety!) panties in a bunch about, then you got a believe that’s where I’m aiming.
She-Hulk is not a story about a woke superhero. It’s about a very plausible progressive woman with a chip on her shoulder who I would 50/50 love or hate in real-life, and who suddenly has powers and a spotlight on her. She is of course reluctant now because all of her unpopular opinions are under the scrutiny of myself and other deplorables.
This is 4D story-telling and I would say that you’re supposed to hate it except that it is so remarkably self-aware, well-paced, expertly acted, clever and funny. It is incredibly well-wrought and fun to watch, and I daresay the things that I find cringe in the show are things that I have to get better at dealing with as I take steps away from my vagabond lifestyle and into my role as a member of society.
Ms. Marvel (Yet to finish, but I will)
Ms. Marvel (Yet to finish, but I will)
Despite being very underwhelmed by Captain Marvel, I wasn’t even particularly dubious about Ms. Marvel—I have been enjoying the Disney/Marvel series’ precisely because they have been defying my expectations in two key ways:
1) Defying my expectations of who a superhero might be; and
2) Defying my expectations of shittiness in the wake of Disney/Marvel/Star Wars’ shitty 2016/18 woke run (with certain exceptions…there were exceptions during the woke run that is….)
Kamala Khan is likeable and believable in the same way Jennifer Walters is, and the show (at least by episode III) had already done some interesting things with regard to Kamala within the socio-religious context of being a Muslim woman in America. The show didn’t blame white men for a young, Muslim girl’s struggles but did show a woman’s struggles within an actual patriarchy (the Imams and Uncles in her community).
And wouldn’t you know, the patriarchs are humanized too. Sure, they may be fossils, but they are benevolent. In reality, Kamala faces more immediate repression from her mother (also not painted as a villain). I like this show so far because it’s showing that “patriarchy” doesn’t have to be what someone else tells you it is. It shows tradition as important—keeping the fire alive rather than worshipping ashes. Kamala Khan is a female version of the man Jordan Peterson has been telling me to be for years: The brave adventurer that descends into chaos to rescue her (archetypal) father who has gone blind and stale. In the process she (and friends) revivify her society and she is remade into something better than she was before.
And for those who have complaints about the frenetic style in which the show shot and edited, remember this is a teenage girl’s reality. Remember: Demographically there is no group that will make you feel more stupid, insecure, outdated, antiquated, and annoyed than teenage girls. You will not understand their slang, the tech platforms they use, etc. Nonetheless, this show manages to level the curve to the extent that we get a glimpse of how they think and put reality together.
Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
This movie is the shit! I couldn’t look away nor could I shake the feeling that Marvel had made something just for me. I’ll be brief here and do a full review later:
Dr. Strange is the smartest fucking guy in the room, and because of the stakes and tone of The Infinity Saga his goofiness, arrogance, and constant failings are only just being explored in earnest. Like me, there is no reason why Strange shouldn’t always win everything all the time, except he constantly shoots himself in the dick with pridefulness before ultimately learning his lesson. That is so relatable to me.
For the geopolitically minded, there are some heavy themes regarding Sino-American relations which will be discussed at a later date, but even more important that (yes, more important than that!) is the commentary on motherhood. Themes of pathological motherhood have been prevalent in 2022, with Moon Knight and Hawkeye showing abuse and criminality respectively, but Scarlet Witch’s Oedipal tendencies (set up in Wandavision, though not explored in order to give her room to still be the hero) are shown in a high-stakes and sensational way. What would be interesting to see (Listen up, Disney!!) is for season 2 of What If?… had an episode where America Chavez and Strange don’t defeat Wanda and instead we see what her boys became years later under her pathological care.
Again, Moon Knight spoke to me with its themes of pathological motherhood and having a split identity with superpowers. It’s too wacky at times. Too slow at others. Some stuff isn’t explored enough and the rules they establish (powers of Gods, enemy abilities, jump cuts) are consistent although somewhat fucky. Still, I have to extend the same latitude to Moon Knight as I did to Ms. Marvel: This is probably something approximating the experience of being mentally ill. Take it from me. (Also, lyrically ill).
I didn’t want to like Kate Bishop but I do. I see so much great comedic potential between her and Yelena, and Clint Barton was honored. It’s been a few months since I watched it so some of the finer details are foggy, but its always nice to watch a series like this which is grounded in (mostly) unpowered people fighting criminality. Like Falcon and Winter Soldier, but less global.
I really liked this film but it is a sloooowwww burn. While reviews have been mostly indifferent to it, it’s another that I feel was made for me. It’s beautiful to watch and the story is archetypal in the sense that the heroes we see are super being, gods, humans, and perhaps most importantly, avatars of the viewer’s emotions/psyche.
Killing a baby to save the mother and the father’s subsequent reaction is portrayed so deftly that you don’t even realize what you’re watching until you’ve had time to think about it.
It was nice to see the genocidal SJW (Sprite) get knocked out by the incel (Druig). ‘GO TEAM!!’ I suppose…
And the best scene in the film: Phastos’ reaction to the detonation of the atom bomb. I cried.
Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings
I think the best thing about this film is that bad is not all bad (the father), good is not all good (the sister). How very daoist!
The fight sequences were cool and I felt that the art direction was very…Asian-minded! It’s hard to explain but the sequence with the shifting trees and the hidden path felt like an old Chinese story come to life. And of course, the main story about Wenwu (the father) pathologically pursuing his lost love to ‘hilarious’ consequences is entirely relatable to me.
The only thing I didn’t like is the reform of Mandarin, who apologizes profusely for impersonating an Asian warlord in Ironman 3. I get atonement—see my above confessions—but I feel it could have been handled better with humor rather than such sullen seriousness. And of course, the ‘Mandarin voice’ would have been a welcome return—perhaps as a small assist in the final battle.
Replacing the entire roster of the Avengers for a new generation (or at least decade) is not easy, but Shang-Chi takes its responsibility to the fans seriously and is a solid instalment, which, in a similar spirit to The Eternals, shows me something I’m not used to seeing in the MCU.
Thank-you for reading this far if you did. I have been thinking about rewatching the whole MCU series of films and shows from the chronological beginning and writing a review for each and I think I enjoy the material enough and appreciate it deeply enough that I could do a worthy job.
Please stay tuned.