Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

The New York Times vs. Superheroes

Posted by Max Lalanne on June 30, 2012

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear “The New York Times” and “superhero movies” in the same sentence I automatically wince and feel sorry for our poor costumed comic-book characters. And judging from this recent Times article, which is written by the newspaper’s critics A.O Scott and Manohla Dargis, I have very good reason to keep wincing and feeling sorry. There’s two pages worth of writing, but the whole point of the article basically boils down to this incriminating paragraph.

The movie industry has also adapted to survive, yet it persists in recycling maddeningly troglodytic representations of women that its embrace of superheroes has only perpetuated and maybe exacerbated. For all the technological innovations, the groovy new Bat cycles and codpieces, superhero movies just recycle variations on gender stereotypes that were in circulation back in the late 1930s, when Superman and Batman first hit. The world has moved on — there’s an African-American man in the Oval Office, a woman is the secretary of state — but the movie superhero remains stuck in a pre-feminist, pre-civil rights logic that dictates that a bunch of white dudes, as in “The Avengers,” will save the world for the grateful multiracial, multicultural multitudes. What a bunch of super-nonsense.

Okay. I mean, come on? I’m not going to be a fanboy here and start ranting against these oh-so-snobby critics, merely because I’m not the right guy for that and plus highly respect both Scott and Dargis. But hey, that above paragraph speaks for itself. That’s what happens when an esteemed, old-fashioned (if you will) publication attempts to understand a genre which is pure cinematic escapism and pure dumb fun, if sometimes a little too much. Even there, that’s the joy of it all, that’s why we have superhero movies. And I noticed that neither Scott and Dargis delved too deeply into Chris Nolan’s superior “Dark Knight” movies, nor did they mention at all that in “Avengers” it was an African-American hero, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who orchestrated the whole bunch-of-white-dudes-saving-the-world plan.

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One Response to “The New York Times vs. Superheroes”

  1. Tom Mann said

    well Thor is Asgardian…correct me if im wrong but that makes him an ethnic minority in the Avengers.
    Black Widow is Russian, Hulk is a mutant, Cap was a kid from Queens and Hawkeye is a merc who grew up in the circus…None of them are exactly the middle class white dudes that this article portrays them as. With the exception of IronMan who is a “genius, billionaire, playboy philantropist” (not un-like Nolans Dark Knight) the whole team of Avengers, although white at first sight are actually as multi-cultural as the US and UK.
    Plus this was only the opening team. It didn’t cover characters like Black Panther from Watanga, Africa whose people mapped the human genome 60 years before western science, Luke Cage a young black man raised in Harlem, Enchantress, Tigra, Maria Hill, Wasp and She Hulk to name but a few female superheroes.
    I’m also sure the people who comment on the lack of diversity would certainly have something to say about the developments in the DC universe where the new Green Lantern of Earth 2 is openly gay. Perhaps being a homosexual hero doesn’t quite portray the ideals of the American Superheroes.

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