Avengers Infinity War was released for wide circulation on April 27th, 2018. It will, at worst, become the second highest grossing movie of all time.
Iron Man was released in 2008. Tony Stark’s character is responsible for this movie empire.
Tony Stark drinks a lot, parties a lot, and sleeps with lots of women. He is rich because he inherited his father’s money. He is a PG-13 Jordan Belfort without the business acumen. Other people run his business for him. It takes him until Iron Man 3 to grow up and be an adult at an age that is somewhere between 35 and 45. People outside of his socioeconomic standing would not get this luxury. He is also a genius. He is a genius not because of any hardwork at crafting his intellect, but because he inherited this trait from his father’s genetics. Even trapped in a cave with minimal materials, he is able to craft a primitive version of what becomes the Iron Man suit. He is better than us because of his lineage.
Bruce Banner is a super genius. There is not much to his character’s backstory in this movie. He is smart and he gets in trouble and is hunted by a corrupt official of the U.S government. Presumably, Bruce Banner was born with his gifts and has always been an intellectual god among his pears.
Thor is a literal god. He is also a prince. He is presumably wealthy. He has super powers because of his lineage. He will rule Asgard because of his lineage. Thor’s brother Loki is actually adopted. His lineage is that of the evil frost giants. He is evil because of his lineage.
Black Panther literally inherits his super powers, his super suit, his wealth, and his position as head of government. His villain temporarily takes his seat of power because it is his right to challenge his position because of his similar lineage.
Nolan’s Batman inherits his money and his privilege allows him to go on a self-destructive depression quest resulting in his transformation into the Batman (only possible because of his money) while his company more or less runs itself.
Zack Snyder’s superman was born with his powers, has always been extrordinary, and always been pure of heart.
The early 2000’s Sam Raimi spiderman was a poor college kid constantly struggling with his finances and constantly struggling to balance these economic and social struggles with the responsibility of having super powers. Today’s spiderman is basically the star of a high school sitcom. He goes to a high end magnet school for the gifted and wealthy. His life is easy. He is almost immediately adopted by famous superhero billionare Tony Stark which legitimizes his herodom.
It doesn’t take a genius to see what these three characters have in common.
Marvel’s most important attribute in its financial success is its laser focus on making its heroes likable, relatable and marketable.
In 2016, the presidency was decided by blue collar workers in moderately democratic states who decided a legacy millionaire turned billionaire who has never once in his life had to do his own grocery shopping, laundry, driving or accounting was more relatable than the daughter of a small business owner and a stay at home mom who was a lifelong public servant.
In 2017, Star Wars’s most loyal fans hated its latest entry, the critically acclaimed Last Jedi. They hated it specifically because it went against these trends of inheritence. Rey was not the next in line to the Skywalker Jedi lineage. Snoke was not Darth Plageius. These characters became prominent and powerful despite their lack of notable lineage.
Captain America is the other exception in today’s most popular movie characters. The U.S government gave him his super powers, but they gave them because he was willing to dive on a live grenade for his fellow soldiers. He is the purest and least problematic embodiment of “God and Country.” He wants to punch actual nazis when the government wants to use him as a recruiting figurehead.
In Captain America: Civil War, he is the leader of the faction of super heroes who wants to continue doing super hero things without answering to the U.N and other world governments. This movie (as I explained here) unambiguously declares that Captain America’s point of view is the correct point of view. It is incidentally a dangerous endorsement of Bush/Reagan era interventionism to protect us from the scary men with turbans. It is not a 1 to 1 comparison, but when Captain America himself embodies the same God and Country virtues that were used by Bush as propaganda to justify the Iraq War, it is impossible not to draw a correlation.
Bob Iger is the CEO of Disney, the company that owns every movie character mentioned in this article. He makes 49 million dollars a year in this position. His father was a company executive. He supports gun regulation and curbing climate change. He has consistently donated money to the Democrats. He might run for president. The DCCC has consistently pushed with its influence and money to try to run the most centrist candidates it can get away with because it fears liberal candidates who speak out about income inequality are unelectable.
That is not to suggest Bob Iger is some undercover Republican trying to conquer the Democratic party. It is to suggest that the general belief wealthy people are better because of their wealth and that wealth and talent are both strictly inherited things is an idea that is certainly more Republican than Democrat, but is not exclusively a Republican idea. After all, Trump did get the vote of many blue collar union moderate Democrats.
Films affect general attitudes much more than they affect specific political views. The movie 12 Years a Slave won’t affect people’s opinion on affirmative action, but it will contribute to their general view of black people and black culture. These shifts in general attitudes cause shifts in political views and voting patterns over time and over generations.
For all the complaints from the right wing media about Liberal Hollywood and Liberal Media, our most popular movies are indirectly supporting the socioeconomic core of their belief system. Whether it is belief in the righteousness of wealth and inheritance that is the cause of movies espousing these general attitudes of vice versa is irrelevant. It’s a chicken or the egg question. More of one eventually leads to more of the other.
It’s not just super hero movies. 1988’s biggest action character was John McClane, an every-man New York cop with just enough skill to feasibly dispatch a dozen terrorists by being the toughest bastard in Nakatomi plaza. Today’s best action hero is John Wick, a professional assassin who is filthy rich, sleekly dressed, and supported by the assassin illuminati that has its own gold coin currency. He works with the precision of Marvel’s marketing department as the movie is practically a compilation of head-shots. (As an aside, I fucking love these movies. It hurts me to lump them in with a greater societal problem).
Movies of previous generations told the story of the 2007 New York Giants defeating the unbeatable, undefeated, record breaking 2007 New England Patriots. Today’s movies tell of the 2017 dynastic New England Patriots coming back from a 28-3 point deficit to defeat the upstart underdog 2017 Atlanta Falcons that shouldn’t have been there to begin with.
Companies regularly become too big and too monopolistic to the point they absorb all the industry’s wealth and cripple the U.S economy by leeching money off the middle class. It is one of the few points with bipartisan agreement. No one argues “Man, breaking up Standard Oil and America Tobacco Co. was a huge mistake. We need less competition in business.” 2001 was the last major antitrust lawsuit in America. (Microsoft v. United States). It was settled without breaking up Microsoft. In 2008, Mamma Mia successfully pulled a profit competing against the mega event movie The Dark Knight. In 2018, every movie is trying desperately to avoid even close proximity to Infinity War released. Even weeks after its release, only two other major studio movies have been released to theaters. Avengers is a beneficiary of the very march toward economic aristocracy it accidentally reinforces.
In 2018, income inequality in the United States and worldwide is the greatest it has ever been in modern history. It is a trend with an unstoppable snowball effect that can only be stopped by a monumental societal moment akin to the rock-bottom that alcoholics must hit before sobriety.
It’s going to get a much worse before it gets better.