Thursday, January 10, 2019

Friends of Thanos

While I was away over the holidays, we watched Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix. We had seen it at the movie theater months before, but we wanted to see it again as the release of the sequel approaches. (Avengers: Endgame will be out in April.) Even though we knew what was coming, it was still shocking and sad to witness half of the team crumble into dust and blow away. (Bill and Ted were right after all: All we are is dust in the wind.) I can't wait to see Thanos get his comeuppance in the next movie. We all have our theories about how that will happen, but I think we'll all be proved wrong. (I think Ant-Man will play a strong role, but we'll see.)

A day or two after we watched the movie, my nephew told me that there was some kind of controversy involving Thanos and the description of Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix. I resolved to find out more once things calmed down after the holiday. I have read about the controversy now, but I still don't really understand what the big deal is. It leads back to something that I wrote about months ago, though, in an article called "Summer Movie Miscellany" (here). In that article I made a kind of prediction. As it turns out, I was right, but then it doesn't take a genius to be right about these things.

The recent controversy has to do with this description of Avengers: Infinity War posted on Netflix:
Superheroes amass to stop intergalactic sociopath Thanos from acquiring a full set of Infinity Stones and wiping out half of all life in the universe.
That's not exactly informative. The uninitiated might ask, What the heck is an Infinity Stone? But if you have to ask, you probably shouldn't watch Avengers: Infinity War until you have seen a couple of dozen other Marvel movies first. Anyway, a bunch of people who don't have anything else to do objected to the characterization of Thanos as a sociopath. The objections seem to fall into two categories. First is that the use of the word sociopath is incorrect or inaccurate. Second and more troubling is that Thanos is not a sociopath because what he's trying to do--kill off half of the life in the universe--is actually a good thing. I'll take these objections one at a time.

The first objection is easy enough to deal with. First, the term sociopath is informal and imprecise. It isn't a diagnosis. People use it more or less how they please. It doesn't mean very much to say that Thanos or anybody else is a sociopath. Second, Thanos is not a real person. He exists only as drawings on paper or as a bunch of electrons. How can you get worked up over something so inconsequential as that? As William Shatner (or the evil Captain Kirk from Episode 37) might say: "Get a life! For cryin' out loud, it's just a movie." How can anyone possibly have enough time or interest to start some kind of wacky campaign to get a television blurb changed? I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves? Move out of your parents' basement and grow the hell up!

The second objection, that Thanos is actually a good guy and is trying to do something good and necessary in the universe, is far more serious and scary. But then we live in a world full of serious and scary things, one of which is the nihilistic, anti-human thinking of countless millions of people--people who hate themselves and because of it hate everyone else, past, present, and future, God included. They are the kind of people who made the twentieth a century of horrors and promise to make the twenty-first a proper sequel of greater, though more subtle, horrifying things.

As I wrote before, if you believe that humanity should be reduced or diminished, you are, like Thanos, a monster and a villain. Get that into your head: You are a monster. There is no get out of jail free card for you if you believe, like him, that the process should be equally and randomly applied. You are a monster. And I hope--we all should hope--that you never have even the remotest access to power (1, 2)

Note
(1) Although in a democracy, even monsters have power. In fact, democracies are just as likely as any form of government (or even more likely) to give rise to monsters, as a democracy inevitably results in a rapid race to the bottom, and monstrousness resides in every one of us at the basest of levels.
(2) By the way, has anyone noticed the similarities in motivation between Thanos and Kodos the Executioner from the Star Trek episode "The Conscience of the King"? The difference is, I guess, that there is nothing to prick the conscience of Thanos.

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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