“Contemplating the Infinite…” by Richard F. Yates

The day after seeing Avengers: Infinity War… It was quite a film. (American cinema has finally caught up to 1980’s anime!) This movie was BIG in almost every sense. As a long-time comic book fan, it was thrilling watching my childhood blown up to 10 times life size and presented in surround sound! I read a lot of Avengers comics back in the 1980s, and it was extremely satisfying to see that the film industry has finally reached the sophistication needed to present a full blown, Jack Kirby or Jim Starlin level cosmic event on the big screen in a believable way. VERY impressive! (The Dr. Strange bits, and how his cosmic magic was visualized, were my favorite scenes!)

Did seeing this movie change anything in the REAL world? Probably not. It won’t feed the poor or solve political strife around the world—but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. And it was quite exciting (in a SAFE kind of way.)

BUT, I hear some of you asking, aren’t we (by “we” I mean: feature film watchers) just being brainwashed and PACIFIED by this kind of big budget entertainment? Isn’t this exactly what Plato was warning us about, the POINTLESS EXCITEMENT of the POETS, who rile the masses up, but then give them no direction to focus their nervous energy (except, in MODERN times, we ARE directed to BUY THINGS when we’re excited. We show our interest and loyalty by purchasing t-shirts and plastic toys and DVDs and soundtracks and Halloween costumes and themed ice-cream treats—the characters in the film actually mentioned Avengers ice cream flavors!) Plato, supposedly, would have kicked all the poets out of his Republic for the good of society… Except that he, himself, was a poet, so… (Plato was complicated. I recommend reading his work a couple of times.)

Perhaps, instead of thinking about how we’re being brainwashed and pacified by big budget, blockbuster films, we should consider them as important touchstones four our culture, which can be useful for coming to terms with our current values and morals. Perhaps what we’re seeing in these films is our new MYTHOLOGY writ large on the silver screen. In Greece, these values would have been expressed through plays and poetry. In some cultures, myths take the form of rituals and spiritual gatherings, or as shamanistic performances… We have comics, novels, cartoons, and films—and intelligent folks, like Joseph Campbell and Susan Sontag and religious scholar Robert Price have all claimed that comics and superhero stories ARE RAW MYTHOLOGY. We know, because we are so clever and sophisticated with our modern brains, that these characters are fictional (I would argue that many earlier cultures knew the same thing about their myths), but being fictional doesn’t stop our superheroes from EMBODYING our values, and their STORIES can easily be understood as morality plays, mixed liberally with wishful thinking, meant to make us consider our own actions and motivations. (What would YOU do if you had super powers?)

By paying attention to the SUPERHEROES, (especially the POPULAR stories that have CLICKED spectacularly well with audiences) we can better understand the culture itself, which creates, celebrates, and perpetuates these tales and these characters. Looking at how characters behave, how they change over time, and what their stories are REALLY about (below the metaphorical costumes and CGI settings) can reveal a great deal about who WE are, what we value, and where we HOPE to go in the future!

Infinity War was a great film, and both Mariah and I truly enjoyed it. It was visually stunning AND emotionally satisfying—and too damn SHORT, in my opinion, even though it was almost three hours long! (And now, unfortunately, we have to wait a YEAR for the sequel to see what happens next!)

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)

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About richardfyates

Compulsive creator of the bizarre and absurd. (Artist, writer, poet, provocateur...)
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