Superheroes are starting to bug me

All those Sharpie-bright spandex boys have helped Hollywood off an awkward hook


Superheroes are starting to bug meNo disrespect to Wolverine, who’s the hottest Canadian at the box office since Mary Pickford (even if they do need an Australian to play him), but I wonder about this superhero business. They’ve been cleaning up at the multiplex ever since the dawn of the millennium: Spider-Man. X-Men. Batman. Iron Man. The mid-20th-century long-underwear guys are bigger than ever in the 21st. Truly this is the Age of the Superhero. And it’s beginning to bother me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love comic books. Meeting Stan Lee was one of the great moments of my life. Read a zillion of his masterpieces as a kid—although my grasp of the details decades later is generally frozen circa issue No. 22: Jean Grey will always be Marvel Girl to me. Please, no need to write to point out that she subsequently became Phoenix, and then Dark Phoenix, and then died, and then turned up in a pod at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, which was given to Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, and then she died again but implanted her psyche in the body of the comatose Emma Frost . . . I’m just skimming the CliffsNotes here, so, alternatively, don’t write if my précis has omitted many fascinating plot twists over the decades. My point is that keeping up with these guys is a full-time job. And even the fellows whose basic bio doesn’t change much get “reinvented.” The reinventions are invariably the same: out with the breezy guy swinging through the streets of Gotham to a ring-a-ding-ding Neal Hefti theme tune; in with some morose misanthrope hunched on the rooftops brooding and riddled with self-doubt. In the sixties, the TV Batman was camp. Then he got dark in the eighties movie. But then by the nineties sequels the dark Batman had mysteriously camped up again. So now he’s darker than ever. I think the concept of reinvention could do with reinventing.

When I was a lad, a lot of my pals didn’t dig this stuff. Boys who were into war stories valued verisimilitude, which made it hard to get past the capes and tights on Green Arrow or Ant-Man. So, even among the male youth demographic, the superhero catered to a niche market—and a parochial one at that. One can certainly detect, as scholars do, a long cultural inheritance of Übermensch mythology underpinning the Marvel and DC universes, but putting the Übermensch in Sharpie-coloured fully accessorized costumes is very American. Wolverine may have been born in northern Alberta and may have spent many years struggling, somewhat improbably, to escape the sinister clutches of his masters at the Canadian Defence Ministry, but, to the best of my knowledge, he has never been spotted flying down Yonge Street fighting for truth, justice and the Canadian way as he battles Islamophoboman, the deranged Maclean’s columnist whose evil powers grow stronger with every human rights complaint against him. Canada is just a place Wolverine happens to come from, not something he embodies. Back in the seventies, Marvel Comics introduced Captain Britain, with, first, a Britannic lion on his chest and, later, a modified Union Jack, a conscious hommage to Captain America’s star-spangled pectorals. It never really worked, in part because it seems an alien cultural vernacular: the Union Jack is fine on Austin Powers’ Y-fronts or Ginger Spice’s knickers, but looks very foreign on the rippling chest of a superhero.

So the conventions of the genre seemed quintessentially American in their expansive confidence. Or so I thought. Now, as last summer’s superheroics are succeeded by this summer’s, I’m not so sure. Recently, in Reason magazine, Jesse Walker mocked me for claiming to have detected Bush Doctrine subtexts in the first Spider-Man movie while entirely missing the masturbatory metaphor. Well, I saw Spidey in 2002, the day after visiting the World Trade Center site on what was the last chance to see it “as is,” before the authorities closed it for redevelopment (if that’s the right word for a decade of bureaucratic sclerosis). So perhaps my emotional compass was pointing elsewhere. I thought Spidey’s big-screen debut made a case for Bush-style pre-emption in that “the men who killed his Uncle Ben were small-time crooks Peter could have stopped earlier but chose not to.” On the other hand, apropos his uncle’s famous advice to Peter Parker—“With great power comes great responsibility”—I seem to recall my colleague Paul Wells defending Jean Chrétien’s 9/11 anniversary plea for the Americans to “be nice” to foreigners as simply a Shawinigan variation on Uncle Ben: “Wid da great power come da great responsibilities.”

Who’s right? Me? Wells? Both? Neither? Well, it’s seven years on, and I can’t remember a thing about the movie except Kirsten Dunst’s clinging shirt in one rain-sodden scene. Mr. Walker is right that too many of us went looking for messages in the superheroics, and seized too eagerly on the slim pickings. As he says, the superhero genre has a “philosophical flexibility.” Spider-Man himself compared biceps with Don Rumsfeld on stage as part of some Pentagon war promotion. But in January he was trading fist bumps with Barack Obama in a presidential inaugural special. Boy sidekick to Rummy, arachnid ivory to Obamessiah ebony: which is the real Spider-Man?

Er, well, there isn’t a real Spider-Man, is there? Look, I know several comrades of mine were very taken by Michael Caine’s speech as Alfred the butler to Master Bruce—“Some men just want to watch the world burn . . . ”—hailing it as an incisive analysis of al-Qaeda et al. But I don’t think so. Terrorists enjoy the body count, yet, unlike the Joker, they do have an end rather than just means. The notion that they merely “want to watch the world burn” is more readily applied to your average Hollywood studio. For almost a decade, the summer blockbusters have avoided saying anything about terrorism, Islam, 9/11, Bali, Beslan, Madrid or London, but they do like to “watch the world burn.” And so they opt for explosions and fireballs and shattering glass and screaming civilians unmoored from any recognizable reality. Hence, the Age of the Superhero: the Sharpie-bright spandex boys helped the movies off an awkward hook.

In the eight years American troops have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the studios have failed to produce a single film on the subject, other than a handful of unwatched flops about rendition and torture. The Tom Clancy novel The Sum of All Fears was about Islamic terrorists, so naturally the cinematic version made them neo-Nazis. The Nicole Kidman yawneroo The Interpreter was originally about Islamic terrorists attacking New York, so naturally they were rewritten into terrorists from the little-known African republic of Matobo. If a thriller’s set on a hijacked plane, the hijacker turns out to be a bespoke minion of some obscure Halliburton subsidiary. A couple of years back they made a high-tech action thriller in which the bad guy is the plane. That’s right: an unmanned computer-flown aircraft goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is—stop me if this rings a vague bell—a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard. The jet itself is the terrorist. This is the pitiful state Hollywood’s been reduced to: let’s play it safe and make the plane the bad guy. In the nineties, upscale Brits made a nice living playing the exotic foreign evildoer in Hollywood action pics. But, unless Jeremy Irons has been practising twirling his fingers like propellers and taxiing down the garden path with outstretched arms, he’s not going to be getting many roles as the psycho aeroplane.

Some studio vice-presidents just want to watch the world burn. So we have movies about nothing. You can discern subplot if you wish, but in the end what 99 per cent of moviegoers notice is the stuff that’s not sub-: he’s dressed like a bat! He has a groovy car! Whoa, did you see the way the Joker jabbed that guy’s eye out? You can debate allegory and metaphor, but once upon a time you didn’t have to—even with superheroes. The very first issue of Captain America showed our hero punching Hitler in the kisser right on the front cover—and look at the date: March 1941, months before the U.S. even entered the war.

The critic James Bowman thinks the current vogue for big screen superheroes helps to “isolate and quarantine heroism in fantasy-land.” “Heroism” is what people who’ve been bitten by radioactive spiders do. Until that happens to you, best to steer clear. And so a world of superheroes leads to a world without heroes. Gone now are the amateur adventurers of 19th- and 20th-century fiction, chaps who’d find themselves caught up in something, and decide to give it a go, initially because it’s a ripping wheeze but also because, in some too-stiff-upper-lipped-to-say way, they understood honour required it. Now the conventional romantic hero is all but extinct, and as giants patrol the skies those of us on the ground are perforce smaller. In The Incredibles, there’s a famous line aimed at the feel-good fatuities of contemporary education: when everyone’s special, nobody is. The failure of storytelling in today’s Hollywood teaches a different lesson: when everyone’s super, nobody’s a hero.


Superheroes are starting to bug me

  1. Does anyone else think Steyn checks the bushes outside his house every night to make sure no Al Qaida terrorists are hiding in them? Why does every road lead to Islam with these deranged nutters. My gawd, do they truly not understand how obsessive compulsive they’ve become.

    • No, Robert McClelland, you douche tard, nobody here thinks Mark Steyn checks his bushes for terrorists. That’s just you. Why won’t you libs see the world for what it is and admit Islamic terror is a problem?

      You guys have forgotten all about 9/11.

    • Funny I wonder the same thing about liberals and global warming.

  2. Mark Steyn is a truly talented writer. No one else can say so little at such great length.

    • The interesting thing is that you can put the paragraphs in any order and the effect is the same.

    • What gets me is that Steyn’s column is neither new nor does it add anything new. Numerous other conservative pundits have been writing the exact same type of column for at least the past five or six years.

      • And what gets me, Robert, is that you liberal douchetards never say anything new about Islamic terror, will not recognize the problem for what it is. You peddle inane conspiracy theories about how it is a Bush-Cheney conspiracy theory, or the jooz!!!1!1!! or whatever.

        Get your head out of your ass.

        • My, I love a well reasoned and polite response. Congratulations.

  3. Speaking of beating the bushes, I’ve been constantly amazed how you fellows managed to insert the evil Bush into every one of your conversations. Mr. Steyn, as usual, makes great points, even though he dares to differ from the default position to the horror of those who prefer to have all their thinking done, forever complete, for them. The nerve!

    • Nice, a preemptive whine.

      • Please, person mitchel, go get lost in the slime that spawned you.

        • Why would you respond to someone you don’t know in this fashion?

          • These postings are all goofy and wrong. I guess this is some kind of venting for the ill informed. There is no Liberal or Conservative or anything even resembling either anymore. Every election is bullshit marketing spin, that is completely unrelated to what each specific weasel really has in mind. We all sit by the TV listening to their pitches and then the moment the election is over, it’s back to double-handed stealing. Gee guys, I must have missed that part of your plans. The clash of the giants …the left vs the right….Yea right !!! A very simple review of what has been going on around here, yields the unmistakable truth. No politician of any stripe has changed anything worthwhile in a long long time. When the Conservatives gain power, they see the nice little pot of gold the previous rip-off artists risked their political futures to get their hands on and it’s too juicy to reverse. Hmmmm…. we were gonna do something conservative and honest, but hey check out this massive bucket of cash. This country is a bad joke and a rudderless ship heading for major rocks in the not too distant future. The Islam maniacs have recognized the moronic wheel-spinning we put ourselves through and they are definitely exploiting it. Don’t forget to recycle suckers. The new guys will want a nice clean environment to cut your grandsons head off in. I’m ashamed to be Canadian

  4. There are heroes in Hollywood…but painfully few. One of the best was Liam Neeson as the retired CIA agent in “Taken”, a movie displaying no concern about political correctness (was it banned by the HRCs?). We have plenty of morally nuanced heroes with a strong allegiance to relativism. We do need more of the old school comic book variety, as in the P.T. Boat Skipper Capt Storm type comics from Dec 1966, with the excellent “My Mother was a SPAD pilot”. How cool is that? She guns down the Hun in the skies over France, and at the end of the comic she is delivering P-51 Mustangs to the US forces in Europe as a member fo the WAAC during WWII, with her flying ace son introducing her to his astonished squadron mates as she steps out of the plane. Anything wrong with a woman warrior flying ace in 1966? Anything wrong with that today? How about “My mother strafed the Taliban”?
    Good work Mark.

  5. Quite aside from moviemakers’ inability to coin heroes, I’d remark on whether they can coin villains either. It’s impossible if you’ve never been to, and I’ll try to avoid a rings-a-religious-bell descriptor here, certain places in the Eastern Hemisphere; and if you have been, all you see are guys who are morose and twitchy and look like the President of Iran, except the President of Iran is thinner and has a job. The sheer driveling unimpressiveness of these places makes both fiction and nonfiction hard. Our enemies are nihilists; our enemies’ leaders, nihilists with cash. I think they really do want to watch the world burn, and that doesn’t make for much of a story. Villains are exciting to the extent the questions “What if they win? What do they get?” have dramatic answers. Villains whose reward for a mission accomplished is only more barrenness than they’ve already got just won’t film well. Al-Qaeda is dangerous but it is also dull, and witless.

    • Thanks for a constructive comment that wasn’t just a reflexive anti-Steyn whinge (not referring to anyone in particular COUGHJackMitchellCOUGH).

      • Maybe if Steyn would offer us something new to chew on we wouldn’t resort to reflexive anti-Steyn whinging out of boredom. Think about it. Lets say you enjoy watching murder mysteries but every one always ends with the butler doing it. You’d get pretty bored and start grumbling about it, wouldn’t you. Sure you would.

        Well here we have a case of Steyn not only writing the same old murder mystery that ends with the butler doing it but also demanding that every murder mystery ever made from now to eternity end with the butler doing it. When faced with such an obvious one dimensional personality the best we can hope for is to find some type of amusement in what they write for ourselves.

        • Actually, if you bothered to read the piece, rather than just following a link from HuffPo and hitting your ‘automatic troll response’ key, you’d see that what he’s mourning is the fact that Hollywood creates fake villains and fake heroes rather than using real villains and real heroes. The point is not that the villain should always be the same, or the story the same, or the end the same. The point is that we have real-world problems, which are ignored in order to present the same tired ‘superhero’ story over and over. Or have you never noticed that every superhero movie is the same damn ‘origin’ story told with a different pair of tights?

          • The point is not that the villain should always be the same,


            The Tom Clancy novel The Sum of All Fears was about Islamic terrorists, so naturally the cinematic version made them neo-Nazis. The Nicole Kidman yawneroo The Interpreter was originally about Islamic terrorists attacking New York, so naturally they were rewritten into terrorists from the little-known African republic of Matobo…The jet itself is the terrorist.

            I must have be confused by his lament–that I’ve heard numerous times in the past–that the bad guy wasn’t the butler…er, I mean Islamic terrorists in all these movies. The only thing that surprises me is that his list of examples didn’t include a complaint that the Cloverfield monster wasn’t instead a group of Islamic terrorists. Yes, I’ve actually read a rightwing pundit make that point.

            Or have you never noticed that every superhero movie is the same damn ‘origin’ story told with a different pair of tights?

            Um, no. Hanson was quite different. The Spirit wasn’t anything like Superman. Spawn wasn’t just the same old same old. Maybe you and Steyn just need to broaden your horizons.

        • You know Robert, what if you watched a film where America was always to blame for everything? A film where acts of terror committed against Americans were really Americas fault because of our sins of racism and sexism?

          Honestly you liberal douchetards never say anything remotely new or interesting. Get a life.

      • Is that meant as a scold or a tip of the hat?

    • Excellent. You made my day.

  6. Steyn is truly a gifted writer – he points out the problems that are just beneath the surface which the empty-headed morons who always hijack the comment section are just too dumb to see. The funny thing is, he’s paid to write … because he’s quite good. The people who reply to say how ‘bad’ he is are just failures, wiggling on the hook of their own worthlessness.

  7. Steyn is pointing out a simple truth. He, Steyn, does his job.

  8. I think you have some great insights here – nothing new about that – but I do think there is one notable exception: “United 93”, directed by Paul Greengrass for Universal Pictures. Maybe it wasn’t a blockbuster, but it deserves mention.

  9. Steyn’s point is clear enough. Hollywood is engaging in some sort of anti-racial profiling, whereby every other villainy is over -exposed so that they cannot be accused of being anti-muslim. Iron Man was an interesting movie in that respect, since it looked – for a while – as though the nasty Afghani warlord was going to be the bad guy, but no, it was the nasty Industrial-Military CEO guy who was using them!

  10. “The Lives of Others” might also be worth mentioning. It isn’t about terrorism, I guess, but it is about totalitarianism, which seems to be on your mind lately. For good reason, in my opinion. Anyway, there are good movies made for adults out there. Takes a little more searching, but it’s far more worthwhile than settling for the latest “Star Trek”, “X-Men”, or whatever.

    • Love ‘The Lives Of Others’. I’ve watched it a few times myself and recommend it to every one I know, particularly the lefties who are wistful about communism.

      I find lots of super-heroes have been turned into metro-sexuals and the movies leave me rather cold. The only comic book/graphic novel movie that I have seen in the past few years that I really enjoyed was 300.

      • Yeah, that was a great movie, “Lives of Others’. In that one they could not change who were the bad guys.

        • I really liked it too.

          So, tell me, sf, in “The Lives of Others” you were cheering for the adulterous, subversive playwright — recipient of government grants, no less — and not for the selfless, dedicated professional labouring long into the night in the name of East German national security? There’s hope for you yet.

      • Is that a joke? How can you complain about the metrosexualness of most superheros and then endorse 300? That was the most metrosexual movie possibly of all time. All it was was men wearing leather thongs with suggestive CGI enhanced pecks.

      • I also loved that movie – watched it twice!

  11. Some posters here wrote more than Steyn…and said less

  12. Mark is, as usual, on to something here. Traditionally the “hero” was an individual who fought for a noble cause (Arthur and his Knights in Le Morte d’Arthur) , performed spectacular but ultimately constructive deeds (Hercules and any number of characters from Greco-Roman myth) or acted as the embodiment of personal honor and sacrifice (Le Chanson de Roland.) The heroic ideal was always reflective of what people wanted to believe about themselves and their culture. The hero was an affirmation of societal confidence. Today’s entertainment industry is a product of western civilization but the people who run that industry are either alienated from “traditional Western values” or openly hostile to them. As a result we have the somewhat oxymoronic phenomenon of the “nihilist superhero.” This individual scorns the concepts of nobility and honor, does not perform spectacular deeds (except beating on other super-powered beings) and is consumed with brooding over their personal grievances, tragedies etc. They aren’t “heroic” because of what they do but simply who (or what) they are. Thus we are now in the strange position of being surrounded by “heroes” while, at the same time, being lshut off from concepts of “heroism.”

  13. Other than that, popular culture has pretty much skipped the Vera Lynn phase and cut straight to Basil Fawlty: don’t mention the war. They’d rather talk about anything other than Islamic terrorism. The Sean Penn thriller, The Interpreter, was originally about Muslim terrorists blowing up a bus in New York. So, naturally, Hollywood called rewrite. Now the bus gets blown up by African terrorists from the little-known republic of Matobo. “We didn’t want to encumber the film in politics in any way,” said Kevin Misher, the producer.

    But being so perversely “non-political” is itself a political act. If there were a dozen movies in which Tom Cruise kicked al-Qa’eda butt across the Hindu Kush, it would be reasonable to say, “Hey, we’d rather deal with Matoban terrorism for a change.”

    But, when every movie goes out of its way to avoid being “encumbered”, it starts to look like a pathology. Whenever some hapless studio exec finds he’s accidentally optioned a property that happens to have Islamist terrorists in it, the first thing he does is change the enemy. Thus, the baddies in Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears were de-Islamicised and transformed into German neo-Nazis, a very pressing threat to America in 2005.Mark Steyn 2005

    He’s a one dimensional broken record.

    • and yet people will pay to read his stuff, which is more than once can say about Robert McClelland.

    • Hey, McClelland, since you obviously have a lot of time on your hands, being a failed wanna-be writer soaking in bitterness while chomping Slim Jims on the couch (get off your butt and make that call!), why don’t you look up a word:


      See, most writers tend to focus on a theme. You then go to those writers to see how they will expound upon that theme in their writing. Steyn focuses on two major issues: demographics and terrorism. You seem to think pounding on the fact that he focuses on a theme is somehow tearing him down, but the funny thing is even though he focuses on two major issues you can’t successfully argue or refute either of them. You just keep posting, like a crying baby, complaining about it.

      • See, most writers tend to focus on a theme.

        Only hacks with nothing new to say focus on the exact same theme for 7 years. And by the way, I’m not a writer, failed of otherwise.

        • Then stop writing.

          • Do not feed trolls.

          • Show him how. Lead by example.

        • It shows.

    • god Robert McCLelland you are such loser.

      Steyn gets paid to write unlike you, who are paid to beat off in your mom’s basement.
      Do you have a job? Or do you receive a check in the mail?

  14. From a May 2002 slate article:

    “The threat of al-Qaida terrorist attacks is currently scaring America stiff. But you’d be hard-pressed to find Muslim terrorists in any of today’s blockbuster action movies, which instead offer such uncontroversial bad guys as killer aliens and abusive husbands. Why is Hollywood shying away from al-Qaida-like villains?”

  15. Just to give fans and foes alike a taste of how clueless Steyn is, he doesn’t even mention “V for Vendetta” in this piece, which would have given him reams of material to rant about. Because he basically doesn’t know what he’s talking about on any issue. He does no homework, he’s got no point, he just riffs . . . sadly reminiscent of the later work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, R.I.P.

    • Wow, you appear to be quite the silly narcissist. Steyn is clueless because he doesn’t include reviews of movies that you like? Why don’t you get your own column and write as you see fit? My guess is that you don’t because nobody will pay to hear your ignorant whining.

      • I didn’t like “V for Vendetta,” but it was certainly pertinent to an article about superheroes and terrorism.

        I’d like to observe that the “Steyn is a much-read columnist, therefore anyone who knocks him is a loser” line is the most pathetic defense yet mounted. Out of ammunition, suffering from thirst, surrounded on all sides, Sgt. Steynette fights on . . .

      • I’ve often thought that Jack’s more serious efforts are worthy of column inches in a national publication like the Globe and Mail or the National Post. (The National Post published an excellent piece Jack wrote a few years ago, and Jack is also a published author.)

        Jack already has many admirers, thanks to his indefatigable contributions to the Maclean’s comment boards. You Steynettes only see one side of Jack (the erudite bulldog perpetually nipping at Steyn’s heels). He actually has quite a broad range, and I’m sure any Jack Mitchell column would be pleasingly esoteric and engaging.

        • Thanks for your excessively kind words, CR. Actually I feel bad for nipping on a piece like this, which isn’t all that bad, i.e. not much demagoguery.

          I wish Steyn would find himself a different agent. I actually think he’s a talented writer with good prose, it’s a shame he’s stuck in such a rut (generally — and even here he can’t resist the facile terrorism schtick). The Return of the Jedi is an excellent example of how people can redeem themselves. Here are some ideas for Mr. Steyn, which I think would mesh well with his truculence, iconoclasm, and penchant for cultural critique:

          * The education system, particularly in the junior grades;
          * Corporate lawsuits and entrepreneurship;
          * Theology;
          * Professional sports culture;
          * Pornography — thought that was quite interesting, actually.

          Something, in other words, in which the author not only provides his opinion but informs the reader about something new. This will probably involve getting a library card but I bet Maclean’s would pick up the tab.

          There, now, never say I don’t give positive feedback.

          • Calm your polemic. Consider that the issue Steyn raises is not that heroes don’t exist in movies, for as you pointed out, there are some heroes. It seems to me the main thrust of the article is about the lack of heroes in a story about the modern and relevant world, about individuals courageously standing for values in contrast to current threats or problems. This is the real hero Hollywood and the people shy away from or issues they cringe from rather than confront.

            V for Vendetta is less relevant today for us in the West than it was in times past of oppression or tyranny (except for that thread of true liberty and its philosophical subtleties that might run thru the film though under a heavy veneer of “freedom from tyranny”). I was bored by the movie and am too familiar with such story lines.

          • Hmmm. To what hath appeared to my wandering eyes..

            The education system, particularly in the junior grades;

            All too true. Look on the bright side, as Joe Sobran said, if we really need 20 million ignorant peasant to pick lettuce for us at sub-par wages, the public schools are more than up to that challenging gauntlet toss..

            * Corporate lawsuits and entrepreneurship;

            Trial and error. Literally. And maybe life and limb at that. Quite possible he knows enough lawyers by now at having been pilloraid in the Queen’s chilly Dominion that he COULD make some commentary on that irritant..

            * Theology;

            We got yer back, brother. But, unfortunately the main church these days happens not to be something that looks like a kingly Peter O’Toole getting his backside whipped by the esrtwhile Bishop pal. I’m afraid the Archbishop of Canterbury and his associates are spending more time emailing each other about St. Paul’s detailed and quite positive exgesis on gay marriage (who the hell knew, from the book of Romans!!!???) than in the pulpit. So for Europe the issue is, shall we say, limited to political intrigue of metrosexuality in the pews. Not that THAT couldn’t be as fun as the Song of Songs. But still. Yeah–he’s mentioned some churches of sorts popping up like spring rain mushrooms in London, but they ain’t got pictures of Jesus etched in colored glass on them or in them…..

            * Professional sports culture;


            ……”Howz yer game today on the links, Worthington? Well, it’s like my broker says, we seem to be operating at peek cross-valuation efficiency on PAR value, the committe decided it was a Master(s) Stroke of genius!!!!–har har. … Nyuck nyuck!!! **cough**…. **deep Marlboro Lights cough** See you back at the clubhouse for a round of drinks!!!

            * Pornography — thought that was quite interesting, actually.

            Indeed. Women are interesting creatures. Dr. Freud could not figure them out. No doubt the quest and struggle is the joy.

            I even took the time to marry one. The one thing I can say without getting in trouble is that for all my disdain for Things Euro, Steyn points out, not unfairly, that when it comes (no puns) to raw sexual energy and what to hit the sack wearing, at least the Euro chicks know enough to lay off the Cheetos so much so they can actually look like their somewhat in the game for the commercials about Vicky Secret wear and don’t make their thongs disappear into the darkness of Henrietta Hippos’ posterior.

        • It was said of Carrie Nation, the censorous saloon and bar smasher, was a “bulldog at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he dosen’t like” was vicious and nippy at the heels, but no so erudite.

          I’ve met dogs who could whip White Fang and make old Jack London hide in cabin, but I’m afraid this metaphysical adulation has some upper limits.

          I’ve yet to meet bulldogs who’re erudite.

          Not that Jack M. is not erudite.

          He certainly is. We dare say post his mug in the Oxford run down of the King’s English on that term.

          But bulldog?

          • Heh. I realize that the words “erudite” and “bulldog” are rarely joined, but in this case (with Jack’s bulldog-like tenacity) I think it’s a nice turn of phrase.

    • I’m afraid you’ve missed the point, much like the movie adaptation of the excellent novel.

    • Indeed why would he?

      Because “V” is a corny and cornball rendition of hyberbolic nonsense in tis own right unworthy of the high billing to Natalie Portman and that guy who played Lord Elrond? What’s his face. And that stuff is about as old as last years’ phone book–and about as relevent?

      Another cheapjack Vaudeville stomp n’clomp routine worthy of sideshow elephant man antics about how the Church, the funny guys in robes, are oppressing the rest of us. How many movies would that be by now? Counting the Handmaiden’s Tale and now Pullman’s not-so-veiled Golden Compass plaintive wails about being hated so much, is that list of that genre up to, say, three digits yet?

      The minds reels at the very possibility of the First Church of some Deep South hamlet holding up a dripping human noggin and saying on the newly installed cheap sound system “Let’s hear it for Jesus–let’s have a shout out of the Lord!”

      Oh yeah–then there’s the Davinci Code, the latest in coffee table dreck turned big screen since while the pen is mightier than the sword, the sword in the hands of the black robes of the church in turn in the hands of Industrial Light and Magic is mightier than the penmanship of better works.

      Can I hear an Amen?

      • Make that…..”V”, for Vaudeville, come to think of it.

        How much more is out there. Maybe Netflix has the most complete catalogue of this shtick. No matter. Hollywood does have a busted compass when it comes to such things. I, like Steyn, would be happy for some moral clarity and the needle pointing to at LEAST magnetic north if not true north. Conspiracy? I can’t say that, but it IS curious as to why the crap is supposed to mean as much as the blockbusters.

      • “Indeed why would he?”

        I quite agree with your assessment of “V for Vendetta” but, when one is sauntering about the pop-culture meadow à la Steyn, every flower that fits your bouquet is precious, even the wilted ones.

        To my mind, “V for Vendetta” was remarkable because it was apparently a projection of the moviegoing public’s secret fantasy about al-Qaeda and terrorism; that fantasy being that it would be kind of cool to be an invisible, all-powerful terrorist like the guy in that flick. Personally I don’t see the attraction but there’s plenty of scope there for Steynian moral outrage. A more profound point would be that people who are obsessed with al-Qaeda are the kind of people who, if al-Qaeda were even remotely sympathetic to the American right, would actually be in danger of quislingism: the black-and-white worldview, the faith in a Caliphate / “New American Century,” the paranoia, the love of large explosions, and most of all the need to belong to some great big super fun Cause. So, in sum, I’m glad it flopped.

        • Remotely sympathetic?

          The world IS grey.

          However, to my liberal pals this is not so much to be taken as an affirmation by ME of the alleged (but rarely realized now that their turn in power is moralist and slightly amnesiac junta bloodpurge of the CIA and Things Cheney/Bush from some absolutist moral ground in their own right) “moral fuzziness” of things or seeing finer shades of distinction in the fogs of war and their various atmospheric densities, but RATHER, it is my affirmation of CONTEXT. See below, for example, regarding one famous urban legend about the origins of Bin Laden and Co.

          Well, that tack of some “connection” of the Religious Right (whoever the hell they really are, maybe the gal Jacob Sullivan called “Maude” who puts dimes in the collection plate at First Church of Duluth Ga) to the head-ripping ways of “conservative” Islam WAS already tried, even if a half truth is more exciting and daring than an outright lie.

          For full disclosure, it was not so long ago that the “al Quaida was a creation of the CIA” myth made the rounds of journals with more leverage than the usual Kos (since this was actually before the flowering of Kossette type sites, to be sure, though) and Media Matters sites and the nodding of Bill Moyers.

          The myth quietly dried up and blew away like dew in the morning broil of sun, since even the sternest of lies armed with sheer weight of obnoxious reptition will die a grisly death sometimes.

          But the core reality that Bin Laden hated America even in the strategic moment where we DID supply Stinger missles to nasty men like Hekmayaer and other jihadists in Afganistan in the context of roil of the Soviet invasion, is TRUE. Without going into the detail I know about that region (one of master of a few trades while jack at most others), this narrow confine of armament, but actually no “training” and “formation” or “creation” (since the warlords needed no prodding or training to attack the Great Bear, but merely weaponry of which the batteries and billing both long ran out…) is about the only “alliance” real or theoretical, that any CIA social conservative would have with the Jihad.

          Such is politics. But the implication from my dear pals over the Social War blog, often referred to also by their web sign up called Science Blogs, that there is, per PZ Myers, some “connection” between cultural conservatives and Christians to Islam’s good-cop, bad-cop routine, is sorta goofy.

        • Having said all that so that I can now go grab a beer and enjoy the rest of the day, while I disagree that “black and white” fof anything orms the basis of either most conservativism, be it Paleo or Lite or Neocon (one presumes this is akin to Marlboro Lights vs. the the red box true cowboys like, over the sin habit choices of suburban moms), and that much more solid starkness (or is this just, simply, self-rightious, piggishness on the part of people like the mentally foggy lefties like Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi?) context is perhaps what is usually on the docket here.

          I think it was CS Lewis who said things to the effect that it was the whore who was closer to the kingdom of God than nattering politicians and self-rightious finger waggers–though it is not good to practice the arts of either realm, and that not all killing is murder any more than declaring that since they might look simliar, all sex would be rape.

          The other problem here, and surely you’d agree with THIS, since you seem to be one who is given to taking even the weakly throbbing cultural pulses that show up on the big screen, is that declarations of some moral claim using the typical, overbearing, and not so clever genre of triteness in film, is really unwatchable.

          On the OTHER hand, this is not to say that we should stick with some other new greyer formulations like the anti-hero—–the man or woman “protagonist” (if we dare) so complex and twisted and mired in worldly affectations and dark ruminations, that at the end of our endurance in the chair of this person’s inner closet of demons, we don’t know what the hell just happened to make us spend 20 bucks on this flick when you throw the drinks and popcorn in…

          As to “quislingism”, I have to admit to being impressed you know poor Vidkun’s last name.

          Few do these days.

          The glorious and wonderful Judi Dench mentioned his name in exclamation on As Time Goes By” but that’s about it in popular culture viewing I’ve heard of recently.

          God help any man so truly blessed as to have his surname remembered for such traitorous intrigue.

  16. Mark Steyn is 100% on with this column. The superhero fad is just more evidence that there’s not a shred of actual creativity left in Hollyweird.

    I can’t actually remember the last new American movie I’ve actually spent money on. They’re all dreadful.

  17. jack mitchell, you are a clown. clearly your elementary reading level prevents you from reading between the lines here. steyn is widely accepted as one of the smartest pundit alive today and would make you look like a complete fool if you tried to debate him on any issue in person. doesn’t do his homework? have you read the guy’s books??? it would take years to compile all the research he cites. clueless? c’mon, are you serious? you’re talking about one of the smartest men on the planet here, not some obscure columnist for the hometown newspaper. the guy is a walking expert on foreign policy and international history. do us all a favor and DO SOME HOMEWORK before you share your obnoxiously uniformed opinions.

    • “steyn is widely accepted as one of the smartest pundit alive today”

      That was beautiful.

      • BUT — an honourable mention to “you’re talking about one of the smartest men on the planet here.”

        • Successful troll is successful! I’d like you to count how many times you press the refresh button on this page over the next hour.

  18. Steyn is, as usual, incisive, interesting and challenging in his view. Always worth a read. The comments writers, McClelland and Mitchell, provide a great contrast as people who have nothing to say and also manage to say it badly. They also seem to think people want to hear their comments multiple times. Or maybe its just themselves they like to hear.

    • I do believe I’m developing a Steynette following.

      • Picnic near the ants once, you can make a clean getaway.

        Picnic near the ants and bring the choicest of temptations in the morsels, you get stung.

        All’s fair in love in war is the trite phrase, but then the triteness is there for a reason.

      • Well “following” might be overstating the case but every time I read a Steyn article in Macleans I am assurred to see that little George Orwell avatar that belongs to his most dedicated stalker – generally about a dozen times. I like Steyn’s writing, I like Orwell a lot and some of your stuff is a hoot in that simmering-rage kind of way. Keep it up!

    • Sigh. I must jump in on this– asserting that McClelland and Mitchell have nothing to say is not an argument, Rob H. If you make that assertion, then dissect what it is they’ve said that you feel means nothing. Oh the irony, the irony I tell you…

      I do agree that Steyn is worth reading– I love his witty style but almost always disagree with his arguments. When McClelland or Mitchell disagree with Styen, they analyse what he’s actually written, in this case the fact that he’s yet again bemoaning our culture’s lack of machismo when it comes to dealing with radical islamists.

  19. Thanks CR for informing us Jack got published a few years ago in the National Post and now has sacrificed his promising writing career to comment on every piece that Mark Steyn writes in Macleans.How noble.

    • I try an be an affable enough chap around almost anyone.

      So (lol) I’m glad YOU got to fall on that particular sword for the rest of us, and not me.

    • Wow, that truly is pathetic – most failed writers with toxic green envy syndrome at least have the good graces (and common sense) to hide behind anonymity. That juvenile-fiction book about being a young boy in Rome not selling well, Jack? Why, exactly, do you fantasize about being a young boy in Rome, anyway? Inquiring minds want to know!

      • It did ok, actually, and the second one’s doing better. I think Rome has a lot to teach us, as a matter of fact, and I’m keen for young readers to know more about it; the genre requires a young narrator of the same age and gender as the reader. I’m not particularly envious of Steyn; there’s lots of different kinds of writers, and demagoguery is not my style; he’s also old enough to be my father.

      • SteynRules- My little brother’s school has that book. It’s actually quite good. I enjoyed it, and I’m p r e t t y sure I’m on the *upper* end of the target demographic.

        • Hey, that’s wonderful to hear, Sophia! Very kind of you to mention it.

          • Hey, Steyn’s got a good gig going. He does his stuff and he gets first dibs on replacing Rush when The Man takes days off to drive the Republicans farther into the Big Black Swamp.

  20. America needs a civil war so bad you can taste it.

    We “red American” stock up on food, water, and ammo. We would exterminate the Islamic leaning leftists in America. It would be a warning to future generations that thinking like a leftist is dangerous.

    Are you leftists game?

    • How’d that work out for you in 1860-1865?

  21. “The notion that they merely “want to watch the world burn” is more readily applied to your average Hollywood studio.”

    I find the disconnect between the nature of violence (and courage) and the hollywood portrayal of them to be aversive. They take for granted that bigger sound and sharper shifts in lighting is enough to dazzle audiences. To me, it has become merely embarrassing. I feel sorry for people who come out of such films impressed.

    The spectacle of a female wearing a wet t-shirt doesn’t draw me to the movies. It’s easy enough to spend time outside. Not worth the 11 bucks and certainly not worth the time.

  22. Another causality of the day. Normal men never achieve anymore in movies only those who by fate are given special powers to become Metrosexulas in spandex. All become fey from love to some female they can never have.

    Superhero’s it seems to me have become a sort of phallic substitute to a lack of real morality in men today. Real heroism has been reduced to the least common doomster. Self survival with living at any cost the reality. Steadfastness a crime.
    Boomers who still want the illusion that each day brings them ever more power as theirs bleed away by impotency.
    A real hero is one who goes to work everyday for their family. Who sacrifice for their principles. Those who are willing to make hard decisions.
    This is why they have super hero’s have taken over. Normal men today are deemed weak, boorish & animalistic. Watching these shows gives folks a break from the incessant guilt hurled at them constantly by a society that worships identity politics with collectivism. Where society is a villain & courage a form of Paternalism. So the powerless, immerse themselves in an alternate world for a few stress less hours.
    Where they can be special because the world can not touch them. Thanks Mr. Steyn for an interesting observation on one of today’s fads .

  23. Wow. Hell just froze over Mark. I agree with you, 100%. You’ve managed to articulate something that’s been bothering me about the contemporary moral hollowness of the superhero genre – or more precisely, the use of the superhero in contemporary culture. There’s something slippery and evasive and fundamentally cowardly about the way these icons are being used, not to inspire heroism, but to promote a general fatalistic mentality towards evil and our individual responsibility as ordinary people to respond to it.

  24. ….gathering from the parasites who regularly clamor for attention from Mark’s shadow,
    Mr. Steyn seems to have really hit the big time…

    • Your name max shinty I thought for a second that the last part was a bad word lol!

  25. What the heck what is this place!

    • Or worse yet,

      how many true war heros (you know like the guy who stayed in a nest of terrorists to be shot up, so his buddies could get away) occupied headlines or anywhere near the front pages.

  26. You’re just pissed that your talentless country couldn’t even get a team in to the conference finals of the Stanley Cup.

    A Canadian is nothing but a Mexican in a sweater.

    • A hockey sweater that is. Count the Canadians who play for the four remaining teams. They outnumber all other players combined. It must suck to be a complete know-nothing.

    • And “Americans” wonder why they’re nearly universally hated around the entire planet.

      It’s not “just” for having hundreds of military bases in 130+ countries that they are “allegedly” not at war with, and it’s not for the unjust wars they are currently waging either, but it is because of those few “Americans” who are both intensely ignorant and riduculously outspoken in their idiocy.

      Not all “Americans” are inherently evil or imbicilic, mind you. The problem is that those majority of decent US citizens are so rarely heard from, in contrast to the loud-n-obnoxious rednecks that seem to believe that they are representative of the remainder of their compatriots.


      PS: They’re not “sweaters”, they’re toques. Perhaps you’ll have that updated in your manual at your next anti-MENSA meeting?

      • It’s funny how people claim Americans are universally hated while typing on their Dell computer into their Apple or Microsoft software wearing their Nike shoes and Levis jeans with HBO on the television and a Coca Cola on the coffee table.

        Anyway, no2marriage is clearly just an a**, it has nothing to do with being American. And frankly, there are more Mexicans in America than there are in Mexico, so he was just insulting himself anyway.

        As for sports, funny he should make that hockey comment when the only Canadian MLB baseball team is the best one. One Canadian winner and 29 American chasers.

    • In response to:
      You’re just pissed that your talentless country couldn’t even get a team in to the conference finals of the Stanley Cup.

      A Canadian is nothing but a Mexican in a sweater.

      * yup we got health care -you got guns… do you think we got something you need? It does no good to blast ppl to ribbons when it costs you your house to get fixed up.

      Further, bet you folks wish ya had all that clean fresh water we have lyin’ all over too huh? The mid west of yur coutry seems like its a might toasty right now! Snikerz* Mexico indeed! in conclusion”bite me!”

  27. Thanks, Mark, a very astute analysis of Hollywood movie-making in the 21st century. Do you think the writers and directors avoid making Islamofascists the enemy because they fear for their lives? After all, these guys don’t cotton to criticism of any kind – remember Theo Van Gogh.

    • No, it has to do with who is ultimately funding the product, you wouldn’t want to bite the hand that feeds you.

  28. The TV Series 24 did a good job of reminding us that Muslims can be terrorists, with an Islamic group acquiring nuclear weapons and (unsurprisingly) blowing up half of Los Angelese with them.

    The next series was Africans again…

  29. What gets me is that Hollywood’s first instinct in creating film is ‘wait to the IRaq War’, then we won’t have to care about 9/11. I noticed they began to scream about what gun-toating racists we are supposed to be and yet people still go to the movies.

    Marvel comics is behind most of the super hero adaptions, but they’re comics have become irrelevent even in fantasy land. They did some poorly concieved Guantonomo Bay like story and put it out as they’re big ‘change everything’ story. Yes, it changed everything in the Marvel Universe and introduced a dark look to Marvel but as a long-time Marvel reader I’m sad to report that it was absolutely terrible. It didn’t have much of a begginning as Captain America will lead some super-powered against some government led super powered good guys who lock people up who don’t register. Spider-man became the worst character I ever read and they refused to use the idea of everyone finding out who Spider-man is as a main story because all the Editor In Chief wanted was for him to be not married anymore, possibilities be damned. It really hit Marvel hard and there was no reference to an Al Queda like enemy anywhere in that insipid series. I would hate to see comic books as bland and short-sighted as Movies have become. I hate that idea.

  30. Shorter Steyn:

    “Imagine what “Syriana” would have looked like, if only all of that annoying real-life complexity had been jettisoned and replaced by a heroic tale of the Iraq War, featuring Americans wearing white cowboy hats, and Arabs wearing black headdresses.”

    • Imagine if Hollywood made movies criticizing the U.S.A during WW II and questioning if the Nazi’s are truly the bad guys.

      How many movies has Hollywood made that has been against the War in Iraq…which has been propaganda for the enemies of the United States. It is shameful.

    • What about some true stories?

      Fallujah. Where the US rewrote the book on urban warfare. There is a story there. Even the New York Times reporter had a story from that battle. Look it up.

      What about the insurgency tactics of putting a small group of marines into the middle of a city. Dangerous, stories to tell. What about the Anbar awakening, and all that led to that? Very interesting, entertaining, and stories of courage all around. Would make great film.

      Maybe it is all too fresh. Saving Private Ryan was a great war movie with a very large audience. I’m sure there are some stories to tell from Iraq. True ones, not something made up. In fact, with a bit of digging, no doubt the truth would be stranger and more fantastic than anything one could make up.


  31. Enjoyed this article. The proliferation of movie superheroes is most peculiar, and the way that these days they never encounter bad guys who resemble any actual bad guys like, for example, the ones that Daniel Pearl or Theo van Gogh met up with.

    But at the end you erroneously attribute to The Incredibles that famous epigram, “when everyone’s special, nobody is”.

    In fact it was WS Gilbert who coined the original in The Gondoliers back in 1889 when he has Don Alhambra del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitioner of Venice, convincing gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri to sing along with him that (,

    When every one is somebodee,
    Then no one’s anybody!


  32. Cabdriver – I wasn’t all that impressed with Syriana. Nuance is alright but don’t you ever get tired of the same nuance every time? When I first started watching movies heroes were less ambiguous and now over the years it seems they’ve become too ambiguous. However, I think you miss the point. It was edgy 40 years ago when the CIA or the president or General Ripper turned out to be the bad guy. Now, it’s de rigeur. It would actually be edgier to show a true story of American heroism on the battlefield that took place after WWII. A movie featuring an unambiguous hero who didn’t turn out to be so flawed that he’s actually impossible to like. Hollywood’s automatic disdain and distrust for the military gets a little tiring. Really, a very tiny minority are actually murdering rapists. Heck, Hollywood prefers to make Monster, a movie based on a totally demoralizing story, the only point being, how ugly they could make Charlize Theoron. You got and liked Syriana. Maybe they could try something a little different for the rest of us. Box office shows their present plan isn’t really working. A lot of us are sick of this particular type of nuance and are literally no longer buying it. When the bad guys are always us or from fictional Moboto, who the heck cares? It’s 2009 and I believe there is a huge market for a true story of modern warfare. Who knows maybe one where a few brave soldiers fight a nasty, dangerous enemy and our side could be the good guys. Could these brave, edgy filmakers be too afraid of what could ensue if they told the truth and made the enemy some actual women hating, child murdering Taliban? Oh my!

  33. In Superheroland, nobody is really a hero. It can get pretty slimy. For instance, Stan Lee is facing “the largest intellectual property law suit in the history of Hollywood” for using his own name: .

    I know nothing more about it than that and so can’t say whether Lee was dumb to assign those rights to SMLI (if he really did so) or if the complainant is, well, a joker; but those Sharpie-bright Spandex boys’n’girls aren’t really heroes, and most of us know from the getgo that it’s really all about money and illusion even before something like this suit comes along to put it all into focus.

    Most of us (those of us outside of the prestige media and Hollywood, anyway) know where the true heroes are. They live among us; they *are* us, and maybe it’s good thing Hollywood isn’t trying to exploit that, although the exceedingly poor illusions that they offer for our consumption sure does limit entertainment choices.

    Sigh. I wish Doug Fairbanks, Sr., and Jack Webb were back with us, and in their prime (Mary Pickford and Sam de Grasse, too, to name two Canadians). Those were good illusionists whose work still stands up well today.

  34. Thomas- first of all, you have to understand my personal viewpoint, which is that television and films are not the information format to rely on in order to learn about the world.

    There- I’ve just stated a position so conservative and traditional, that I’ve alienated the majority of my fellow American citizens.

    That said, when I do attend movies that address real-life political issues, I expect better than war propaganda.

    I’m going to leave the “Superhero” genre to the side- I don’t recall making it through an entire sitting, or broadcast, of any of them in nearly 30 years. Which, coincidentally enough, is about the same extent of time since I’ve kept a TV in my house.

    I’m fairly sure that last fact largely accounts for how it is that I was able to follow the plot of “Syriana”- which hardly villainizes the CIA while lionizing the adversaries of the USA, incidentally; a book by a CIA agent, Robert Baer, was after all the principal inspiration for “Syriana”, and Baer was a consultant for the film.

    I’m more than prepared to read accusations of “snobbery”, in response to those observations. As a cab driver, I admire their absurdity. All I ever wanted to do is stop making myself stupid by devoting so much time to watching TV and movies. I read instead- along with, of course, that much-cherished “real-life experience” that some people like to go on so much about, when they’re trying to impeach a person’s credibility for having too much book knowledge to suit their taste.

    “It would actually be edgier to show a true story of American heroism on the battlefield that took place after WWII. A movie featuring an unambiguous hero who didn’t turn out to be so flawed that he’s actually impossible to like…”

    An “unamibiguous hero”? Not even the superhero comics I’ve read feature those. Not the ones that people recognize as classics, at any rate.

    It sounds like what you have is nostalgia for John Wayne movies.

    I wasn’t in Vietnam (19 in 1974; lottery #315) , but I lived in a college dormitory full of Vietnam vets, just returned from places like Khe Sanh. What they told me of their time in Indochina sketched out a place and time that Vietnam vet and Hollywood director Oliver Stone eventually depicted a lot more accurately in the film “Platoon” than in John Wayne’s 1968 movie “The Green Berets.”

    That’s reality. There it is.

    Incidentally, if you saw “Platoon”, I’d like to know what it was you found so “impossible to like” about Willem Defoe’s character…that he wasn’t perfect?

    When was life ever a “Superman” comic book?

    Too many Americans getting tricked due to holding a view of the world as made up of cartoon superheroes and supervillains is what landed the USA in Iraq in the first place.

  35. Don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to another summer of edgy metrosexual space operas recycled from 60’s TV, edgy attacks on Catholics and, if we’re really lucky, another edgy (and Brave!) McCarthy Era speaking-truth-to-power manifesto.

    This, of course, assumes there will be a movie featuring Hitler–the only acceptable boogyman–ala the all-Hitler-all-the-time, er, History Channel.

  36. “Some studio vice-presidents just want to watch the world burn.”

    So true.

    • Watching it burn is far easier than fixing the myriad of problems which desperately need attention.

      The longer we are distracted from the real issues, the longer those abuses and failures can compound…and the more willfully ignorant we remain, the easier those abuses can continue unabated. But to what purpose?

  37. So Black Hawk Down doesn’t count as a post-9/11 hero movie??

    • The book Black Hawn Down was released in 1999. The movie was released December 2001. Filming would have been pre 9/11. The book took pains to show both sides of the battle. There is a bit of ra-ra USA in the movie but it is still ultimately about USA running from a Muslim country, very safe Holywood story matter.

  38. oh go hump a moose. and leave me and my childish obessions with fantasty characters alone.

  39. As much of a “fanboy” as I am when it comes to most superheroes, I have to admit that, as good or bad as storytelling has been over the years (both in print and on-screen), most of the time characters like ol’ Cap, Spidey, Supes and the Bat are usually just forms of escapism. You’ll find no shortage, however, of dissertations out there about the cultural and psychological meaning and importance of these characters, but in the end, the question that should be asked is “are these stories good?”
    Whether or not they’re relevant depends on vintage: most superhero stories have a presence and resonance that is meaningful at the time, such as the relevance of X-men during the Civil Rights movement, and then again as North Americans struggle with gay rights issues. Few comic stories from the golden or silver age, as they’re known, escape being “dated,” and the themes and styles (visually as well as narratively) seem campy and even absurd as the years go by.
    What Hollywood is cashing in on is more than just superhero escapism: it’s general escapism, where relevance is often lacking anyway. Hollywood is tending toward properties with “proven” audiences. To that end, superhero flicks are safe bets, as are remakes, sequels, sequels of remakes, “reboots,” etc. It’s all about supposedly clever marketing, and very garish efforts to be as risk-averse when it comes to telling stories. Gone – for now, at least – are the days of edgy Hollywood “big tents” that actually encouraged moviegoers to really think about themselves and their world, and maybe even talk to each other about how to improve things. Equally absent are instances of popular entertainment where escapism (sci-fi, typically) is used as a vehicle for overt political and social criticism that is delivered in an accessible way, as had been the case with the original Star Trek series, which was rebooted with much for ADD eyes to feast on and some satisfactory character interaction but little thoughtful discourse in the vein of what Roddenberry’s vision was actually all about at its best.
    Hollywood thinks that it may be “off the hook,” in that it can still eke out profits, but it has lost a fundamental raison d’etre in that it has generally abandoned the “untested” stories, and if studios keep avoiding risky, avant garde filmmaking, they are doing everybody a disservice.

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