What to do when you find out you are the “bad guy” in the latest Marvel TV show? I have a young son, so I’ve been watching a pretty steady diet of Marvel shows recently. Filled with hot men in tights saving the world from Nazis and utilitarians while inflicting an epic amount of property damage, who can really complain if the dialogue never goes above the 6th grade level? But it was with a heavy heart that I realized the terrorists in the new Marvel TV show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are not Nazis or utilitarians, but rather anti-border globalists gone wrong. To make matters worse, this fictional, anti-nationalist group is called “The Stateless,” to the delight of genocidal governments everywhere. Is Marvel, like Facebook, working for the Myanmar government?
Never mind the fact that nationalism has been the cause of most of the worst violence of the 20th and 21st centuries, while anti-nationalists usually do things like writing a manifesto on cigarette papers calling for the union of Europe and travel the world without a passport, trying to bring people together. But successful TV shows are never made about people like that, even when they are old, white guys.
All comic books are about ideas and ideology. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. So pardon me if I take the Marvel worldview deadly seriously. This stuff is educating our kids. So I was horrified that after making a series of movies where the hot guys in tights fight 1) a Neo-fascist organization, 2) an alien utilitarian who thought killing half the universe would solve its problems, and 3)a super intelligent AI gone mad, Marvel decided to zero in on anti-nationalism, of all things, as the dangerous problem facing the world today. Somewhere, in an office at the United Nations, a bunch of glasses-and-tie wearing, human rights lawyers went, “who, us?”
Why not make the villains a bunch of terrorists working for a rogue pharmaceutical company who kidnap the world’s vaccine scientists? What about a crazy tech billionaire who’s going to implant mind control chips in everyone’s brains through our cellphones? Or keep things simple — what about a bunch of folks who want to bring back the Blip because they hated their wives/husbands/children/bosses/neighbors and were secretly delighted when all those people disappeared?
To add insult to injury, the injection of a pro-nationalism, rah rah the far right plot line is completely gratuitous to the story. The terrorist organization in question wants to get rid of borders AND bring back the Blip. What do these two ideas have to do with one another? It’s like, hello, pick a cause! There’s a pizza restaurant near my house that also rents cars. Why would I order a pizza from a car rental place? Why would I rent a car from a pizza guy? It makes no sense.
At one point in the show, one of the “superheros” turns to the other and says, “They want a world without borders. You can understand why that might be attractive to a lot of people.” Yeah, I can.