I saw the new Captain America movie last night. It wasn’t bad, for a comic book movie, and there were a number of things I very much liked about it. The super-heroes weren’t that super — technologically enhanced, really, really good at battling the forces of evil, but also human and vulnerable to mundane menaces like bullets. I think I also like stories that don’t end neatly with the good guy beating up the bad guy, and presto, problems solved. Instead we have deeper issues that aren’t neatly resolved, because we live in a complex and difficult world full of messed-up human beings.
Speaking of a complex world…I arrived at the theater shortly before the 9:00 movie. I was surprised — there was no parking in any of the usual places within a block of the theater, and I had to park a whole block and a half away. That may not sound onerous to you, but it was unusual for me, since this is Morris and I can usually show up 5 minutes before the movie starts and park right outside the theater. The place was jammed. Swarms of people were there for the 7:00 movie.
Heaven Is For Real.
Captain America: sparsely attended. Ludicrously stupid movie that claims Jesus is waiting for you in a magical land of flowers and eternal youth: packed. Both are totally escapist fantasy, but one is honest and openly admits to being a made-up story based on a work of patent fiction, while the other is feel-good bullshit that puts up a pretense of being a true story. This is the reality: that a large part of the population here wants to be reassured, wants to be told that the dumb stories they were brought up on are really true, and wants to be promised that they don’t have to worry about this world because the next one is really nifty … and it’s not the same population that wants to go see a gosh-wow spectacle based on comic books.
Obviously, I don’t see a problem with wanting to be entertained by a work of fiction, but I do see a problem with mistaking fiction for reality, which is the entire premise and appeal of this Heaven bullshit.
Now if I were really sucked into thinking the fantasy worlds of Marvel were parables for how to handle a difficulty, I’d suggest a solution: I just have to find the one nefarious priest in town who has been poisoning the minds of the citizens, and engage him in an epic battle in downtown Morris. Sure, a few storefronts would be smashed, and a few craters would dapple Atlantic Avenue afterwards, but boom, the malignant influence would be gone and the happy people of Morris (who would all be lining the barricades around the city center, cheering) would be free. The End.
But that’s not how it works. There are no bad guys here, no foci of evil. The people sincerely want magical reassurances of a cosmic plan for their lives, and a destiny of bliss and goodness, and they specifically want the fantasy stories passed on by their parents to be literally and completely true. I have no super powers, and in fact, the ideas that I know to be true and verified by evidence and reason — there is no magical resurrection, superbeings like the supernatural Jesus did not and do not exist, we have this one life to live and nothing after death — would mark me as the villain in this story.
Man, real life makes for a lousy action movie.
By the way, the next movie coming to Morris is God’s Not Dead. It’s the story of a villainous atheist villain who is defeated in a final battle with a good-hearted Christian hero. It takes the trope of the movie that supports the reality of a superstition, and combines it with the very worst element of the superhero movie, the ultimate showdown that determines what is right. I imagine the theater will be packed again.