Cinema, Fiction, Philosophy, recent, Review

The Conservative Manifesto Buried in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

For the last decade or so, American cinema has exhibited a paradox: Though Hollywood has become more and more liberal, especially on issues of race and gender, Hollywood blockbusters have become more conservative—not just by recycling old plot points, as Star Wars has done, but also, in the case of superhero movies, by indulging a politics of reaction.

What might be called “Nolan’s enigma” began in earnest with The Dark Knight, which involved a tough-on-crime WASP using torture, intimidation, and surveillance to bring down a media-savvy terrorist. The Dark Knight Rises took things one step further with Bane, a menacing mix of Robespierre and Ruthenberg, whose pseudo-Marxist coup unleashes all manner of mayhem upon Gotham: banishments and public hangings, street brawls and show trials, and—in a scene lifted straight out of the French revolution—the storming of Blackgate (Bastille) prison.

Not to be outdone, Marvel soon embraced its own brand of post-9/11 conservatism. In every Avengers film, Joshua Tait notes, “it really is 1938….The threats are real and the Avengers’ unilateral actions are necessary” to protect life, liberty, and democracy. Each hero thus functions as a kind of Cold Warrior, standing athwart would-be despots and authoritarians, while their enemies function as bland, unidimensional cannon-fodder, a convenient narrative pretext for blowing things up. (To be fair, the bad guys usually do possess weapons of mass destruction; this is fantasy, after all.)

By 2018, however, Marvel had ditched the neocon agitprop and gone full paleo. Black Panther—which Slate described as “the most feminist superhero movie yet”—is about the hereditary monarch of a monoracial ethno-state that keeps immigrants at bay with a high-tech border wall and faces no economic slowdown because of it. In fact, Wakanda becomes the richest country in the world without any international trade whatsoever, all while maintaining traditional religious customs and above-replacement fertility rates—a kind of black Israel. (It does eventually reconcile itself to foreign aid under T’Challa, but not to immigration.) Trouble only begins when Killmonger (a foreigner) challenges Black Panther’s claim to the throne—not because he thinks the current occupant is illegitimate, but because he wants to use Wakandan technology to launch a global, race-based revolution, with no regard for national boundaries.

Then in Avengers: Infinity War, Wakanda opens its border wall and promptly gets invaded by aliens.

So perhaps it is fitting that Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel movie to end all Marvel movies, is even more Burkean—and badass—than its predecessors, a sustained cinematic rejoinder to everything Hollywood believes. If you haven’t seen Endgame yet—or if you take comfort in the delusion that Marvel is “woke”—stop reading now.

“None of Us Can Go Back”

First and foremost, this is a film about restoration. After Thanos wipes out half of all life in the universe, the Avengers immediately search for a way to undo the snap—that is, to go back to the way things were. Rather than accept depopulation as an immutable fact beyond their control, earth’s mightiest heroes view it in much the same way some populist conservatives view globalization: as the product of contingent choices made by individual agents, reversible with enough wit and willpower. “I am inevitable,” Thanos declares at two points in the film—once before he is decapitated, then again before he is vaporized. It’s a not-so-subtle “eff you” to deterministic modes of thinking, made all the more pungent by the fact that the Avengers do succeed in bringing back their fallen comrades.

Well, most of them. Those who died before the snap stay dead, and Iron Man and Black Widow both end up sacrificing themselves before the credits roll. Nor do the five years between Infinity War and Endgame simply go away; they remain an indelible part of history, and, if the new Spider-Man trailer is any indication, of memory too. But all this just underlines the conservatism of Endgame. It shows that restoration need not be utopian or quixotic, that the goal isn’t to rewind so much as to rebuild—and that progress will never mean paradise, at least not in what Augustine of Hippo called “the city of man.”

Thanos, however, disagrees. For him, the city of man can become the city of god right here and now—provided, of course, that one commits genocide. As he explains to Gamora in Infinity War:

Your planet was on the brink of collapse. I was the one who stopped that. You know what’s happened since then? The children born have known nothing but full bellies and clear skies. It’s a paradise.

The problem, he goes on, is that “this universe is finite, its resources [are] finite…if life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist.”

Sound familiar? Thanos’s rhetoric, inspired by Paul Erlich’s The Population Bomb (1968), parallels the anti-natalism of today’s environmental movement, which has begun questioning whether it is ethical to have kids when, according to the World Economic Forum, “our planet is on the brink”—of flood, of famine, and everything in between. It’s not just that people cause problems by depleting vital, life-giving resources; it’s that people as such are problems under conditions of extreme scarcity, because each individual will experience so much pain and hardship that they would be better off not being born at all. “There’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted recently. “And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question: Is it okay to still have children?” For her, as for the Mad Titan, nonexistence can be a blessing.

Of course Thanos has no interest in sterilizing the universe, or in developing some trans-species form of birth control. The poor, the hungry, the diseased already exist, so the merciful thing to do is [checks notes] kill them. In this, Thanos is just one shade darker than Planned Parenthood—another magenta Moloch—whose acolytes justify abortion with strikingly similar logic: If a woman can’t give her child a comfortable life, the thinking goes—comfort as defined by elites—then maybe terminating it in utero is actually a kindness: to the child, which is saved a lifetime of suffering, and to society, which is saved a lifetime of palliative care. Abortion advocates vary in their Thanosianism, to be sure, and by my lights killing millions of fetuses is not quite as bad as killing millions of adults, if only because the latter have attachments and experiences the former lack. But even so, Endgame seems more pro-life than pro-choice, its ethical core more deontic than utilitarian. As Captain America reminds Vision in Infinity War, “We don’t trade lives.”

Restoring the fallen won’t be easy, however, for it turns out Thanos has destroyed the infinity stones; there is no longer any way to bring back Bucky or Black Panther or Spider-Man or Scarlet Witch—at least not at present.

But the stones do still exist in the past, scattered throughout various quadrants of space-time. Hence the Avengers embark on a trans-temporal heist, made possible by nascent leaps in quantum technology, and attempt to retrieve their last hope of a do-over.

It’s telling that the resources for restoration can only be found—literally—in bygone eras (1970–2014), having been expunged by a self-declared agent of progress. Sometimes, Endgame submits, our present order doesn’t have answers; sometimes, the only way through is back.

Which brings us to the most conservative thing about Endgame: its peculiar theory of time-travel.

“These Are Confusing Times”

“So Back to the Future was a bunch of bullshit?” War Machine asks at one point. Indeed, Professor Hulk explains, as were Terminator and Harry Potter. Those movies all subscribe to the “standard view” of time-travel, in which changing the past invariably changes the present. Skynet sends a cyborg back in time to assassinate John Connor’s mother, so that John Connor is never born, so that no resistance arises; Dumbledore sends Harry and Hermione back in time so that they can save Buckbeak, whom they can then use to rescue Sirius. (Back to the Future is actually inconsistent about this: some of the things Marty McFly does in the past, such as invent rock and roll, do not change the present, while other things he does, such as give his father assertiveness training, do.)

An important implication of the standard view is that time-travel creates time-loops, whereby a future event causes a past event that is itself the cause of the future event. Worried that he will be retroactively aborted, John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother, causing Kyle to sire Connor in the past, causing Connor to send Kyle back in the future, causing Kyle to sire Connor in the past, and so on in perpetuum.

But, according to Doc Green, “real” time-travel doesn’t work that way. Instead of changing the future or completing a loop, meddling with the past just creates a second, branching timeline, different from and parallel to the first. Thus when War Machine proposes the Avengers kill baby Thanos, Professor Hulk shakes his head. Sure, that would stop Thanos from committing democide in an alternative timeline, but nothing about their own timeline—i.e. the Avengers’ current reality—would change. The only way around this problem is to steal the infinity stones from the past (thereby creating a parallel timeline), bring them back into the present (that is, to the initial timeline, where they were destroyed by Thanos), and then, using the stones, revive everyone who died in the snap.

But there’s a catch: Removing the stones from an alternative timeline will leave its inhabitants defenseless against Dormammu and Ronan and all the other MCU villains who were previously defeated by an infinity stone—which means that undoing the snap in timeline A could cause immense destruction in timeline B, much worse than anything Thanos managed to inflict. Faced with this possibility, the Avengers agree to return each stone to its original location in spacetime once they’ve brought everyone back, thereby preventing the creation of new universes in which even more people perish.

It’s all a bit convoluted, and perhaps too convenient as well. But it’s also highly conservative, both in what it denies and affirms about the nature of human affairs. Three lessons in particular stand out.

First, the film’s theory of time-travel implies an anti-teleological concept of history. Recall that on the standard view, going back in time creates causal loops that are held together by future causation. Films like Terminator and Harry Potter thus take on an almost fatalistic quality: If a future event causes a past event that itself causes the future event, then that future event functions as a kind of preordained endpoint—a final cause—toward which history must progress. This idea shows up again and again in both Marxist and liberal cosmologies, which posit that human beings are on an inevitable path to an inevitably brighter world—a world of perfect freedom, perfect justice, perfect equality. But no Whiggish progression exists in Endgame. The future isn’t set in stone, nor does it determine the past, and anyone who claims otherwise is—pace War Machine—full of shit.

The second lesson, related to the first, is that history is contingent. Things could have been worse—more might have died without the stones than with them—and fixing one problem often creates another, of which crusading solutionists are only dimly aware. Notice how the Avengers don’t plan on returning the stones until the Ancient One alerts them to the consequences of permanent theft. Even good men, Endgame suggests, and perhaps good men especially, will rush to save the world without accounting for its full complexity, or for the unintended consequences to which presentism often leads. If Infinity War vilifies Malthus, its sequel valorizes Burke, who railed against the utopian schemes dreamt up by “sophists, economists, and calculators”—in other words, by people like Tony Stark, who create world-altering technologies with little contemplation or forethought. Each infinity stone, meanwhile, can be viewed as a kind of cosmic Chesterton’s fence, whose value is not always apparent, nor always understood.

Underlying both these lessons is a third: metaphysics matter. On one level, spacetime’s branching and fragmentary structure precludes the Terminator-style retcon proposed by War Machine and vetoed by Hulk. But more to the point, that structure generates normative constraints in addition to physical ones. Because time-theft will spawn new dimensions in which the infinity stones no longer exist—in which each cosmic fence has been torn down—returning them is an urgent moral imperative, disobeyed at tremendous cost.

The link between metaphysics and morality has a long pedigree in conservative thought. Aristotle and Acquinas, Maistre and MacIntyre, Burke and Kirk all saw politics as depending inter alia on metaphysical convictions, which not only influence behavior but give content to virtue—justifying moral norms and instantiating moral truth.

By contrast, today’s liberalism begins by bracketing all such convictions; it strives to overcome metaphysics, which it regards as the enemy of progress. But in Endgame, a metaphysical mistake almost results in multiverse-wide catastrophe, with far more people killed than saved. Had the Avengers not been set straight, their ultimate triumph would likely have been a Pyrrhic one, and the Russo brothers would have been some of the most sadistic film directors of all time—in this universe, anyway.

“Maybe I’ll Try Some of That Life Tony Was Telling Me to Get”

Yet for all its philosophical profundity, Endgame ends on a simple, human note. After returning the stones to their original position, Captain America doesn’t come back, at least not right away. Instead, he travels all the way to the 1940s—before Loki, before Thanos, before the sexual revolution—and marries his long-lost sweetheart Peggy. We last glimpse the two lovers slow-dancing in an American bungalow, jazz playing in the background: a model of bourgeois respectability that has sadly come and gone, but which, Endgame hints, might be resurrected once more.

Pretty beautiful ending if you ask me.

 

Aaron Sibarium is assistant editor of The American Interest. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronsibarium.

Feature photo by enchanted_fairy / Shutterstock.

 

84 Comments

  1. This article just came across to me as the author stretching very hard to make a point (because it’s just a movie.)

    But it was an absolutely delightful read.

    • I’m sure there’s far too much money invested in almost any movie for it to be “just a movie” – but any day where the top comment isn’t f@#king Nakatomi Plaza is a good day indeed.

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Thomas Blersch

      My thought was also that this seemed like a stretch. In Black Panther for example, the moral of the story was that the closed-border policy was wrong, and many people sympathized with Killmonger’s cause. At any rate, the next phase of Marvel movies seems to be aiming to ramp up the wokery to new heights.

      • H3artlesstinman says

        Thank you, the fact that Wakanda was a closed border reclusive state is what starts the villain on his journey to being a genocidal maniac. That and the fact that he is raised in an American ghetto and trained by the American military.

        • Mike says

          The U.S. is not a reclusive state, thus rendering this argument pointless.

        • D-Rex says

          Actually H3artlesstinman, it was the killing of his dad in front if him by the then Wakandan king that ‘starts the villain on his journey to being a genocidal maniac’.

    • Heike says

      Why exactly do leftists like Black Panther?
      * Strict immigration
      * Strong nationalism
      * Border wall
      * Traditionalist
      * Pro-military

      This country is ethnically homogenous – the only people in Wakanda are Wakandans. There are a few different cults, and a few different dialects, but they all speak the same language. If you forget that Wakanda is supposed to be in East Africa, it starts to sound an awful lot like a Trumpian fantasy land. Here is an example, albeit fictional, where a walled-in nation is thriving, self-reliant, and completely unaccommodating of outsiders. Simply replace the geographic location, the race, and the language, and it really looks like the United States that President Trump fantasizes about – if only coal had the power and value of Vibranium.

      Black Panther got a 6.7 rating in China. It got straight 10s across the board in the West.
      https://movie.douban.com/subject/6390825/

      • lewis guignard says

        Heike,
        One can only wonder how you know Pr. Trump’s fantasies. But since we’re imagining, I believe he wants a country, with borders, so that we have a country, where the people are not abused by an overzealous administrative state (which is what he given him by his predecessor) where people are free to pursue their personal dreams without fear.

        • staticnoise says

          @lewis
          Bravo. You said it for me. I grow weary of these people attributing motives to others far beyond what their words and actions convey.

      • Defenstrator says

        Because the nation of Wakanda is made of black people, and the left have embraced the racist idea that skin colour determines moral virtue. So attitudes and actions that would be described as evil when proposed by white people can only be considered virtues by those who are not. It’s racist and stupid, but that’s what you get when you try to redefine racism as privilege plus power. Bigoted double standards by people who consider themselves virtuous that are indistinguishable from the most hateful race supremacist. The fight for Dr. Kings dream continues, now opposed by both the far right and a big chunk of the left.

      • bumble bee says

        @Heike,
        The reason Black Panther as embraced by the left is exactly because of what you noted. They are a self sufficient African nation that has developed their own successful nation without the help/interference of any other culture. It is the perfect country for not only Africans, but black culture worldwide. Every fear, every sense of being persecuted, every part of their history of subjugation no longer exists. While they have kept their culture, they have also excelled technologically as well so it is not about the past, but about a future. There is also the empowerment of men and women of Wakanda to stand on their own, of being strong but also righteous in their dealings as a society, but outside their society. In other words, Black Panther is about a culture that never had the baggage African and African descendants current have. It is their Garden of Eden.

        • Heike says

          “It is the perfect country for not only Africans, but black culture worldwide.”

          They have a border wall. They do not permit immigration. They are being harmed by missing out on the proven benefits of diversity.

          “They are a self sufficient African nation that has developed their own successful nation without the help/interference of any other culture.”

          They are a mono-cultural ethnostate. The alt-right dream realized.

          Black Panther is not anti Trump. Its pro Trump. Its literally Trump propaganda that the left doesnt even know they are eating up.

          Look at this – why is “Wakanda” not only allowed, but praised (WTF) for doing everything that President Trump is accused of trying to do in America – and going even farther.

          • Asenath Waite says

            @Heike

            Wakanda is extremely diverse, under the current definition of the word employed by HR departments.

          • Bugby says

            Wakanda is a fantasy land that would have been annihilated if it wasn’t for outsiders to come fight with them further on in the story.

            Missed that part lol.

      • H3artlesstinman says

        To be fair, the strict immigration policy is done by the end of the movie. Bucky (the Winter Soldier) is living in Wakanda by the end, presumably as the first white man to do so.

    • michael farr says

      all these words about a series of comic book movies !!!.
      it seems that some people really take this stuff seriously.
      i am bemused and bewildered
      The people reading this are the richest, longest lived ,safest and best educated people the world has known with the accumulated knowledge of multitudes at their fingertips and this is what captures their attention.
      perhaps i am missing something.

      • Derek says

        How ridiculous you are. A collective cultural event is a waste of time but, presumably you don’t say the same of a shared adventure between friends. Life doesn’t need to be philosophically conceited to have meaning. A story is always more powerful because a story is always more than one expects.

        • michael farr says

          Derek
          Your first sentence is an attempt to shut down and denigrate any potential response.
          Collective cultural events are a “waste of time” … really. Going to the movies/concerts/dances is fun and possibly even a “shared adventure” for some. Having fun has value.
          Comic books are bold images and un-nuanced stories aimed at an adolescent audience.
          Enjoy.

          • Derek says

            The point is: people’s lives are filled with “un-nuanced stories”. It is only the conceited and arrogant, who suppose some stories are less worthy or meaningful. A good story is well-told when it contains a sound philosophy and is presented effectively. Once, fairy tales were meant for children but, contained good moral truths meant for all. Now, comic-books and now movies attempt to do the same. I see no reason “superhero/comic books/marvel movies” are necessarily flawed lest you make the effective point that they fail to give good moral truth to all—I’ll concede the point that fandom is infantile.

          • H3artlesstinman says

            I would point you towards Maus by Art Spiegalman

          • D-Rex says

            @ michael farr

            ‘Comic books are bold images and un-nuanced stories aimed at an adolescent audience.’
            Really?. You obviously haven’t read many comics lately, try picking up a copy of ‘Saga’ or ‘Lazarus’ or anything written by Robert Kirkman or Brain K. Vaughan. You might be pleasantly surprised.

      • Jeff York says

        Michael, it’s just fun. The Greek myths were just that, myths, but there are still lessons to be learned. I’m sixty. I remember in high school a teacher saying that when Shakespeare’s plays were first written and performed they had the status that soap opera scripts have today. No one thought or realized that they would become great “literature.”

      • Rwg7 says

        Thumbs up to this comment!! Seriously. Let’s go plant a garden out in the back yard and sincerely love the people in our lives…

        …and not analyze Marvel movies anymore.

        These are literally only arguments that happen, as you say, with the most educated, well-fed, well cared for people in the HISTORY of mankind.

        Let’s go start small businesses! Literally anything other than this.

        PEACE OUT 😁

  2. Tom Shen says

    Plot of just about every superhero/ action movie:

    Protagonist is approached by rebels, government, ex employers, etc. and urged to join their just cause.
    Protagonist declines, just wants to live quiet family life usually on his ranch or farm
    Villains attacked, kill his loved ones, burn his home, and leave him for dead.
    He goes on a rampage, destroys the villains!

    So the conclusion is that there is no right or wrong cause, good or evil, only revenge is the grand motivator,

    Not conservative, but nihilistic values.

    • lewis guignard says

      Tom Shen,
      From what I recall, there are only 7 basic plots to all stories. Revenge, sweet revenge, would seem to be one of them. A variation on that would be overcoming an abusive ruler be she political or just about the house.

      • Geary Johansen says

        @ Lewis

        I think there are only three. Revenge would fall under ‘man goes on a journey’- the journey doesn’t need to be literal.

        • Gordon Smith says

          Departure, encounter and return – classic rites of passage. Hero leaves home into an unsure world (departure) realises his life is not about him but is drawn into a bigger story or greater cause (encounter) then returns home with the gift he has become (return ). Luke Skywalker, Frodo etc. Nelson Mandela (who was initiated in rite of passage in his youth) embodies this journey with his encounter in prison and his return with the gift of forgiveness. It is in the DNA which is why the story repeats itself because it is what we understand intuitively.

  3. Oh, Snap says

    Another way Avengers Endgame is like conservative doctrine is that it takes forever to explain and still doesn’t make a lick of sense.

    • Just Sayin' says

      I agree. Conservatives do not take killing babies as their number one plank in their national political platform… just crazy. Conservatives think that a man who puts on a dress is still a man and should not be allowed in the girls shower room at the public pool… just nuts. Conservatives believe that the President’s Spokesperson should speak for the president rather than berating him at press conferences… who thinks like that? Conservatives actually believe that there is a difference between folks who walk across our borders illegally and those who follow the rules and come here legally… insane! You are right, Conservatives don’t make a lick of sense.

    • yandoodan says

      Oh, Snap,

      I couldn’t disagree with you more. On the other hand, it’s funny as hell.

  4. Sadly, it’s still a conservatism with feminism, which won’t lead to anything like stability. Though Captain Marvel was punched out of the show, and a Tony who had learned that family is more important than money is the one who saved the day, so maybe there’s some hope.

    • Stephanie says

      The feminist moments were super cringe, looking forced and unnecessary. In the scene where all the women, and only the women, show up to save Spider man, we are to believe that coincidentally that’s who just happened to show up to help? You have to wonder if this was thrown in at the last minute to placate some militant feminist on the payroll or to shamelessly throw some red meat to the feminist segment of the audience who are moved by such superficial displays.

  5. drrv says

    I saw Thanos as embodying Plato’s “philosopher-king”. Someone who had the power and the smarts to fix all the worlds problems. Not once did he see himself doing evil, neither do the progressives.

  6. Alex P says

    Endgame is about large men in tight suits punching each other, just like every other comic book movie. Adults should spend their time on something more intellectually worthy.

    • These films are seen by literally billions of people and their content and implicit messaging deserves to be analyzed.

  7. Phoenix Darkdirk says

    Author fails to acknowledge or realize that the beautiful ending–per War Machine–is full of shit.

  8. Sharky says

    Or that a black man replaces a white man as “Captain America.” Not to mention that apparently Valhalla now has a black “king” who is female. Frankly, I don’t see half of the alleged “conservativism” that this writer does. There was more than enough virtue signalling globalist donkey-and-carrot points from what I saw. And there was certainly an overabundance of emoting – for the female viewers I would imagine, much like most of the superhero material these days. Have you tried sitting through a full episode of something like Flash without finally just saying “get on with it!”? I don’t think emasculation and girl-power is part of the “conservative” motif in any way, shape or form.

    • Stephanie says

      Sharky, I think those moments were fundamentally conservative, too. Yea, it’s virtue signalling in the sense that the left fawns over any representation of women and minorities, particularly in positions of prestige. However, women and minorities becoming not just enfranchised, but identifying with their country on a fundamental level is a deep conservative desire (excluding of course the fringe that are white nationalists or misogynists). The Falcon becoming Captain America at the end was fantastic because it sent the message that black people, and black men in particular, are America. That they should psychologically take ownership of that, instead of turning against their country or Balkanizing themselves.

      Conservatives I think are as eager to have women, immigrants, and minorities in positions of influence as leftists, just for different reasons: a patriotic, successful woman/immigrant/minority exalts American values and justifies conservative faith in the meritocratic nature of their society.

  9. Daniel Packman says

    As others have pointed out, profound analysis of this movie is perhaps a bit of a stretch. The series of jokes in the picture listing all the previous movies using time travel incorrectly was particularly funny since it set up the current movie as just another flawed time travel explanation.

  10. Dominic Allaway says

    Endgame is conservative??? I took away the opposite:

    Male heroes Hulk and Thor were reduced to jokes and slobs,

    The end battle had an all female feminist scene,

    While Thor gave up his crown to a black female (someone remind me: how many black gods did the Vikings have?).

    The idiotic virtue signalling politics of ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ was rampant in this movie. Conservative!? NO!

    The artificial inclusion of female, ethnic minority, & gay/lesbian characters in entertainment and advertising is sth I first really noticed about a yr ago when watching Churchill movie biopic Darkest Hour:

    It’s May 1940 and Churchill is on the London Underground – & he just happens to encounter a black Jamaican – & not only that but a black Jamaican who is able to finish Churchill’s quote from a poem. It’s an absurd scene but also weird because it suggests that the director was unable to see that he had just inserted a fat slice of propaganda on behalf of today’s diversity politics into his movie!

    See also The Meg (Jesus wept it’s like the characters in that movie are chosen simply to tick all the diversity boxes) & Three Billboards (where all the non-disabled white characters are depicted as viciously racist and/or borderline retarded). See also UK adverts, on TV, in the papers, on the sides of lorries: for example it seems like every other couple depicted is multi-racial – yet 85% of the UK population is white!

    It. Is. Bizarre.

    What’s wrong with this phenomenon? 1. It’s grossly factually inaccurate 2. It corrupts the story with politics 3. It’s a form of propaganda, ie involuntary 4. It suggests that many actors are being chosen simply because they tick the right diversity boxes – which in turn suggests that actors are being rejected because they don’t. Put another way, it suggests so-called positive discrimination is rife in the media sector.

    Anyone add any other movies etc to my examples?

    Oh yeah! Good Omens – now the young girl called Pepper, who in the book is described as having a face made up of one big freckle, is black: the problem isn’t with having black etc characters, the problem is having black etc characters for POLITICAL reasons – it corrupts the story, distracts from the story (because the reaction is ‘Am I going to be subjected to politics even by a movie? Give me a break!’), & often doesn’t make sense.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Surt was pretty black. And he was also good at turning things black.

    • Weird. I saw Good Omens as explicitly anti-extremism. In the final scene, a defected angel and demon suggest that the next war is going to be the joint forces of the polarized authoritarian regimes against the vast majority of people who just want to live their lives caught in the crossfire.

      Neil is particularly discrete with his views, but he’s always careful not to validate identity politics or any of its policies. I don’t see how changing a side character’s appearance matters one way or the other. He doesn’t give Pepper special privilege, nor any of the other ethnic characters. Certainly nothing as disconcertingly polarizing as Martin Freeman’s character in Black Panther or Captain Marvel’s never-ending torrent of oppressive white men.

      But given your taste, I would totally check out Chuck Palahniuk’s Adjustment Day. It’s ace.

  11. From the first couple of paragraphs, i’m guessing this “manifesto” is buried SO deep that it’s halfway to Australia by now!

  12. Stephanie says

    Great article, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who came away from the film thinking that it had a strong conservative message. I didn’t grasp many of the aspects the author pointed out, but Thanos’ anti-natalism, utopianism, and justification of genocide as a means to an idealistic end is peak leftist.

    I was also struck by the more naked symbolism at the end of the movie where, of all the dozens of super heros, the three facing off against Thanos are Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. America, capitalism, and God must come together to defeat their shared existential threat. Thanos is basically communism.

    And when Thanos says “I am inevitable” to Iron Man at the end of the battle, and Iron Man gives a lengthy pause between “I am” and “Iron man,” the viewer’s imagination races about what he’s going to say. What grand statement will be make, what ideological counter to the bold proclamation by Thanos? Then it turns out he offers none, except that he is nothing but himself. All he asserts is his own individuality. Fantastic.

    Endgame was so red-blooded American that I went home and looked for jobs is the US. It made me want to be American.

    • Jeremiah says

      I havent seen the movie, but the examples you give are even better than the author’s.

    • H3artlesstinman says

      Of course by that logic America is old, capitalism is dead, and God has retired by the end of the movie.

      • Azathoth says

        Actually, by that logic, by the end of the movie America is black(Falcon), Capitalism is black (War Machine), and God is black (Valkyrie)

  13. augustine says

    As another commenter observed, it is not a problem to deploy actors in ways that may challenge stereotypes of race or gender. But doing so with self-evident political designs in mind is distracting, even odious, in the case of too many modern films. The progressive politics in this film are glaring while the putatively conservative politics seem mostly abstract and vague.

  14. Alexandre says

    That’s just interpretation. The kind of thing that “Cultural Studies” or “Media Studies” courses teach: to take any mass product and look for “deep”, “complex” and “philosophical” issues which, in fact, aren’t there. Just in the eyes and mind of the person who’s making the interpretation. The internet is full of it. I’m sorry if I’m being old fashioned, but Marvel movies (or any other Hollywood movie) are not, let’s say, The Magic Mountain.

  15. Brilliant! Spot on! Oh wait…The author is giving it all away! Movies work best as conservative propaganda when people don’t know they’re conservative propaganda. Somebody will have to go back in time to stop the author being born. I’ll check Ebay time machine listings…

  16. Abhinav Vig says

    This whole article represents the meme “The poet wrote, ‘the curtains are blue’ and the teacher read into it how blue represents his depression and the poet is about to kill himself etc” Bollocks

  17. Northern Observer says

    It is Hollywood’s guilty liberal conscience letting the truth slip out. But it is a drop in the ocean.
    The alarming trend I’ve seen is how much mass killing of Whuhites is making it to the screens. The incineration of kings landing in GOT and the annihilation of Valhalla in the marvel universe stand out. It’s like the intersectional are itching to sack the city.

  18. Geary Johansen says

    I have a cousin Tim. He is a very bright, amiable young man, currently working for a start-up making financial software. Unfortunately, he has been convinced by the doom-laden narrative of our times, and a media peddling stories from around the world which can only lead to compassion fatigue, that the world is a really shitty place, in which more kids can only add to the problem of climate change. This, of course, is one of the major themes of Endgame- it’s not just on our news, but in our films.

    I don’t blame Tim. Although significantly older, I was much the same before I read Steven Pinker’s amazing book ‘Enlightenment Now’- and found out that by almost every measure, enlightenment progress has been improving the lives of everyone at an astounding rate. You wouldn’t know it in the West, labouring, as most of us are, in the massive dip of the elephant graph, before the trunk. If anything, the main problem in the developed world is that we are making things more efficient and cheaper too quickly, stripping out labour faster than we can replace it- the job insecurity this creates, no doubt an external, contributory factor in the mass pathology of youth mental vulnerability, detailed in Jonathan Haidt’s book ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’.

    But, here’s the thing. In the UK, in order to maintain a balanced population, without resorting to mass inward migration, the average couple needs to have four kids, given the number of people choosing to stay single. FOUR KIDS!!! I don’t know who the bloody hell can afford four kids- not after the taxman is done with you…

    In an incredibly moving piece of terrestrial television, Antonio Carluccio was travelling Italy with his friend Gennaro Contaldo. At one point, he is told that Italy now has the lowest birth rate in Europe and that the large Italian family that he remembers from his youth is a thing of the past. This, of course, reduces him to tears, as mentally he reminisces- of hearth, home and the joys of belonging to a large family- whilst trying to articulate what has been lost… The series, I believe, is Two Greedy Italians, and is well worth a watch, if you love food.

  19. Aerth says

    While Back to the Future has inconsistencies, Marty “creating” rock and roll is not one of them. Marty traveled to November, 1955, when Elvis Presley was already year after his first recording and months after his first tour.

  20. Jack K. says

    This is my first time learning of philosophical conspiracy theories, and I’m a huge fan.

    I disagree with most of the article, but I enjoyed the read. The author stretched to apply certain ideologies to certain characters/situations, when they didn’t actually fit that great.

    Most of the article can be shutdown purely on the foundation that this a fantasy world, based upon fantasy comic books, both of which contain extreme situations that would not/can not happen on our real planet. You can try to apply theory to it, and make relations to our real world, but I feel that it’s all silly.

  21. Obi-Wandreas says

    While I liked the argument about Endgame, the description of time travel in Harry Potter is completely inaccurate. Harry & Hermione don’t change anything by going back in time. The first time they experience the events as bystanders, everything happens exactly as they later do it. The only difference is that, from their point of view, they couldn’t see what was actually happening. They hear the chop of the axe, but they don’t realize that it is a chop of frustration because Buckbeak has disappeared. They hear a howl in the distance, but don’t realize at the time that it is Hermione. Harry sees someone conjure the patronus to save Sirius Black and him from the dementors, but believes it to be his father, not realizing it was actually him.

    Harry states explicitly that he knew it could be done because it had already happened. The time travel changed nothing. It was what the Starfleet Bureau of Temporal Investigations refers to as a ‘predestination paradox’.

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Obi-Wandress

      I agree. Time travel was handled very well and logically consistently in Prisoner of Azkaban. Similar to 12 Monkeys.

    • peanut gallery says

      No, the context of Galt is totally different. Rand probably SHOULD have been a comic book writer though. Born too soon.

  22. Benjamin Perez says

    Although I had fun reading this article, everyone should (re)read Susan Sontag’s essay “Against Interpretation” (1964) to see why interpretations—“woke” and “red pilled” alike—are part of the problem. (This is even more true, and hence even more needed, for those making films – even “movies.”)

  23. JoseRamirezEspinosa says

    But there is one big problem with the negation of fate in Endgame. Dr. Strange, he saw the future and decided to sacrifice Iron Man for the sake of the whole universe; he even says “If I tell YOU what happens, it won’t happen”. So no, the future was not changed It happen exactly as it had to happen.

  24. Pingback: The Conservative Manifesto Buried in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ | The American Tory

  25. Steve Sailer says

    Attitudes around the world have generally been moving in a conservative – populist – nationalist – loyalist direction in this decade, so it’s hardly surprising that the biggest movie moneymaker series of the decade has been in sync with this bottom-up trend.

    My view is that Israel has been out in the lead of this trend. And, not surprisingly, much of Marvel’s leadership over the past two decades, such as its reclusive chairman Isaac Perlmutter, a veteran of the Six-Day War, is a product of the Zionist right.

    Wakanda is a sort of black Zion mixed with the governmental structure of Israel’s new best friend forever, Saudi Arabia, augmented by the xenophobic policies of Japan during the Tokugawa shogunate.

    https://www.takimag.com/article/wakanda_blockbuster_is_this_steve_sailer/

    • codadmin says

      Leftists love nationalism as long as its not nationalism for white people.

      Think about how nationalistic Marxists are as soon s they achieve power.

      Wakanda isn’t ‘conservative’. It’s expresses the belief leftists have that sub-Saharan Africa was a perfect, advanced, unspoiled continent before the ‘white man’ arrived.

      It’s leftist to the core.

  26. Tilley says

    Well put, Stephanie! What everyone seems to have forgotten is the inevitable reality that conservatism WINS every time it’s tried and collectivism FAILS every time. Especially when the collectivists continue to push their violent totalitarianism by using false ideas that they not only cannot prove conclusively or scientifically, but by using the same re-hashed ideas of genocide disguised as infanticide, and destruction of the Republic disguised as progressivism. Hence the reality of Captain America having to come back and battle the same threat over and over again. That The Avengers are a collection of individuals and not a collection of progressivist Borg, is something we should all be aware of and never let our children forget.

  27. Eric says

    Modern leftism also has a reactionary streak which, owing to the virtue signals mentioned in this very comments section and the dispositions of the actors, is far more likely at play here. This streak is strongly implied by words like “unlearning” and “decolonization”, they want to undo the effects of whitey travelling around the world and forcing everyone to be capitalist. Thanos’ crusade is based on the ideas of an 18th century Englishman and coincidentally the radical left believes that nearly everything they rail against (racism, sexism, capitalism, homophobia &c.) only really caught on in that time and place, and was then spread outward. So Endgame is our intrepid heroes assembling a rainbow coalition (the infinity stones & the army which appears at the end) to undo the work of the very villain who once subjugated and harnessed them, exactly what the radical left thinks it’s doing. Either that or it’s an allegory for the actors’ own despair at Trump being elected despite their best efforts, and hatching increasingly wacky plans to get him out.

    Also the Captain America bit could just be a way of saying “Those obsolete white males, of course they prefer the century which belonged to them. Now it belongs to us.”

  28. Pingback: When Hollywood Makes Conservative Movies | Mike Street Station

  29. Steve Sailer says

    My guess is that “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler was struck by the theory that humans had to evolve more foresight to deal with cold winters, and he has his own, not wholly unreasonable, theory that Bantus, as they expanded southward, would have eventually adapted to the evolutionary demands of the cold winters of the southern African highlands. Thus, a fair amount of “Black Panther” is set in Wakanda’s snowy mountains. These scenes were likely inspired by Coogler paying a visit to the southern African kingdom of Lesotho, which has a ski hill.

    https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2018-02-17-black-panther-director-ryan-cooglers-a-fan-of-lesotho–isixhosa/

  30. Chuck Norton says

    I read this article and thought how far one must stretch to insert cultural Marxist deconstructionism into pretty much anything, which any low IQ person can do. In truth it is a wordy pile of anti-intellectual drivel.

  31. Somebody dumb says

    Never in the course of human history have so many words been dedicated to a populist movie about thwacking bad guys. Next you’ll be telling me Star Wars Last Jedi is sexist misandrist propaganda filled with man bad-woman good themes, maleficent is not a euphemism for rape culture and citizen Kane is just a movie.

  32. Sander Malschaert says

    I always wonder after a piece like this. Does the writer want to defend the proposition that every possible life, without exception, is better then to not have existed? We can all agree that non consensual killing is not a moral solution to suffering. But to equate this with the opinion that life will be better for the living when less of us are born is rather disengenuous, to say the least.

  33. peanut gallery says

    What’s the authors take on all the pandering to China? There’s plenty of anti-western messaging in basically every movie these days. The amount of stretching you have to do to come up with this narrative is hi-larry-us.

  34. Jeff York says

    An interesting and fun read. Prior to the “snap” I’d have liked to have asked Thanos why, since he was all-powerful, he didn’t just terraform a bunch of dead planets and transport all the “excess” lifeforms there. I think there’s an estimated 400-billion stars just in the Milky Way galaxy alone. I’m guessing that most of them have planets. Alternatively, he could’ve set the reproductive rate of all species on a glide-path downwards, comparable to China’s one-child policy, and then had it level off.

  35. Dennis Aster says

    Incredibly tortured argument trying to link a theory of time travel with conservatism!

    Here’s a few points about the film.

    The most powerful male characters (Thor and Hulk) are turned into comic buffoons.

    The most powerful characters in the movie (by a zillion miles) are female – Captain Marvel and the Scarlet Witch. There is indeed a very in-your-face scene in the climax where the powerful female characters form a kind of scrimmage – the ostentatious display of girl power arriving to save the day. Even a nobody, bit-character, Pepper Potts, turning up as a super-hero, essentially as a baffle to the important male character, Iron Man. The only major male character that really comes out unscathed is Captain America (and it’s there you will find some good old fashioned traditionalism, not in some guff about a theory of time travel).

    Oh my God, I’m arguing about a comic book movie…

  36. DarkMatter says

    I work at Marvel. I can tell you that “conservative” does not remotely describe the mindset of most of the people there. It’s about as left-leaning as you can get without being a Silicon Valley tech giant.

  37. DWMF says

    @DarkMatter: It’s because conservative ideas have clarity and precision. It’s easier to write a script around them than liberal wool-gathering. Joss Whedon did a great job on Avengers Assemble, even though he is a typical Hollywood moonbat.

  38. More Weight says

    Hey, Quillete, what isn’t Marxist? if the Avengers explanation of time travel is Marxist, then what isn’t Marxist? everything, E V E R Y T H I N G that an author nitpicks about is Marxist. this shit is getting really tired and boring

  39. Pingback: Quillette Podcast 38 – Jonah Goldberg and Aaron Siberium on the conservative themes of Avengers: Endgame - Quillette

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