Saturday, May 5, 2012

What The Avengers Can Teach Atheists

Thor and Loki
 I just saw the new movie The Avengers yesterday, and it was a religious experience for me. Being a fan of comic books as well as Joss Whedon The Avengers was nexus point of geekdom, the shady intersection of a Venn diagram, well, you get the idea. What I found remarkable was the amount of people at the matinee showing I went to. I've been to matinee showings of popular movies on their opening weekend and have sat in near empty theaters. Not yesterday. I walked in about 10 minutes before the show (I was running late that morning, I typically arrive at the theater a half hour before a movie starts) and got suboptimal seating. No matter, I plan to see the movie again next week. By the time the movie started, the theater was 75% full, and that was at 10:50 AM on a Friday. From what I understand The Avengers pulled in 80.5 million dollars on Friday alone.  

But what can atheists learn from The Avengers?

Here are three lessons.

All the hype about being a god is just that -- hype.

Villains talk smack, it's what movie villains do. The baddies are typically pretty confident people wearing some pretty cool clothes and having some pretty cool stuff (Nazis fit all three criteria). And as any movie aficionado knows there is a moment in a film where the villain gloats about how awesome he or she is and how everyone else is there to do the dishes and take out his garbage. Add to the mixture that the villain (Loki. in The Avengers)  is supposedly a deity and you can guess how the monologue goes.

Joss Whedon has an interesting take on that in The Avengers. I'm not going to ruin it for you. You'll know it when you see it.

Even really well meaning and helpful people are simply wrong about God.

I totally bought Chris Evans playing Captain America. Evans was able to play the war veteran/man out of his own time role well. The Captain America movie, which came out in 2011, was a pretty strong superhero/war movie and humanized the hero from being an icon to a man who has lost almost everything. And this person who has lost so much in the service of fighting the enemies of freedom continues to do so regardless of the price. The other heroes in the movie: Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow are all excellent characters, but I walked out of The Avengers being a fan of Captain America.

Even so, but the Captain's opinion concerning the Almighty is simply wrong -- wrong as the day is long.

There comes a point in the film that Cap chooses to engage Thor (and possibly Loki), and he is told to be careful because they are gods. His response?
There is only one God, and He doesn't dress like that.
Funny, to be sure and it conveys his old-school attitude. But he's still wrong, because there simply aren't any gods. Period.

God exists and His name is Joss Whedon.

I called the Wife after getting out of the movie yesterday and told her this was the best work I've seen from Whedon post Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To tell you the truth I may like the post-Buffy projects from Whedon like Firefly, The Dollhouse and Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog, but I haven't fallen in love with any of them. There are many artists out there who only have so much artistic gas in the tank, and I was beginning to think that Buffy was the highpoint of Joss' creativity (just like Pulp Fiction was the apex for Mr. Tarrantino). The Avengers changed that for me. This movie is a shot of super-concentrated Joss Whedon. It's a shot of adrenaline. In The Avengers Whedon artfully spins a tale of secular "gods" using the classic heroic template that is found in universal myths.


  1. Please gouge my eyes out. I never wanna see Thor naked again. It's not very bro-y. I subscribe to so many comic books in the 70' and early 80's. I even like the Avengers better than x-men. sort of wish they had Hank and his hottie wife (Yellowjacket previously the Any Man and the Wasp). I kinda had a bro crush on wonder Man also, and one more thing. The villain shoulda bee Ultron. I dunno what I'm complaning about...I haven't seen it yet. Awesome buddy,


    1. Yeah, Ultron was one of the best of the bad guys. The Avengers is going to be the first superhero movie I'm going watch with Will. I'm going to take him out of school this week and catch an early show.

  2. I loved the super heroes, except for Capt. A. He reminded me too much of Christian fundamentalists still living in the past and unable to accept the fact that there are no real gods, only pretend ones.

    1. I really liked Cap's intro scene in the gym, and his face off with Loki in Germany, "The last time I was in Germany..." But I can understand why his character would rub people the wrong way.

  3. I like that Joss can write for different characters and viewpoints though - that quote IS Captain America (for better or worse). Obviously this is not an endorsement of christianity by Joss (as many christian sites would have you believe). Joss' view comes through in Loki's dialouge "you crave subjugation" - I love that he was able to slip that bit of his atheist beliefs into a mainstream Disney movie (that and "mewling quim").

    1. That's a sign of a professional writer -- the ability to get into other people's heads even when you may not like everything in there.


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