May 5, 2021

Let’s fill up this post with pictures! That’s a refreshing change!

I promise, I’m going to relate this to autism and Dar. I may even surprise myself!

Was it three years ago last week that Avengers: Infinity War came out? Wow, feels like at least six. Which I guess works with what they wanted. Yep, Marvel gave us the coronavirus just to make “the blip” feel more real. I mean, what can’t they do?

Was it two years ago that I got Disney+? Less? I’m old, time goes by quick. Anyway, Avengers: Infinity War soon became my comfort food. Much more than Avengers: Endgame or anything else. Yeah, I grew up on comics. For my first job, at a comic book store, I was *paid* in comics. Yes, I’m the target demographic. But there had to be another reason. What was it? Something about Thanos, or 24 A-listers all crammed together?

This week, during a particularly dentist-drill-screamy Dar meltdown, I realized it: this movie GETS ME. In a way that no other movie gets me. In a way that the filmmakers almost certainly didn’t even mean to get me. Proving once again, as if more proof were needed, that filmmakers are *not* the last word on what their film means. (This is a conversation that I have over and over with my students. Finally I just say “has there ever been a racist or sexist film?” You know what they say. Then I say: “But if I ask that director HE’s gonna say it wasn’t racist or sexist. Oh, so the director ISN’T the last word on what his film means, then? QED.”)

 

(SPOILERS)

Let’s get to the point here: Avengers: Infinity War is about what people will do when they hear their loved ones screaming. I mean, it’s not about that, but it IS in three very crucial scenes. The first happens ten minutes in, when Loki decides he’d rather LET HALF THE LIVING BEINGS IN THE UNIVERSE DIE than hear his brother Thor tortured for another few minutes.

Well, you might say, big deal, Loki is an A-hole anyway. But then the heart of the movie, arguably the character we care about most, Gamora, makes the same decision because she hears her sister Nebula being tortured. And Nebula isn’t even human!

This oddly may count as the most comforting scene ever filmed to someone like me, a comic book fan who listens to Dar screaming on the regular. Because you see, it’s still not regular. It still bothers me to hear Dar scream. I don’t get used to it. Part of me hopes I never get used to it, as Captain America has said in other contexts. DAR STILL CAN’T TELL US WHY. We have no idea. We just know it’s a sign of pain that we need to stop.

Because of Dar’s screaming, we still move mountains and we still FAIL to move mountains. Because of Dar’s screaming, we rearrange our lives and we don’t rearrange our lives. Because of Dar’s screaming, we try things and we don’t try things.

Sometimes I take a step back and think, why don’t we just compartmentalize this? Pretend it’s not happening? An hour later, Dar may act like it never happened. If he can do that, why can’t we just do that during the moment?

But then: Loki and Gamora sacrificed HALF OF ALL LIVING BEINGS so as not to hear that kind of thing. Ahhhhhh. Sweet, sweet relief. I am seen. I am known. I am comforted.

Now, I am not saying “torture works.” No. That would be ridiculous. Soldiers and their supervisors have testified before Congress that torture does not work. Let’s also keep in mind that when they’re talking about Guantanamo, they’re not talking about anything like Avengers: Infinity War. Because we captured these people twenty years ago and they long ago gave us everything they could give. It’s not like one of them is holding onto some infinity stone (or anything else) but they’ll give it up when they see their brother being tortured. No.

My logic may be torturous, but it’s not saying “torture works.” I’m just saying this silly Disney/Marvel blockbuster shows how powerful it is to see your loved one in pain. How powerful? Half the living universe-level powerful.

The third Big Moment is not when Dr. Strange hands over the stone to save Stark; we can presume Strange was merely trying to activate future #14,000,000. (Huh?) No, the third time is the movie’s culmination as Wanda takes the stone out of Vision…which is a little different. Frankly, I’m still confused as to why Gamora and Wanda would sacrifice half the universe just so a machine wouldn’t make some screamy noises and/or die. (“I’ll do YOU one better. WHY is Gamora?”) I mean, if we’re this weak, how are we ever going to shut down the AIs when the singularity tries to take over? Our iPhones will just scream sadly and we’ll go, oh, okay, fine, you can have the world.

You say plot hole? I say intentional portrait of human frailty. There’s a reason those world hunger ads show you kids screaming. Most of us will do anything to stop it. We’re hardwired that way. Even Vision may have been hardwired that way. Was that another point? Not sure.

Think about it, though: people didn’t revolt when they saw Loki, Gamora, Strange, and Wanda making these sacrifices. I mean, yes, these are prefab corporate blockbusters, but on some level,¬†audiences stayed with the films. There’s not some enormous amount of online discourse about how unrealistic those moments were. (There IS an enormous amount of online discourse about many, many other things related to this film and to other films for other reasons.) Intuitively, their actions made sense to people. Oh thank you people, for intuitively understanding how hard it is over at my house.

I know, no one should be this reassured by a blockbuster about genocide. I get that. The unlikelihood is the point, you know?

Thank you for getting me, Joe and Anthony Russo, directors. Thank you to the rest of the creative team behind Avengers: Infinity War, for bending reality in my direction. I really appreciate it. I mean that.