SPOILERS (ya think???)
Tim Barham said:
“So I have a question, Steven… you noticed, as I did, the only surviving major characters were the (indeed all white) heroes from the first Avengers movie. So the old guard – characters we *know* are on the way out of the franchise – survive, while the new guard – characters we know have future films planned (Black Panther, Spider-man, Doctor Strange) die. Why do you think that is?
It seemed so obviously contrived to me that all the original Avengers survived, that I felt there had to be a very particular reason – an important pointer to what will happen in Avengers 4 (seeing as we’re now in a place where those who have to ultimately survive are dead, and those we expect to die – or at the very least retire – are alive).
My point being – if the twist of Avengers 4 involves those who died in Infinity War coming back, and something bad happening to those who survived, then those who died were chosen by dint of having an ongoing involvement in the franchise, and that’s the extent of it.
And it’s the sad fact of MCU history – all white heroes until Black Panther – that means all we’re left with, for now, is white heroes.
BTW, I get this is all pretty irrelevant to the disappointment this movie would have been to Jason (and you) – seeing all his black heroes die. And I’m not trying to take away from that, or justify it. And I’m certainly not trying to explain or condone this movie’s treatment of Wakanda. I’m just wondering, given the overall story line that might be planned, whether who died would have changed under a black director, for example – whether the problem here is more a consequence of the lily white history of the franchise than anything else.”
Good questions. Hopefully, some good answers.
- The movie was a vast improvement over the original comic book, in which (for all practical purposes) ALL black heroes were killed before the story even really began. This only happens when all the creators are white. Period.
- The meaning of a story is the emotional impact at the end. Everything is designed to create that moment. The impact was designed for fans of the original Avengers. The original Avengers were created at a time when comic characters were lily white. In that sense, we are therefore stepping back into the past, and reflecting those values.
- Let’s say I’m the director. I’ve been told by the “Suits” that the Avengers must survive. And that the end of Part I is a holocaust. What do I do?
- First, I remember that after seventy years of comic books, superhero serials, television shows and movies, there was finally a black character that resonated. And no, I don’t have to wait for the box office: I wouldn’t need to hear audience responses to “Civil War.” Why? BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE FELT IT MYSELF. I would have watched those scenes, gone home and dreamt about them. Cried at the tenderness of T’Challa and T’Chaka interacting as father and son. Cheered when the Dora said: “Move. Or be moved.” I WOULD KNOW what Wakanda meant. The notion of throwing it away would be nauseating to me, a complete betrayal of the trust and emotion engendered by finally, after centuries, presenting an image of black people uncrippled by the legacy of slavery.
- Let’s say that “The Suits” insisted that Wakanda be severely damaged, as a way to demonstrate that all Earth, all the universe was severely damaged. That…is tragic, but acceptable. In fact, there is a way to do it without the taint of “Sacrificial Negro”-ness that so often tars such decisions…when the decisions are made by white executives. White people honestly think there is something noble about dying to protect them.
- So…what would I do?
- Heimdall doesn’t die protecting the white guy and providing Thor motivation for revenge. A combination of two horrific tropes, beloved by white guys. Really. Let him die fighting for his own life if he has to die.
- Wakandans discussing letting Vision come. It is clear that letting Vision come to Wakanda will be devastating, bringing death and destruction to their people. I can believe T’Challa making the decision: the fate of the universe is at stake. But he will have to make his case to the leaders of the other tribes.
- Wakandan defensive apparatus post-“Battle of New York” was pitiful. Where was air support? We SAW their air power, including projectile weapons. They KNEW, based on the only evidence (the New York Battle) what was coming. Did they in any way look as if they were ready for flying metal dragons? What the @#$$?? They even had flying ships that delivered foot-troops to the energy barrier. Why were there no energy cannons on those transports? Where they acted with no unit strategy, only raw courage and hand weapons. This was a betrayal of the entire concept of Wakanda. You can have them prepared, but then be overwhelmed so it comes down to man-to-monster hand-to-claw combat. That would have been thrilling.
- T’Challa lives. I promise you that T’Challa means more to black audiences than Tony Stark or Captain America means to white audiences. If you choose to protect those audiences by respecting their emotional investment, it is dehumanizing not to realize what you are doing to black kids when you kill the greatest superhero they’ve ever had…and just throw him away. And not even showing his face when you do.
- Falcon lives. He is another intact, healthy dynamic black male. Rhodey, emasculated due to his injury, can be sacrificed instead.
- Pepper dies. Want tragedy? Give it to Stark. Take Pepper AND Spidey from him. Not a dry eye in the house.
- Male and female Wakandan troops dying in rough equivalence. Watching male after male crumble to dust as the women watch is pure creator artifice, with nothing to do with statistics. One has to ask what was on the filmmaker’s mind.
- For that matter, a long shot of the evacuation of Wakanda. The PEOPLE. We saw New Yorkers, establishing the basic humanity of a world we are going to damage. That’s what you do when you give a damn.
- T’Challa interacts with Shuri. All the Avengers had connection with people they love. Thor and Loki. Stark and Pepper and Spidey. Cap and Bucky. Banner and Black Widow were admittedly given short shrift–(I would have given them a scene together. Missing that emotional beat was a major problem.) Starlord’s entire arc was about his love for Gamorra. Hell, THANOS was powerfully connected to his heartspace. Where was T’Challa’s emotional connection? If not his sweetheart (I can understand N’Kia not being there) then give him a moment with his sister. Let them remember their childhood. Now he is human, not just a symbol to be manipulated, a piece on a game board.
No, I don’t care that they will resurrect T’Challa and Falcon in part II. The filmmakers have reminded me that they made decisions based on race: the original exclusion of the Avengers, and the discounting of humanity increasingly criticized in the 21st Century. I am not interested in watching black people exterminated so white people can live, or be ennobled by the urge for revenge.
THEY LOST MY TRUST.
If you identify fully with a character, you give them sexuality and agency and family. Hopes and dreams. They act with intelligence and courage, or you make their struggle with fear part of what humanizes them. When I wrote “Lion’s Blood”, I SPECIFICALLY set out to give my white characters more humanity than I had ever seen white writers give to black characters. I REFUSE to be turned into what I hate. That is allowing my enemies to win.
Marvel had a bad track record after “The Mandarin” and “The Ancient One” . They knew white audiences would accept any explanation given for the change, BECAUSE UNCONSCIOUSLY, THEY WANT THAT CHANGE. “Ghost in the Shell,” Khan, Chuin, Mr. Moto, Kwai Chang Kane… innumerable other “whitewashed” Asian characters. Any excuse will do.
I got scared when in “Age of Ultron” there is a retreat to the generic “all African are the same” when there is a screen title: “Off the coast of Africa.” This was the typical “we are many, you are one group” bullshit I see all the time, and first noticed in “The Great Mouse Detective” when there is a mouse U.N. meeting with England and Germany and Japan…and “Africa.”
It’s the Matrix, and those asleep within it will argue for their dream. I’m done arguing with them. Sleep on.
When Disney hired Ryan Coogler to direct BP I breathed a sigh of relief. Perfect. THEY KNEW THEY COULDN’T DO IT WITH A WHITE DIRECTOR. There might BE a white director who could pull it off, but there isn’t one I would have TRUSTED with the project. That’s just being honest. Disney understood their limitations.
And didn’t understand that lesson here. There is nothing at all unusual about “Infinity War” in that sense. It is the mixture as offered countless times before: “you aren’t as human or important as us, and we have a raft of reasons to justify it that will be accepted by white audiences. So just be satisfied we put you on the screen.”
I was indeed satisfied with this all my life. I swallowed that bile for sixty years. I will not ask my son to swallow it. There is only one answer to this: diversity behind the camera. When you have diversity in the board rooms and directing and writing, things change. Which is precisely why the anti-SJW types attack the concept: it works.
Yes, black writers and producers will make their own movies. Always have. But they have to get those movies past white investors, distributers, exhibiters. That’s before they can even REACH a white audience, which is just as invested in seeing themselves as anyone else. An entire apparatus. Disney alone has EIGHT of the top ten box office films. I’m sure segregationists love the notion of us trying to compete with that. Separate and VERY unequal.
That’s fine. Not my approach. Here’s the point of attack: Corporations are primitive organisms that eat money and shit products and services. They don’t care much about individual prejudices…or even hopes and dreams on an individual human level
But they respond to things that hurt their bottom line. And rather than “educating” the Suits, just force them to hire more diversity. I’m not interested in educating people whose attitudes are mostly integrated at an unconscious level.
Want better roles for women? Force the corporations, (which are not sexist. Hell, they aren’t even human) to hire more women.
Any other sub-group can follow the same strategy. THIS, IMO is why some object to boycotts…because they know they work. Just sit back and observe who complains the most: almost always people who might be protecting their current power. Their right to watch people who look like them being the greatest, smartest, sexiest, most powerful.
Everybody wants to rule the world, as the song goes.
Want change? Be the change. And force the change. There is no real human evil here. Just natural, unconscious human tribalism, the automatic default switch that has been stuck in place for all human history. And most people are asleep to much of reality. God knows I am. Not on THIS issue. But doubtless on countless others. No one can be “woke” to everything. Too much input.
But no, I won’t watch my son’s heart open with “Black Panther” and then watch it slam shut because of “Infinity War”. I hear “wait! We’ll bring him back next year” when you gave your own children Iron Man and Cap and Banner and Thor and Black Widow to empathize with because you KNEW you had to, or it would hurt them. The creators knew damned well that if you kill Spider Man, you have to have somewhere for their hearts to go…or those hearts will break. You will lose them.
No, I won’t let you hurt my son like that and grin at you and say: “its good. We can wait. You can throw us away. I trust you, Boss.”
Nope. Don’t like it? Not my problem. No one has the leverage, force, or intelligence to intimidate me. No one. Not about my family. Never.