2007-05-19

Spiderman 3 — an amateur social and political critique

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by Neil Godfrey

Even when I do get out to see the odd movie I still see politics on the screen. For the hell of it I decided to see Spiderman 3 for total escape but even with this one I could not escape the political. What an updated commentary on “The Current Political State of America” this movie is! — well at least in my eyes.

It went out of its way to show how the good guy in red, (a little) white and blue could become bad and like his enemies, and needed to keep himself in check (with church redemption of course) — and how even the worst enemies have human motivations and hearts and need forgiveness. What else could have echoed more loudly so much of the liberal anti-neocon popular mood against the warmongering of the Bush admin since 9/11.

But it was still oh so puerile in its manichaean view of evil. It was still showing “evil” as some alien cosmic force that is antithetical to people, something abstract and absolute out there that people “choose” bla blah bs bs bs.

Near the dramatic end Spiderman flashed across a huge screen-size American flag that came out of nowhere — a clip that sort of helped me think I was thinking on the right track about it with all my political perspective after all.

America is singular in being an advanced industrial nation that still collectively projects a medieval sense of morality. There appears to be no grasp of evil as something possibly complex and human. If they think you’re evil you have to die, simple as that! Except Spiderman was showing them a better way — damn liberals. But too many cars rolling around and getting smashed, too much metal clashing, too much animation for my taste after 3 minutes. I’m old fashioned and like my actors to do more than spend most of their time swinging against a blue screen — I want my politics undiluted, maybe.

Back to the movie. It was a sort of “every individual can make a difference” type of fantasy. Identify with the nerdy hopeless Spiderman who is just like those old western heroes, a Jimmy Stewart type, looks completely hopeless till pushed too far then goes in and suddenly puts an end to their mockery and shoots them all dead. Except Spiderman is still knocked as a nerd when he returns to his “out of uniform” normal self (except when he becomes bad — the only real antidote to nerdiness?) . An interesting mutation on the old westerns.

I really know squat about movies. I’m making all this up of course. But the girl in the movie? She’s jsut a symbol of freedom and democracy, the frail beauty who is under threat. No superhero can just go out and fight evil for the hell of it. He has to be fighting the monster men to rescue her. And of course he rescues her and wins her love.

But talking of the girl, oh how very puritanically American this movie was! The only time there is any sexual attraction and desire expressed is when Spiderman was consumed by cosmic evil for a while. And that tinge of sexuality was coupled with bad-man violence. Interesting association, I thought. As a friend commented, “So cosmic evil equates with lust?” Yup, guess so, just like in the Bible. One is never quite sure if sexual sin is ranked way higher than any form of violence there too.

Almost forgot. How tediously unimaginative that the moment of Spiderman’s redemption from the power of evil had to happen in a damned church! I guess it can’t be any other way if one sees “good” and “bad” as cosmic or alien forces that people have to struggle over, and not as something more basically inherent in our socio-biological and psychological makeup.

Well, we must be grateful for small steps, and I can’t deny it was nice to see a violent movie showing its hero demonstrating some meaure of understanding and forgiveness for his, … ‘alter ego’?

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Neil Godfrey

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