The heroes in this film have special powers. They can do things ordinary people can’t. One of them, in case anyone might accidentally miss the point, is actually a God. The heroes use their powers to protect ordinary people and the right of ordinary people to live their own lives and make their own mistakes. The villain also has special powers, which he uses to force his will on ordinary people (in this case the entire universe) because he knows better. This is not a subtle movie. It’s good vs. evil, self-sacrifice vs power, freedom vs. subjugation. The good guys and everyone who follows them does so by choice. The bad guy’s minions follow him blindly, and enjoy inflicting harm on the innocent. Like I said – not subtle.
Humans aren’t motivated by facts and figures, or even by information. Nobody ever fell in love with a spreadsheet. What gets to us are stories, songs and images that reverberate with our deepest fears, joys and yearnings. The very demographic (20 - 40 year-olds) who aren’t going to the same church their parents did are lining up by the millions to see their CGI-assisted angels and devils slug it out. Despite cynical assertions to the contrary, we need our heroes, now more than ever. If Captain America ran for president, the election would be over tomorrow.
The upcoming American Presidential election won’t be won by facts, figures and statistics. It will be a battle of competing mythologies. The question is not which side is better for me economically or even which candidate is more “qualified” (an almost meaningless term given the way each new president at this point in history redefines the office). It will be a question of which candidate’s mythology best defines “America” as I see it.
The side with the more compelling mythology will win. The right have their mythological ducks pretty much in order – America First, Rugged Individualism, Old Time Religion, Family Values and whoever makes the money gets to keep it. The left not so much. The raw material is there – Belief in a Global Human Community, a Society that takes care of all its members, religious, racial and sexual inclusion, a fair system of taxation, environmental responsibility, the Statue of Liberty as a welcoming symbol of freedom. There’s a lot to work with, but the crowd running for office are not going to be mistaken for the Avengers any time soon.
Many of the young people who lined up to see this movie are not going to bother to vote. They aren’t voting for the same reason they’re not going to church. A candidate who can move beyond right and left to create a Mythology of a Unified America in a way that says “Yes, this is who we are!” could change that.
Captain America, where are you?