Marvel has announced that Joss Whedon will direct the Avengers movie, as well as re-writing the Captain America movie. This is perhaps the most stupid move Marvel has yet made, worse than any of the Punisher movies, or Ben Affleck as Daredevil, or Ed Norton or Angst Lee involved in the Hulk.
Joss Whedon has his talents. Arch, camp, sort of gay, stuff like “Dr. Horrible’s Sing A Long,” or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Angel, or inside Hollywood stories like “Serenity” or “Firefly” (about a Hollywood rebel who did it his way, as a space cowboy captain), are certainly within Whedon’s power. Arch, camp, gay, popular culture snappy dialog, are things Whedon can do in his sleep. If one were to remake “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” only with an Alpha, thuggish asshole that women love, instead of Michael Cera, with a few rape scenes (for shock value) and even more hipsterism, well Whedon’s your guy.
For a comic book movie like “the Avengers” or Captain America, its is disaster to have him involved. Both the Avengers and Captain America depend on the lead character, Captain America, who is the exact opposite of everything that Whedon can do. Having him write and direct is like asking Terrell Owens, a man not without skills even as he ages, to be an offensive lineman instead of a wide receiver. He just can’t do it.
Whedon’s specialty is feminism, pop culture quips, shock for the sake of shock, campy and gay singing and dancing, and more feminism. He has an appeal to gay men and women (and GLAAD awards to prove it), and a small cult following of some geeky omega guys, plus a few women. That’s it. That’s all he’s got. His male characters are either flamingly gay, neutered drones, or Alpha assholes repellent to most men. He’s never been able to write for a male audience, and his stint on Marvel’s “Amazing X-Men” only made all his camp, gay, and feminist tendencies worse. Comic books dirty little secret is they don’t make much money or have many readers. It is not uncommon to have some titles with readership in the 12,000 range. Comic books today, are written by and for a small group of hipster-geek fanboys in their forties. Piggybacking on creative work done nearly 70 years ago, in some cases. No comic book since the late 1970’s has created a character that has lasted, or captured the imagination. The Punisher being the last character with any staying power. Quick, who is “Speedball,” or “Night Thrasher,” or “Geist,” or “Loose Cannon,” or “Argus?”
Nothing speaks to comic books total creative bankruptcy than the failure to create compelling new characters. Comic book characters use powers as an amplification of their character, not the character themselves. The record of comic book writers, for the most part, is absolute failure. The exceptions being Jim Shooter (at Valiant), and a few writers at Dark Horse and Malibu comics, who created new and interesting characters based on well, character not powers, as well as consistently interesting inter-related universes.
Joss Whedon writing Captain America and directing The Avengers will be predictably stupid. Let us predict the failures:
First, feminism. Just ask him, Joss Whedon is a feminist. This means his female characters get passes for bad things they do, based on being pretty. Most of them are prostitutes or semi-prostitutes. A number of them get raped, by bad boys they love. Many of them consider suicide, because the world is too tragic for their power. Many of them are lesbians or bisexual. His female characters consider men based solely on their ability to be the most brutal and physically dominant man in the group, i.e. the biggest biker thug. All other men are there to be flamingly gay idiots, or sexless supportive drones.
Moreover, as typical for feminist writers, his female characters are weak but idiotically strong. Waify, weighing about 90 pounds, they have physical powers to beat up guys, but have no intelligence, strength of character, sexual self-control (around Asshole Alpha males), ability to plan and think, and are prey to their own emotions and weaknesses (for Asshole Alpha males). None are really two dimensional, with interests outside men they are sexually interested in, hobbies, family issues, and human weaknesses (greed, envy, substance abuse, parental issues, etc.) that they guard against. The female characters are all boring, blank canvases with boring superpowers, having boring sex with boring Alpha males.
Another feminist theme is the normalization of whores. Whores show up in Whedon’s stuff all the time, from Inara, to Anya, to the theme of Dollhouse (the female and male characters are in a sense prostitutes). How can anyone care about Captain Mal and Inara when the latter is a whore? Nothing means anything, not with Inara, or Faith, or Echo, or Anya. Yes, feminists insist that women having lots of sex with different men is a “double standard” (and it is, so is the female one about men being geeks or Alphas). But who dreams of Ashley Dupree or Rachel Uchitel, among young men? They might find notoriety and fame among women, but I have not seen the wedding announcement for Monica Lewinsky. To put it mildly.
His male characters, as typical for feminists, are even worse. Any hint of geeky enthusiasm or intelligence, is made “gay.” Male characters are gay and useless geeks, sexless drones who exist only to support hot chicks with boring superpowers, or Alpha Assholes who humiliate other guys all the time. And indeed, “lead” because they beat up or humiliate other guys (a woman’s idea of a leader of men). A more toxic combination of male characters could not be imagined.
Superman was and is the hero of 11 year old boys because he is NOT a bully. An intimidator. He’s so strong that bad guys fighting against him is useless, he’s a force of nature. An actual, intelligent, career-driven woman falls in love with him because he is often geeky, awkward, boy-scoutish, and decent. Note, while Lois Lane is independent, she is not a whore, nor does she have a parade of men through her bed. Superman is just the costume the real Clark Kent puts on. Needless to say, Superman does not rape and torture people, nor do women find that sort of thing appealing (as they do in Whedon’s stuff). Superman’s fathers are not sexless drones, but men who teach him the meaning of manhood. Both Pa Kent and Jor-El are very important to Clark Kent. You find this pattern in Batman (endlessly avenging his parents death without being a monster himself), Spider-Man (a geek at heart who lets his inner WWII GI wise-ass out in fights), and most other lasting superheroes.
This is particularly true for Captain America, a hero with minor powers who’s ability to lead others is his real power. Ability not by intimidation (Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk are all far stronger) but by example, courage, sacrifice, humor, and intelligence. Yes, Captain America is akin to Ed Winters (the real man and the character in Band of Brothers). With minor super-powers. He is, after all, a geek who remains one at heart. Unlike Angel, or Spike, or Captain Mal, Captain America never humiliates or beats up friends and allies just to show who is boss. Nor does he embark on violent, degrading S&M bondage relationships with women.
Like Superman, Captain America is what every normal, well adjusted, 11 year old boy would wish to become. Predictably, both the Avengers and Captain America movies will have a Buffy-Faith-Echo-Serenity type kick-ass waif in love with a brutal thug, with icky violent/domination overtones, and of course an asshole not a hero for the lead. Captain America will predictably punk out and degrade other men, because that is what Whedon male leads do. Of course, there will be flamingly gay geeks (message to geeky young boys and men: you are a loser, give up).
Secondly, Whedon cannot write group dynamics, for men. Predictably, the group will fall apart, only to be intimidated into last-minute unity by asshole-dom by the lead. Or simply, a deus ex-machina. Serenity, Dollhouse, and Firefly all failed for a reason — they could not attract a male audience. Which loves stories about war, and sports, where men from many different backgrounds come together under a tough but fair older man, and an immediate boss, who is funny and decent and the natural leader. Friday Night Lights (the series), Major League, Band of Brothers, all touch on this repeatedly. It takes the ability to imagine being both a follower and a leader to write this stuff, which is why most of Hollywood, populated by Alpha Assholes not too different from Angel or Spike or Captain Mal, cannot do it most of the time.
The core audience for the Avengers and Captain America, is boys 11 year old and up, and men up through their thirties. Who find stories about heroism and leadership, in moral constraints, fascinating and entertaining. This audience is guaranteed to be turned off by rampant assholery and jerkiness, extolled as virtues not flaws. Major League’s “Roger Dorn” (played well by Corbin Bernson) would be the “hero” not asshole needing correcting by Tom Berenger’s “Jake Taylor.”
Thirdly, patriotism. As is the rule for feminists, and Hollywood liberals, Whedon has shown a distinct lack of patriotism, love of country, or indeed identification with homely, home-y, ordinary values and people in everything he has written or produced. Instead, his characters and situations express contempt for ordinary people, their lives, and indeed their values. A great deal of what motivates Captain America, from conception in 1940 onward (when America was still neutral, and Britain might well lose), is an intense devotion to nation and country. Patriotism. But not a patriotism of “uber-alles,” rather an intense LOVE. Love of baseball, apple pie, American traditions, songs, folkways, music, language, literature, culture, of all the smallness and hominess and coziness of Americana and America.
He’s Captain America. And Joss Whedon will turn him into Captain Post-Modern.
Fourthly, villains. Frank Miller, perhaps one of the only original and creative comic book writers today, noted, Captain America and Superman EXIST to punch out villains. This is what Captain America is all about:
He’s there to punch out Hitler. And in the Avengers, set in the modern day, punch out Osama bin Laden. Miller wanted to have Batman punch out Osama, but DC would not let him. Cringing PC is self-defeating. Neither Superman nor Captain America, nor any hero featuring Americana or devotion to America, will do well overseas. Like anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism is a disease rampant and unstoppable throughout the world. With many of the same motivations. Neutering all that makes Captain America (or Superman) is like taking the apples out of Apple Pie and substituting dried bananas. You could do it, but it would not be any good.
Young men today know who the enemies are not. They are not the corporate guys who approve or cut Whedon’s budget. They are not rival directors or writers. They are not the people who fund his movies and TV shows to the tunes of millions of dollars. They are not conservatives, Republicans, Christians, or George W. Bush. Young men might or might not like the politics of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, or Sarah Palin, but they don’t find them threatening or credible current villains. Young men in America do not find the US troops villains, nor their military commanders, though doubtless they do not approve of everything they do, or every single policy. They do find Osama bin Laden, and Ayman Al-Zawahari, alien, polygamous, and mass murderers who would kill them in a heartbeat, to be their real, true, and threatening enemies.
Joss Whedon, predictably, will have Captain America replicate this cover, only punch out Sarah Palin (feminists hate her), or Dick Cheney, or someone like them (conservative, White, Republican). The “real villain” will be someone who vetoed his project at Fox or Universal. Maybe even a demonic law firm (now there’s a threat, as Mohammed Atta is coming at ya, in a jet liner aimed at your skyscraper). This is entirely predictable, and will go over like a lead balloon. Complete with popular culture quips, coming from someone from the “Greatest Generation.”
In short, everything about Whedon’s strengths and weaknesses, will make both movies utter disaster zones. Pop culture quips out of “the First Avenger,” the primal superhero from the 1940’s. Rampant Assholery as “leadership” and bullying as qualities to be emulated. Because it is, in Hollywood. Promiscuous women as a feminine ideal, along with emotionally and intellectually weak waifs who kick ass, and the promise that “nerd equals gay” that turns off most young boys (who have yet to hit puberty) and the 90% of men not Alpha. There will be shock “deaths” that can be predicted by plot points or story beats, at least one rape by the “hero” of one of the female characters, and America and ordinary people presented as disgusting and worthless, along with the political beliefs of half the audience. The villain will be someone out of Hollywood’s legal or executive suite. This is all perfectly predictable.
Yet why is Marvel doing this?
Because they are stupid.
DVD revenues are plunging 14%, in the first quarter, as $1 Redbox rentals become the norm. Blu-Ray is only in the low teens of home entertainment purchases and rentals, and this on top of big declines in purchases of home entertainment (DVD and Blu-Ray). No one is going to be spending much for 3-D TV in a nation with likely, 25% real unemployment (including those long-term discouraged from jobseeking). Mass is where its at, and the niche appeal of Joss Whedon is a recipe for revenue somewhere between Dollhouse and Serenity.
Executives read this. They know it. But they believe in stupidity. In feminism, that millions of young men secretly yearn to be either assholes or gay, that they find whores or wispy waifs with empty brains and spirits, kicking ass, exciting. That the vast audience finds Fox News (the most popular news network) a threat bigger than Osama bin Laden.
Even when the entire future of Marvel Entertainment, in making the big cross-over event designed to make them (and parent Disney) lots of money, the executive suite took a second bite out of stupid. Remind me again why most men have abandoned entertainment?