I’m used to it
Comic Book Review: Ms. Marvel #3
The All-New Ms. Marvel has already gained international fame. But in Kamala’s case, star-power comes with a whole lot of… awkwardness. Find out why the most exciting new Marvel hero is also the most loveable!
With her family still mad at her and her friends making things worse, Kamala’s life gets even more complicated in Ms. Marvel #3. Her impromptu rescue of her classmates sparks a media…
Comic Book Review: Captain Marvel #2
Higher, faster, further…. WAR?! Captain Marvel forges towards the final frontier—and is thrown into the frontlines of battle. Can this half-alien survive in an all alien-world? The breakout hit of 2012 makes a glorious return!
Off to a good start after its recent renumbering, Captain Marveltakes to the stars as Carol takes Iron Man’s offer to serve as on the Avengers’ new deep-space outpost.…
When characters are talking to Starling, they often talk direct to camera, when she is talking to them, she is always looking slightly off-camera. Director Jonathan Demme explained that this was done so as the audience would directly experience her POV, but not theirs, hence encouraged the audience to more readily identify with her.
An excerpt from my superhero fiction novel, The Crashers, Chapter Ten
Adam’s apartment in Jonestown felt like a good enough place to dry out, Bridger decided, to clear his head while he figured out his next move. Dying didn’t do him much good, after all, and neither did languishing in his ratty hotel room waiting to do it again. Adam’s apartment was quiet and comfortable, a strange womb filled with pictures and knick-knacks from another man’s life. Adam fed him, kept him company and gave him a spare key, a far kinder offer than he would have otherwise given himself the latitude to indulge. Adam was like that, with his clear eyes and his honest smile, as painful as it was to look at sometimes. He had broad hands with palms rough from fixing engines and repairing trucks in the desert. They were strong like he was strong, despite the softness they cradled him with whenever Adam picked up Bridger after he fell. It was the kind of unselfish generosity that set Bridger’s teeth on edge, useless in the face of such goodness.
This timeline is an interesting and depressing read, relating to my “Marvel’s gilded cage" article that was published this morning. Also, the comments already seem pretty similar to many responses I’ve seen to my article, ie, "Cry more, you’re a millionaire celebrity, your life isn’t that hard."
To me, the purpose of this type of article isn’t to generate more empathy for good-looking superstars in obvious positions of privilege, but to remind ourselves that publicity appearances from those celebrities are rarely genuine reflections of their true emotions/opinions. Basically, promotional appearances are not necessarily anything more than actors being paid to sell a movie.
I think most people understand that when Maggie Gyllenhaal goes on the Daily Show to promote a money project like “White House Down,” she doesn’t seriously think she’s announcing the release of a masterpiece. But for stuff like Avengers and Star Trek etc, we expect the actors to love the source material as much as we do, because it’s difficult for us to imagine The Avengers or Star Trek being “just a job” to anyone. Which creates a kind of feedback loop of supply/demand for enthusiastic celebrity promo material, meaning that actors in this type of franchise are now expected to be even more enthusiastic and fannish and geeky than before. For example, Clark Gregg would not be in the position he is now as an actor/personality if people weren’t aware of his fanboy status.
I love the Avengers franchise and I think the Marvel media machine is extremely good at its job, but IMO it’s important to remember that as fans of something, we usually prefer to highlight the good stuff and ignore the bad. I’d prefer to think of ScarJo as someone who stands up to misogynist idiots during Avengers press conferences, rather than someone who is a Woody Allen apologist. It’s nicer to think of Chris Evans as someone who loves and respects Captain America as a character, rather than remembering that he also described the filming process as “tedious,” and dislikes doing promo work because he’s only proud of three movies he’s ever made, and “I’m usually promoting a piece of shit.” As a Marvel fan I really enjoyed CATWS and I look forward to Avengers 2, but it’ll be pretty grim to witness ~5 years’ worth of Marvel-related promo stuff if Chris Evans already appears to be this disillusioned when he’s only halfway through his contract.
I love pop culture and love talking about and enthusing over celebrities but I also think it’s important to remember that a lot (read: most) of what we are getting from celebrities (i.e. from their public appearances) is a carefully constructed facade. Even Jennifer Lawrence must have made the decision at some point to be a down to earth, straight-shooting, occasionally vulgar version of herself in her public appearances - which gives her an aura of “authenticity” that is also on some level a fiction.
The press tour for CATWS has been one of the more compelling examples of promotion for a big blockbuster film in recent memory, to my mind, because you can see the actors (chiefly Chris Evans but also, to a lesser extent, Sebastian Stan [nine movie deal. nine.]) starting to fray around the edges. We are used to being taken in by actors doing press because they usually don’t toe the party line; the actors under contract here are clearly having a bad enough time of it that they are either deliberately or inadvertently doing so. It makes them feel more like real people because it allows us to see beyond the cheery public facade - but it also forces us to acknowledge that the massive corporate entity producing films that we enjoy so much is perhaps not as benevolent as we might like to imagine. Which, when you think about it, is not very surprising, given the typical nature of massive corporate entities.
As far as the “but they’re so rich and privileged!” argument goes, I would say that, while it’s of course important to keep things in perspective - these people do have an absurd amount of money, more than almost any of us will ever see, and their lives in many ways do not resemble ours - there’s also nothing wrong with empathizing with unhappy people, regardless of their economic status. Money on this level absolves you from having to worry about a whole lot of things for the rest of your life, but it isn’t everything. Celebrity culture thrives and has always thrived because it allows people an opportunity to be fascinated by people who are simultaneously like and unlike them, and to act out their own emotional lives through those people: yes, Chris Evans is a millionaire with multiple properties who has an insane job, but he’s also just a dude with anxiety problems who wants to be able to do a job he actually likes and hang out with his friends without being bothered. I think a lot of us can identify with the latter part of that equation on some level. We empathize with these people because we are looking for an opportunity to engage in the act of empathy. In that respect, it’s not that different from reading a book, or watching a film, or watching a TV show.
So the important thing is to balance the understanding that our engagement with these people is based in our own emotional and psychological spaces, and also that what we are engaging with is similarly a partial fiction. Which is fine! Bring on the photosets and gifs. But self-awareness is pretty key, as is the awareness that, unlike with actual books, and movies, and TV shows, none of this would be compelling - or, indeed, exist at all - if there weren’t an ultimate, fundamental reality underneath it all, involving real humans. In this case, exhibit A: Chris Evans is an evidently pretty depressed dude who really, really fucking hates his job, and that, in spite of his millions, sucks.