Friday, 4 May 2018

The Subtle and Appealing Evil of Thanos


Also disclaimer: I am NOT a Marvel expert. Haven’t read any of the comic books, can’t remember the plots of most of the movies, or how they connect with each other. I’m just the average lay(wo)man who enjoys a good superhero movie. Usually.

As any INTJ does immediately after (and often during) a movie, I looked up reviews of Avengers: Infinity War on Tuesday night. It was partly because I was MAD at the ending, and I wanted to find some other irate viewers to grumble with. “If I wanted to watch a TV show with an incomplete story line, I would WATCH a TV show with an incomplete story line, where you get the next instalment the following week. I expect closure at the end of a movie! And good to prevail! And evil to be defeated! I seriously have to wait for another year for that? I might just as well have waited and watched both movies together.”

I’m also mad at all the people who watched it and didn’t give me any warning that this was very likely not something many people would enjoy. But apparently most of the online world are suckers and no one wants to tell the Emperor he hasn’t got any clothes on, so I will be the one. That was stupid, Marvel Studios! (Although we do know that they have to make a way to make all the characters who died un-die – just look at the cast list of the next Avengers’ movie, not to mention the existence of an Infinity stone that can manipulate time.)

Anyway, speaking of evil prevailing, I found that a lot of people really liked Thanos, the arch-villain in Infinity War. He was not the typical blustering, or maniacal laughter-spewing, or cold, or obviously power-hungry villains of other movies. He was soft-spoken, betrayed a soft spot for his adopted daughter, Gamora, and had a very reasonable explanation for his choice to kill.

His reason is what makes Thanos the most appealing in the eyes of many today, and the most repelling to me. Quite simply his argument was- the universe was in danger of destruction because of overpopulation, so the most merciful and just thing to do was to wipe out half of the universe’s population randomly.

Too many people have used the idea of overpopulation or the survival of the species as a way to justify too many horrific things including genocide, abortion, or to mock or joke about or even desire others’ deaths, especially the deaths of those we consider our opponents, or those who do ill-considered things (ha ha nature’s way of weeding out the stupid), or those who disagree with our politics or beliefs, or those who commit evil acts, and often those who are mentally unstable. I remember being shocked when I read Jean Webster’s Dear Enemy, where a likable and logical and kind protagonist chattily asserts very obviously eugenic views, that it would be better if mentally or criminally-inclined children (defectives!!!) never lived at all… killed as babies? I can’t remember.

As a Christian, one of the foundations of my belief system is that EVERY PERSON HAS WORTH no matter their age, mental or physical capacity, past or future sins, and no matter how many resources they consume. EVERY PERSON also has free will, the capacity for great good, and unknown potential (for example, the potential to discover the cure for cancer, to change the course of history in little or big ways). EVERY PERSON is an unrepeatable and unique and irreplaceable creation. They are far far more than just a consumer of resources. When we lose sight of the value of the human person, we let evil in.

As pope, John Paul II would continue to insist that the extraordinary brutality of the 20th century was due to an unwillingness to recognize the inherent value of the human person, who is made in the image and likeness of God, who confers upon it inalienable rights that can neither be bestowed nor withdrawn by any human power. “The human person,” he proclaims, “receives from God its essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move toward truth and goodness” (Centesimus Annus, No. 38.1). (Article from America magazine) 

What follows from that belief is that no matter how high-minded your goals, it is never right to take the life of another (except in self-defence). For those who sympathize with Thanos’ motivation, and think perhaps the world would be better with perhaps half of its population disappearing into dust, it might be good to consider – do you think you, or your children, or those you love should just disappear? Or is it always some vague faceless unnamed ‘other’ who should die to guarantee the survival of the world?

The ‘world’ is PEOPLE.

But what if everyone is going to die if we don’t kill off a few? The truth is still the truth – it is better to die than to kill.

But here’s the other creepy thing about Thanos. Remember the scene on the mountain top at Vormir? The only way for him to get the infinity stone on was by sacrificing the one he loves. Did it touch your heart that it turns out he loved his adopted daughter, Gamora?

I call BS!! If he REALLY loved his daughter he would never have killed her. I’ve seen this theme in other movies where villains talk about the need for sacrifice for some higher goal. How come they are always sacrificing SOMEONE ELSE? Heroes and superheroes in contrast always offer to sacrifice themselves.

What about God sending his son Jesus to die for the world? Isn’t that the same thing? Nope- Jesus clearly said, “I lay down my life, no one takes it from me.” If Gamora had CHOSEN to die for the sake of the greater good or even out of love for ONE person, that would have been love. Feeling sad as you kill the one you have softer feelings for is not love, Thanos! Love is willing what is best for the other.

In conclusion, I did like the portrayal of Thanos in the movie. But I think some people missed the point. Just because evil comes in a soft-spoken, logical-sounding guise, does not make it any less evil.

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