Years ago when I was a child, I saw a daytime talk show where the guests were men who preferred larger women. I was surprised by the emotional reactions of some of the "normal-sized" women in the audience. They had no connection to the men on the stage, yet they responded angrily -- sometimes standing up and yelling at the men, and in some cases bursting into tears -- as if these men had betrayed them.
The women's response bothered me because I didn't understand them. After all, how did it impact them that these specific men preferred larger women?
Because I was a fat child and because I was used to people's responses to me, my interpretation didn't take long to form. I figured that these women were told all their lives they needed to do anything and everything they could to be thin, this show's guests had revealed that in fact some men preferred women who weren't thin, and suddenly all the pressure these women had responded to for decades were revealed as lies. They had spent so much time and energy berating themselves for their imperfections, and the fact that these men preferred something different from the unobtainable physical perfection they chastised themselves for not having was too much for them to bear. It didn't seem like they were actually angry at the men -- they were simply shattered. They'd been presented two opposing truths and didn't know how to cope with it.
It is precisely my memory of this talk show and the reactions of the women on it that I remember when I read of yet another celebrity director or actor bashing Marvel movies.
Growing up a fat child and a fat teenager and a fat young man, there was nothing cool about me and there was nothing cool about the comic books I liked. I have to admit to some feelings of envy and anger knowing the pastimes I followed with such passion in my youth -- for which I received only disgust from peers and adults to the point that walking into a comic book shop felt akin to walking into a porn theater (and, honestly, both businesses may have had a lot of the same patrons) -- seem now so universally embraced and encouraged. When I pulled into a local library parking lot last week and saw it was advertising Dungeons & Dragons sessions for kids on an electronic sign next to a busy road, I did not think, "Finally, we are accepted." My response was more along the lines of "Fuck you and Fuck Stranger Things."
Comic books, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dungeons & Dragons and so much of what now populates a much more chic "nerd" or "geek" culture were not cool. It was more okay to like Star Wars than Star Trek because, well. Let's be honest, because it didn't take as much work to understand Star Wars.
Even among those who read comics, superhero comics were not cool. The only superhero comics that were cool were darker, grittier comics like Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, The Crow, etc. Reading Transmetropolitan and Preacher and Strangers in Paradise and Sandman was totally cool. If you regularly picked up West Coast Avengers, that wasn't so cool. YOU were the reason the actually "cool" comic book readers buying Grimjack and Hellblazer and Death: The High Cost of Living were lumped in with the rest of the man-boy virgins. Even in a world of rejects, you were the bottom.
And then someone let Peter Jackson make three Lord of the Rings movies. And Hugh Jackman learned how to eviscerate black ops soldiers. And Toby Maguire learned how to wall-crawl. And Christian Bale beat up Heath Ledger in an interrogation room. And Robert Downey Jr. lost his heart. And the world changed.
When I read an article about Jennifer Aniston saying there are too many Marvel movies, or Martin Scorsese saying they're "not cinema," or Simon Pegg complaining that they're dumbing down science fiction (presumably in-between takes for the latest of the Michael-Bay-in-Space Star Trek movies he stars in), or Jodi Foster likening Marvel movies to fracking, or Bill Maher claiming Avengers got Donald Trump elected, my objection to every single one of their stupid opinions is simple - I don't think they're actually stating their opinions.
Simon Pegg is a singular case, I think, because you can likely boil down every criticism Pegg's ever expressed about any Marvel movie to "Marvel shouldn't have fucked over my friend Edgar Wright." It's a fine opinion to have and one I happen to agree with, but it'd be nice if he, you know, was honest about it every once in a while rather than making statements about them dumbing down science fiction... on his way to the set of Mission: Impossible - Fallout.
But the rest of them? Jennifer Aniston and Jodi Foster and Martin Scorsese and James Cameron and Mel Gibson and Bill Maher and all the rest? When I read their criticisms of Marvel, I do not read opinions. I hear those same angry "normal-sized" women who suddenly found themselves in a world where what they were told had no merit suddenly has merit. Where what they were told has no value suddenly has value. Where what they were told was uncool is suddenly so very, very cool.
They are the pieces of shit who dogged me every day. They are the ones who threatened to jump me on the way home from school. The ones who tortured me in every classroom and every hallway. Jodi Foster and Bill Maher and Mel Gibson and Martin Scorsese and Jennifer Aniston and James Cameron are the ones who turned me into an insect for the first 20 or so years of my life and turned the world into nothing but cruel little boys with magnifying glasses on a sunny day. They are the ones who told me shut up about my "faggot shit" when I talked about a Fantastic Four/Incredible Hulk crossover I didn't like.
And they are the ones with wives and families and children -- children they have to take to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and buy all sorts of superhero backpacks and sippy cups and lunch boxes. They're the meatheads who called me a satan worshipper for playing Dungeons & Dragons and now their wives binge-watch Stranger Things and Game of Thrones.
It is, of course, not an insane position to take that Marvel movies do not have the greatest depth of passion. They are more concerned with spectacle than with exploring the human experience. Yet you Scorseses and Peggs and Fosters seem to have a very narrow scope for your targets. You are not saying the same things about the tits-explosions-subtle-racism films of Michael Bay. You do not take aim at torture porn flicks like the Saw franchise or action flicks like Fast & The Furious. You could. You very, very easily could. Yet you don't, and that's what exposes you for the thrashing, elitist, culture bullies you truly are. Because while sure, Avengers: Age of Ultron is no Schindler's List, neither is Hostel or Hobbs & Shaw or Transformers, but you don't mention them. It's as if action movies never existed until Robert Downey, Jr. became Iron Man. As if, before 2008, every single movie was an art house hipster magnet. Commando? Rambo? Bad Boys? Nope. Never existed. Every movie until 2008 was Serpico or Amelie.
You are, like Howard the Duck, in a world you never made, in a world contrary to the one you were promised, and all you can do is cry and yell. You feel betrayed, and all you can do is lash out at the people who are simply smiling and saying, "This thing you hate, this thing you always spit on, this thing you were always told was worth nothing? Actually... we always preferred this."
Martin Scorsese and Jodi Foster and Simon Pegg and James Cameron and Mel Gibson and Bill Maher and Jennifer Aniston.