I recently saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which happens to be a fantastic movie. Sure, the dialogue wasn’t incredible and there has been much controversy over the Black Widow being subjected to slut-shaming, but overall the movie was enjoyable due to explosions, baddies taking it in the face just like we want them to, and super powers. We love people who can run unrealistically fast, fly and turn green before destroying everything. While watching the movie, I experienced an unsettling epiphany: Ultron’s diatribes against humanity weren’t necessarily well-written, but they contained what I believe to be substantial truth- that is to say, I agreed with the villain of the movie.
Ultron was accidently(ish) created by Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner without the knowledge of their compatriots as a form of artificial intelligence that would keep peace for them, allowing the Avengers to disband and live semi-normal lives. Frankly, the baddie was trying accomplish the task he was given. Once he gained whatever level of consciousness an internet-dwelling entity can experience (I feel like there’s a joke about bloggers or online gamers hiding in there somewhere) he realized that the best way to create and maintain peace is to eradicate humanity. To support his position, Ultron points no further than the Avengers themselves, using their own violence as an argument against them. He goes on further about humans causing extinction of various species, the wars we start and he should have made a joke about America’s political system.
The villain of the most recent Avengers movie champions a low anthropology: or a view that humanity really isn’t all that great. We kill, rape plunder and destroy each other as well as the planet and all of its other inhabitants. We suck. So, as this villain’s invective ran on, punctuated with little bits of action, I found myself nodding in agreement.
It’s both common and acceptable for a comic book or movie villain to carry this sort of attitude, but what if a hero held the same perspective? It’s one thing for humanity to be saved because we’re weak compared to the men and women flying around in capes. We believe they’re obligated to fight for us because they’re stronger. But what happens when they work for our salvation because we’re morally inferior, too? Could we deal with that sort of condescension? I don’t think we could. By we, I mean most westerners, including North Americans and Western Europeans.
In battling the artificially intelligent being, the Avengers espouse their own beliefs- that together, they could beat any evil. What is the philosophy hiding behind this? Humanism- that is, we can do whatever the hell we want if we put our minds together and work hard. No foe is too strong, we claim. It’s what nearly every other hero believes, too. The Power Rangers just had to unite their powers in order to beat whatever they happened to be fighting. The Planeteers, Powerpuff Girls, all the same belief and approach to doing their work. Some of the more philosophical characters step away from this, but not very well at all.
Should we just end humanity and let the universe get on without us?
Ultron’s conclusion that humanity sucks was remedied by him creating some type of bomb that was beyond my understanding of physics. We have to ask then, if this fictional character’s perspective is compelling, do we have to respond the same way? Should humanity be wiped off the planet? Fortunately, we can say “No”. The problem can be addressed another way, by recognizing that we need to be saved. Not only a physical way like when Spiderman swoops down and saves that idiot kid who ran out in front of a car, but we need to be saved from ourselves too. We are moral failures. Who is the only one who can save us like that? Jesus. Enough said.
★ ★ ★
I think I need to take a screenwriting course. Whether they know it or not, or view it the same way as I do, movie producers and the rest of their ilk have massive influence and therefore- huge responsibility. And I think most of them aren’t using it well. If they were superheroes, we’d want to get rid of them by now because they aren’t great. Why do I say that? Because their creations indoctrinate minds, young and old, pushing the idea that humanity is the standard by which everything else is measured, when it isn’t. They may be entertaining as they do this, but it works against the truth that humans are broken little creatures in need of their savior. I don’t want the responsibility they have, but one thing that every superhero has gotten correct is that sometimes, by way of seeing a problem, one becomes responsible for it.