Put Away Childish Things And All That Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015-08-24 14:00:00 No comments

[Addendum 06:17PM: I wrote this post with my fists, and it shows. Looking back on it, I realize the tone is terribly over-the-top, and I'm not proud of that -- although I stand by the points of view expressed within.]

Stop Making Superhero Movies Just for Grown-Ups | The New Republic

The very idea of constructing a story where Batman fights Superman only works on the level of child’s logic: Batman is supposed to be no more than a physically fit human, while Superman is an alien with God-like powers. The only reason to join them together is to please the same child’s sensibility that you see in playgrounds, where dinosaurs do battle with GI Joe or where Mr. Potato Head has tea with Cinderella. So it seems absurd to imbue a story about Batman duking it out with Superman with psychological verisimilitude, as the trailer does.

Where do I even begin with such audience-baiting, pseudo-intellectual folderol a statement?

For starters, it reeks of snooty outsiderism -- people peering down at pop culture from over the bridge of their nose, pretending to have more empathy than they really do, all for the sake of telling people how to enjoy things. Such finger-waggling is annoying enough when you're inside fandom; when it comes from outside of it, it's hard to tell whether it's more risible or insulting.

Second, the whole point of anything fantastic, no matter who it's aimed at -- young, old, all of the above -- is to start with the absurd and find a way to anchor that back into our feelings. Complaining that the absurdity of the situation makes it irreconcilable with psychological verisimilitude is like complaining that Disney movies are absurd because animals can't talk.

If Batman going toe-to-toe with Superman is on the level of "child's logic" (note the condescension inherent in the term), that's only because it starts there, and not because that's its goal. Leaping from the fantasy back to something real is how fantasy works. This is Storytelling 102 stuff, and it's embarrassing to see people who claim to know a thing or two about popular culture wield it as a cudgel to beat multiplexes with.

My own complaints about comic book movies revolve mostly around the way they're put together and pipelined out into the world, and how that can come at the expense of other, subtler things. It's not with "marketing kid's stuff to adults", in big part because the very kids that most of this stuff was marketed to in the first place are now the adults that are, in part, the very target audience for the movie incarnations of this material!

Let me parse out the one thing in this article that is worth preserving -- the idea that we need more comic book movie material that's aimed specifically at kids. Fine. But you'd have to be ignorant (calculatedly or not) of all the work Warner Brothers and DC have done in precisely that vein, with the animated projects they've released to home video. Not all are kid-friendly, but many are. But again, why take such a scorched-earth approach, unless you have a sneering disdain for fantasy to begin with?

I don't mind if someone else doesn't share my variety of imagination. I mind when they think that gives them a right to complain about other people having too much of it.

Tags: comics culture entertainment fantasy movies