An Occupy Wall Street-eyed Review of The Avengers Movie and the Future of Movies

I was a total Marvel comics fan when I was a kid. That meant regular trips to the local corner pharmacy to lay out 10 or 12 cents for the latest Hulk, Thor, Spidey, Fantastic Five and The Avengers.

So I had to go see the movie, The Avengers, in 3D IMAX. And it was entertaining.

But having been through the past year's Occupy Wall Street experience gave me new eyes.

And what those eyes viewed brought me to an epiphany. Superheroes serve the 1%. They serve the top down powers that are waging a massive war with the 99% -- we on the bottom.

Now, of course, superheroes are not real. But they provide fantasy material. Seeing the movie reminded me of a conversation I had with a really smart guy -- Ward Wilson -- a few weeks ago.

Ward and I became friends about five or six years ago after I attended a talk he gave at a local synagogue. Back then, Ward was just starting to talk about his ideas on how nuclear weapons don't work. They didn't win world war II and they don't act as deterrents to war. I was very impressed. A few years later, so was the Nobel organization in Sweden. They gave him a grant of over $390,000 to pursue his work and get out his message.

Ward and I had lunch a few weeks ago and out of the conversation came a realization that atomic weapons are the ultimate top-down fantasy. One ultra top, ultra power person can push a button or make an order and start or stop a war.

I say it's a fantasy because it hasn't happened. No one has started a war with a nuclear bomb and Ward Wilson is very persuasive in arguing that no war was ever finished with nuclear weapons either.

That takes me back to The Avengers movie and superheroes. They also engage the fantasy that one person, or a small few, can save the world. That can have the same kind of top-down fantasy theme to it. The Avengers movie did. I've come to believe that top-down thinking is part of the problem that the Occupy Wall Street movement faces. To change the system it is necessary to change the way we think about saving the system and fighting our enemies. How many scores of millions of kids have grown up having read Marvel and DC comics, about Spiderman, The Avengers, the Hulk, Superman, Green Lantern, the Justice League of America -- where people with super powers save the world?

This way of thinking takes the responsibility out of the hands of the people, takes the perception of possibility out of the reach of the masses.

I'm not saying that the original intention of the stories Stan Lee's Marvel Comics told was to promote this top down way of thinking. Bravery, audacity, courage, independence-- look at the way the individuals who comprise the Avengers are non-conformists -- are all shown as strengths.

But today, we need big stories that show how "the people" -- how vast groups of millions rise up to face the challenges to humanity. Occupy and the Arab Spring have shown that this is not fiction. it is reality.

We need big, epic, blockbuster movies that portray bottom up leaders who, rather than defeating the bad guys by being superheroes, do it by inspiring the crowd to rise and join together. The plot line could show that a small group, when it joins forces, develops powers that the individuals in it didn't have. The fantasy part could be that at a certain point, millions of people pour out into the streets and when they do the tide turns and rescue of the nation or the planet begins.

There have been movies like this. In Network, a crazed anchorman gets people out in the streets shouting, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

We need more movies like that. We need movies that push the envelope, maybe even portraying people out in the street, resisting police, movies that upset the censors in China and Iran, but that go viral anyway.

Maybe they won't be done for $200 million by a major studio. Maybe they'll be done by indie producers like the ones who did I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Getting them in the movie theaters might be difficult, since the Chinese have just bought the second largest movie theater chain, AMC Theaters, with over 5,000 movie screens. But that's just an obstacle. With Netflix and the like, more and more people are screening movies without theaters anyway. My point is, big, cinematic stories of mass, bottom up heroism and courage and success can and should be told.

When I interviewed Marina Sitrin, OWS activist and author of the incredible book, Horizontalism, on my Bottom Up Radio Show recently, she described how, in Argentina and Chiapas Mexico (by the Zapatistas) their horizontalidad revolutionary activity "was from below and from the left, and they say that is where the heart resides."

Powerful, blockbuster movies are made with heart. There are enough real stories of masses of people rising together to face horrible odds, to face utmost evils and penultimate antagonists and winning through a combination of courage, cooperation, heart, love and a dash of what seemed to be crazy.

If movie makers produce movies like this, they will be hugely profitable. And they just might help get enough people thinking that they can be bottom up, horizontal, or Occupy superheroes of a different kind and save the world.

Crossposted from .