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“Through the vast complexity of their imagined universes and through their iconic status in mass culture, superhero-comic stories have morphed into a secular religion. That’s why fans’ reaction to criticism reaches a pitch of aggrieved dignity: if a movie has been admitted into the circle of canon, negative views of the movie are received as a rejection not merely of fans’ taste but of their belief system. (And movie studios ignore fan service at their own risk.) As a comic-book-reading child, I didn’t care much about story and, years later, came to liken reading comics for their stories to buying Playboy for the articles. But the movies, meant largely for people who aren’t children, sacrifice sensory and aesthetic thrills for the earnestness of textual intricacy. With their aura of the sacred, superhero movies have also acquired an air of the sanctimonious and a fixation on doctrinal purity. New installments are often designed to satisfy the craving of the devout for fidelity to the underlying mythology—or for a mythology to adhere to.
This season alone offers plenty of evidence for superhero movies’ role as a surrogate religion—as in “Aquaman,” where the money line is “The king is risen.” The protagonist’s given name is Arthur, and the drama draws on Arthurian legend, replacing a sword with a glowing golden trident—albeit one that isn’t pulled from a stone but pursued like the Holy Grail and forged in an ancient variety of 3-D printer. The character has recently appeared in two other DC Comics movies; this is his first free-standing movie, and it’s appropriately clotted with the blend of backstory, exposition, character introduction, and general table-setting that’s euphemized as world-building. That’s why much of the film’s dialogue plays out like the reading of a board game’s rules while it’s being played, in stentorian tones borrowed from public-television historical dramas and Shakespearean filmstrips. It would have saved time and money to make the rules downloadable with the purchase of a ticket.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"In a bid to create new space for green industries and fossil-free energy production, greater Copenhagen wants to build an entirely new business and infrastructure district on the city’s southwestern edge."
Donald Trump ran for president saying that he would be a shrewd businessman with a propensity for making deals. Why, then, are we in the longest government shutdown on record?
"There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think... In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides."
"I've always wondered what fans see in her. After debating with a friend about her “merits” for over half a decade now, I thought I had found the one thing that could probably change my opinion of the pop star: the Reputation tour documentary..."
"Even if the economy is on a roll, many Americans aren’t feeling the benefit... In fact, when adjusted for cost of living increases, real wages actually declined 1.3% since the end of 2017, PayScale found."
"Cutting ties with Facebook would mean consciously cutting ties with my own community, and I can't bring myself to do it. When I asked my connections on Facebook why they were staying, their answers were very similar to mine..."
Fear of the news; fear of climate change, fear of touch screens... these New Yorker cartoons portray the modern phobias that are driving us crazy.
"Texts replaced authors as the privileged objects of scholarly knowledge, and the performance of critical operations on texts became essential to the scholar’s identity."
"When I speak to parents’ groups about kids who are addicted to Fortnite and other video games, I tell them that it is the parents’ job to limit, govern and guide their kids’ use of video games..."
"Startups like Hungry Harvest and Imperfect Produce say they're helping to reduce food waste in America. Critics say they're deceiving their customers and making the problem worse."
"Scholars are now interested in whether having a vocabulary item for a concept influences thought in domains far from language, such as visual perception."
"The much-documented anti-Semitism of the British Labor party leader is no accident... Jeremy Corbyn reminds us that anti-Semitism is not just an irrational hatred, harbored by madmen at the fringes of British society."