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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 Daily Picks
"On June 23, Erdogan and his party suffered a historic debacle in the rerun of the mayoral race in Istanbul. Binali Yildirim, an AKP heavyweight who ran as the candidate of the People’s Alliance between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party..."
"Former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the first Democratic presidential debates with 19 rivals taking aim at him — nine on the night he will be onstage, 10 the night he won't be there to defend himself. He is the clear-cut frontrunner and..."
"The latest round of attacks and counterattacks in Israel and Gaza demonstrates the respective governments’ inability to extricate their people from an awful situation, decades in the making. Palestinians and Israelis live in the same land, share..."
"Yesterday, a new musical dramedy debuting this Friday, conjures up a world we can’t begin to imagine: one in which the Beatles never existed. Somehow, after a global blackout, no one on Earth has ever heard of the band, except for the protagonist.."
"“America will never be a socialist country,” President Trump said as he launched his bid for re-election last week. That declaration was an effort to frighten Americans and undermine growing support for expanding Medicare and Social Security..."
"SpaceX launched 60 satellites last month that now swarm around our planet like bees around a hive. It’s the first phase of Elon Musk’s ambitious Starlink project that will eventually send thousands of satellites into orbit to create a worldwide..."
""At the end of May, TIAA, the financial services and investing giant, rolled out new gender-identity awareness guidelines for its client-facing consultants. The guidance included: “Never assume someone’s gender identity” and “Be aware that a..."
"Nobody knows who threw the first brick at Stonewall. It might not even have been a brick. Legend has it a woman in the crowd yelled, “Aren’t you going to do something?” as she was dragged away by cops. We don’t know who she was."
"Secular studies were an afterthought in my all-male yeshiva high school, offered in the late afternoon after eight hours of religious subjects. After “English,” we often returned for a few more hours of Torah study. The person who was supposed,,,"
"Meat is dead. Carnivores are going the way of cigarette smokers and, by 2050, there’s a good chance that it will be socially unacceptable to eat meat. In the same way that we’re now horrified people used to smoke in offices and airplanes, we’ll..."
"In order to embody the philosophy of elegant simplicity, we need to address the relationship between science and spirituality. Some people think that science and spirituality are polar opposites, but are they? Science is about things which can..."
"Labels are a necessary evil when talking about Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform denote different religious streams, but they are simply primary colours which hardly do justice to the kaleidoscopic variety of the modern Jewish landscape..."