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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
"THE CAPTURE of the last territory controlled by the Islamic State on Saturday was far from a final victory over the movement, as U.S. commanders and diplomats were careful to emphasize."
"How a Gay Teen, an Internet Nazi, and a Late-Night Rendezvous Turned to Tragedy. When self-loathing meets the new age of online extremism."
"Benjamin Netanyahu ignored the intelligence operations of Beijing and Moscow for too long. Now, the Israeli government is finally paying attention, but it could be too late."
"Former Nick Jr. kids are now reckoning with this all-grown-up intrepid explorer, whose obstacles are a lot bigger than Swiper the Fox. And that is a hard pill to swallow."
"At the end of last week, the three-month Treasury bills' yield rose above the yield for 10-year Treasuries for the first time since 2007, prompting warnings that the U.S. is headed for recession later this year or in early 2020."
"A team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology attempted to answer some questions about voting with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)."
"The experts I spoke with all said that the internet had changed the way conspiracies spread, but conspiracies, both dangerous and petty, have always been with us."
"Pop culture today is obsessed with the battle between good and evil. Traditional folktales never were. What changed?"
"Trustful parents allow their children as much freedom as reasonably possible to make their own decisions. They trust their children’s instincts, judgments, and ability to learn from mistakes."
"Arugulagate. In 2007, Barack Obama was in Iowa, speaking as a presidential hopeful to a group of farmers who were worried about the stagnation of their crop prices while America’s grocery bills continued to rise."
"To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat’s grin without the cat."
"Ted Cruz replaces the Democrats’ muddled manifesto with a clear and unequivocal exploration of the hatred of Jews and its particular evils."