my primary reaction to infinity war is like…. wow. under hypercapitalism we literally can’t imagine any other fables about resource scarcity, huh?
i’m not even talking about only thanos. every time thanos said his plan to kill half the galaxy (because it’s “finite,” lol ok one-semester-of-econ guy) the other characters were like “no!” or “you can’t!” or “that’s madness!” instead of… counter-arguing, or saying anything like “couldn’t you just… double the resources with a snap of your fingers?” obviously, nobody wants thanos to murder all those people, but it’s also as if everyone tacitly accepts his framing of the problem. “i want to kill half the universe because of resource scarcity,” he says, and everyone says “no, that’s too cruel!!” instead of “wait… wait just a fucking second there, paul ryan.” they don’t even have a line like that even when they’re talking amongst themselves, just musing at how twisted his worldview is, that he can only imagine infinite power as an infinite power to kill. no time is spent imagining an alternative.
and i can’t help but think about how we in the quote-unquote “first world” treat the resource consumption of the so-called “developing world.” we, who have enjoyed the pleasures and benefits of fridges and air conditioning and televisions and cars and convenience food and all that shit for generations: we look at the growing energy & plastics consumption of the developing world and go “uh oh, they’re really running the tab up over there, we can’t let this happen, think of the…. trees!!!” we have the audacity to act like people living in poverty in the tropics wanting window fans is selfish and short-sighted for the environment, and meanwhile we use and waste all the energy and resources we can get ahold of, like a continent full of montgomery burnses.
infinity war could have taken thanos’s approach to scarcity somewhere bigger: somewhere that was useful as a parable for our hypocrisy. the way that ragnarok was brave enough to make a parable of empire; the way that black panther could explore diaspora and identity; the way that the winter soldier actually had something to say about the surveillance-terror state. but for all the moving pieces of infinity war, i don’t think it knew where its central ethic rested. certainly, its characters showed the desire to preserve and protect life. but that’s true of any superhero film.
what it comes down to for me, is that it’s not enough for this movie’s theme to be “let’s protect people, because killing people is bad!” or even, sorry steve, “we don’t trade lives.” it’s not enough. thanos basically says, “there’s one bowl of soup and one spoon and two hungry people, so one of them has to die.” so what i needed was someone to openly reject that whole proposition. not just “no, you shouldn’t kill trillions,” but “no, that is fucking ludicrous, i reject that worldview. i reject human life as a brutal competition. group survival, even in the face of scarcity or hardship, is exactly what the fuck we developed culture for.” like, we could use that message. that message, delivered palatably in a blockbuster action movie, could do some good.
but it wasn’t really in there. maybe in little bits, in pieces. maybe. so i’m sure we’re going to have to endure a bunch of “welllll, thanos was a bad guy, but he did have a point about scarcity” metas. because we’re still failing to see how asking other people to die so that the rest can enjoy plenty is itself exactly the fucking problem on this bitch of an earth
i will acknowledge that gamora comes the closest to doing this. gamora comes down on thanos for slaughtering half her planet. but!! but! then thanos gets this horrible line about how the children who grew up after his genocide got to have “full bellies” and the planet’s a “utopia” now. and what does gamora get to say back to that? nothing! she doesn’t get a line after that! she looks angry and grief-stricken, but the writers don’t give her a single fucking thing to say in disagreement!! like, how about: “growing up as a traumatized survivor of genocide isn’t very fucking utopian????” the writers couldn’t imagine that fucking line?
gamora’s like “you don’t know that!” as though the existence of scarcity is a mystery on par with the nature of dark matter or the whereabouts of d.b. cooper
God this movie angers me, still.