Saturday, November 30, 2019

some notes on superheroes: reactionaries & revolutionaries


The Washington Post sometimes publishes a column by one Sonny Bunch, executive editor of the conservative Washington Free Beacon. Bunch's opinions are seldom inoffensive to right reason, and I don't ever know why I click on them. Nothing he's written has ever lingered in my recollection—with one exception. Back in January, he wrote an op-ed titled "Environmentalists make good movie villains because they want to make your real life worse." Though this would be perfectly sufficient (and perhaps preferable) as a tweet, without the nine paragraphs of redundant elaboration, let's look at a couple of excerpts:
Radical environmentalists have really been taking it on the chin at the multiplex. They are perfect villains for our times: well-intended enough to often seem somewhat reasonable, but meddlesome busybodies whose hopes and dreams are to radically reduce standards of living in order to effect some utopian scheme or another that will return the world——or worlds——to an unsullied Eden. 
Thanos, the villain (and protagonist, really) of the $2 billion-grossing megahit, "Avengers: Infinity War," was basically an omni-powered Paul Ehrlich. Driven insane by his home planet's self-immolation after a series of resource wars...Thanos used the Infinity kill half of all living things.
Again, this is Ehrlichian in its madness: The author of “The Population Bomb” argued for years that the planet is overpopulated and that famines will wipe out a significant portion of humanity. It could still happen, I suppose...but, frustratingly for the doomsayers, life on Earth keeps getting better despite the "overpopulation" our precious blue orb continues to shoulder....

Environmentalists make a useful villain because their malevolence can be obscured by a patina of reasonableness. Global warming and other manmade problems are going to end the world if we don’t do something——so just about anything is justified! But their villainy resonates with the masses because they actually do want to make life worse for people, for the most part.
Laying aside his specious remark about life on Earth getting better and better, let's grant that Bunch is the rare right-wing troll who, despite his best efforts of bad faith, puts forth the germ of a lucid and useful point amid all his self-confident boneheadedness. That point has little to do with the nagging and doomsaying of real-life environmentalists, and everything to do with the conservatism evinced in our pseudo-mythical heroes' exploits on page and screen.