Goodbye, Captain America!

Publicist Yegor Kholmogorov on what American minds are being fed these days.

The movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was the most anticipated new release of the year, even edging out “Terminator” and “Star Wars,” not to mention the fact that it’s now rushing confidently to the top of the box office. It can be said without exaggeration that “Avengers” will be seen by nearly every regular moviegoer who isn’t squeamish about Hollywood blockbusters.

For the rest, let me explain: We’re talking about the film adaptation of an American national epic. The Greeks had “The Iliad,” the French: “The Song of Roland,” we Russians have epic poems — Americans have Marvel comics about a team of superheroes led by “Captain America,” the embodiment of ideal American values. Despite the genre’s superficial appearance to Europeans, we have before us the quintessential American national consciousness.

Strictly speaking, little boys grow up there with the conviction that America excels in the world not because it has nuclear missiles, aircraft carriers, dollars and democracy, but because it is the home of Superman, Batman and the heroes of the Marvel universe: Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and the X-Men. What’s more, if the DC Comics’ heroes Superman and Batman are relatively apolitical, then Marvel’s trademark is politicized history, reflecting the realities of World War II, then the Cold War, and internal political conflicts in the USA.

In truth, political analysis based on comics is more dependable than attempts to analyze speeches by Obama or even Jen Psaki herself. So, if you want to know what’s being fed into the minds of ordinary Americans, read the Marvel comics and follow their film adaptations, all the more so since the saga about team “Avengers,” protecting the world from all kinds of evil, from the Fascist “Hydra” organization to aliens, is being filmed by Joss Whedon himself, the most gifted director and screenwriter of the fantasy genre. It’s no coincidence that the first “Avengers” was only exceeded at the box office by “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

I waited for the new “Avengers” with all the more interest because “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a film from the same saga released only a year ago, contained extremely harsh criticism of the idea of American hegemony. The “S.H.I.E.L.D.” organization, attempting to control the world and prevent any deviations from the only correct path, turned out to be bustling from top to bottom with crypto-Fascists from “Hydra.” The intrepid Captain America only managed to destroy the orbital stations built by “S.H.I.E.L.D.” to wipe out those who disagreed with them at the last minute, but at the cost of the collapse of the entire system of global control. For the first time, the chance appeared that the world might be on its own, and it was timidly suggested that this could be right.

The idea that America’s global control brings the world only harm was fresh and, coming straight from Captain America, especially fitting. Frankly, I hoped that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” would continue in this vein. But, alas, instead of a serious reassessment of the foundations of global hegemony, Hollywood writers went with “correcting certain deviations from Washington’s and Lincoln’s norms of democratic government.”

Forgive the “spoiler,” but the basic outline is as well-known in comics as, for example, the plot of “Anna Karenina.” New heroes appear in the saga — the twins Petro and Wanda Maximoff from the country of Sokovia, which looks quite similar to Serbia, but of course in reality is a cross between Soviet Russia and Ukraine. The twins survived American bombings, when their parents were killed by shells from the company of weapons magnate Tony Stark — better known as Iron Man. The people of Sokovia’s hatred toward the tools of American hegemony is quite clearly shown, and the very decent Captain America admits that the twins have every reason to hate Americans and Stark.

The twins join forces with the monstrous artificial intelligence Ultron, created by the very same Stark — the personification of the American military-industrial complex, which obstinately wants to build a “world without war” through total control. However, they soon realize that Ultron isn’t simply trying to get revenge on Stark, but to destroy the entire world, and they join the Avengers. What’s more, Petro dies in battle, the only one of the heroes to do so. In the final battle, Captain America strictly orders that all Sokovians be evacuated and states that from now on, there will be no more casualties. However, during the evacuation, a fire fight ensues with the robots created by Ultron. The people only survive because former “S.H.I.E.L.D.” director Nick Fury arrives in a flying aircraft carrier.

Good, as always, defeated the evil it had created. It’s not that Stark wasn’t beheaded — no one even hits him in the face, and he will appear again. Captain America himself will soon become a victim of his corruption and pursuit of global order. The people with Russian last names realized that in rebelling against the American order they had joined an even greater evil, created by the Americans themselves as personified by the hated Stark. Thus, the Russian-named characters must join the Americans, sacrifice themselves, and then follow in the footsteps of “Black Widow” Natasha Romanoff (“I’m a former Russian.”): making restitution, repenting and mourning her terrible past as a KGB agent.

In exchange for this, it is promised that next time, the Sokovian citizens will be evacuated in time on aircraft carriers. Captain America gives his word. His word, by the way, is worth little, since in the next film, he refuses to obey the U.S. government’s orders, and they kill him. But the carrier was a beauty, right!? Definitely! Then welcome to New York state and the new “S.H.I.E.L.D” base busy restoring the system of control.

In the last two years, Americans have faced a very serious crisis regarding their global hegemony. After managing to depose Qaddafi for some unknown reason, they’ve met with some failures: They were forced to abandon intervention in Syria, the escapade in Ukraine created a global crisis, the “Ultron” of the Islamic State went out of control, and even the Saudi intervention in Yemen failed. It’s time for reflection.

But the flame of doubt about the appropriateness of the global order, which simultaneously erupted in many Hollywood projects last year — the fourth season of “Homeland,” the third season of “House of Cards,” “Robocop,” “First Avenger” — flared up and died. The American collective unconscious came to the conclusion that the world definitely can’t do without intrusive guardianship and humanitarian bombings. The film is wonderfully done, but somehow tired, like the speech of a person who’s tired of lying to everyone, including himself. Perhaps, it’s no accident that the most lively, sincere, and maybe even sympathetic character in the whole story is the misanthropic artificial intelligence Ultron, who has hit upon the idea of turning Sokovia into a meteorite, which will “renew life on earth.” Might this be an allusion to Ukraine, which is pushing the world toward a global crisis?

One way or another, we can expect that the high-precision missiles of “Stark Industries” will still land on homes in Donetsk, and that Captain America will sadly empathize with the victims.

The Americans have created a truly powerful national myth, in which U.S. global dominance is based on the fact that American superheroes are defending the world from monstrous global threats. This construct has only one weakness: In the real world, there is no more significant global threat to humanity than the USA. There is no picture of evil that, like Ultron or the Islamic State group, has not been created by the U.S. itself.

American superheroes can’t save humanity from worldwide evil, since the only true worldwide evil in our reality is America. Will America save the world from itself?

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