‘How Low Can You Go’ was once a lyric about one’s ability to limbo. Next, it was a song about one’s ability to twerk while squatting (ask Ludacris). Now, let the declaration be made here, it’s about one’s ability to empathize with the depth of character of a well written and sympathetic movie villain. How do we know that society has corrupted itself beyond all reason? Antiheroes are the new superheroes. Antagonists are the new protagonists.
I started to worry when the #KilmongerWasRIght Team started making serious waves of consensus. If you’re not familiar with this brand of think-piece activism, it’s a general sentiment that in the Marvel film Black Panther, a vengeful homicidal man with countless scars for murder trophies is so endearing in his convictions that he and his nefarious plans upstage the character that we should be rooting for.
Erik Killmonger, whose very name is half war-waging and half murderous, that it couldn’t be any more literal in spelling out the inherent evil of its sake. In a movie about protecting resources from the wrong hands, and a lesson in how misplaced power can corrupt, he’s the secret hero? The distant relative with a malicious chip on his shoulder and a heart full of hatred is the real star because his origin story is just that tragic? The one who wants to liberate his people by weaponizing the disenfranchised instead of supporting them with asylum, finances, education or anything that they can actually use long-term and collectively? Give our people weapons because it worked so well when the government did it, amirite?!
But Black Panther was so six-months ago. Now we want to give a daughter-killing, alien invading, universal-scale genocide committing thief the crown of ethics because he’s portrayed as a semi-sympathetic protagonist on film. We serious? Yes, apparently so.
As far as Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War is concerned, the fanboys agree with its super-villain Thanos and his perspective that the universe’s resources are too finite for the destructive parasites we humans are, when it comes to the safety of our planet and the threat of overpopulation. Armed with this argument alone, Thanos’ destructive exploits are, according to his followers online, tantamount to having the moral high ground.
But hey, why stop there? Let’s get Team Breaking Bad in on this with #HeinsenbergWasRight. After all, the teacher turned Kingpin only alienated himself from his family and murdered his way up to lead a criminal enterprise. He had cancer and was shamed and disgraced out of his career prospects, so we’ll just have to forgive the drug dealing, money laundering, people poisoning and other felonies.
Dexter Morgan was also right! His parents were killed in front of him as a child – have some sympathy for the guy, despite the killing spree he’s been on since. Never mind him being a vigilante terrorist that infiltrated a police force between serial murders, we get to see him work on his social behaviour and grieve his wife’s murder. The poor, misunderstood social outcast who brings donuts to his office mates – cut him some slack!
X-Men’s Magneto too! A WWII survivor with the supernatural power to turn his grief into wrath upon his enemies is, you guessed it, RIGHT! To say otherwise would make you politically insensitive, especially since the X-Men franchise is already a metaphor for discrimination.
Sarcastic rantings aside, the takeaway should be that all goals, intentions, and purposes that are grounded or founded in hatred or negative ideologies are WRONG, but this seems to be lost on everyone entering and exiting the movie theater, or even their own Netflix queues. This is a shame, and not a sad one, but a scary one for our not-so-distant future.
Glorifying villains is not only a slippery slope, it’s a slimy one. Now that it’s trending and arguably the key to the superhero film genre’s success, shouldn’t we be a little more careful about how movies can contaminate our moral compass? Do we even have one left?