Recently an interview from 2016 resurfaced with Watchmen creator Alan Moore where he attacked the superhero industry that many of us have come to love. Moore himself is known for writing inverted versions of the superhero story as seen in his comic series “Watchmen,” which has since been turned an HBO series.
In the interview, Moore lambasted the superheroes, the creators and the audience. He said that the movies entrap the viewers in a childlike state and the heroes themselves are “white supremacist dreams” and “cowardice compensators” for the audience as well as their creators.
Many of Moore’s claims seem to be narrow-minded. To say that those who watch today’s popular superhero movies are trying to stay in a “deliberate, self-imposed state of emotional arrest” is hypercritical. Additionally, claiming that our society is stuck in a “cultural stasis” ignores the reciprocal relationship between society and Hollywood, where progress in one leads to progress in the other.
Moore claimed that by watching superhero movies, the audience is trying to compensate for a lack of courage, but he failed to recognize the positives of the movies. One of the draws of superhero movies is that they play to people’s desire to see the good guys win. Seeing our favorite heroes on the screen battling against tremendous odds is inspiring. Take “Avengers: Endgame,” for example.
The heroes of the story went from losing half the population, a few friends and their confidence, to winning the war against Thanos, a seemingly unstoppable being. Watching the superheroes regain their confidence speaks to our resilience and can translate into the audience finding the confidence within themselves to overcome obstacles.
Moore’s claim that by watching these movies, we put ourselves in a “deliberate, self-imposed state of emotional arrest,” implying that we consciously enter an eternal childlike mindset. There are a few flaws with that train of thought. Some of us have grown up with superheroes as our childhood idols, while others are only getting introduced to the genre as adults, myself included.
Additionally, superhero movies are much more than someone running around saving the world in spandex and a cape. They now provide the opportunity for critical analysis, social movements within Hollywood and a reflection on our society.
Take Marvel’s “Black Panther,” for instance. As Jamil Smith said in an article for Time Magazine, “Black Panther” marked a milestone in cinematic history where not only people of color were shown in the multitudes, but also where their “humanity is multifaceted.”
Additionally, Smith said that instead of ignoring race issues, “the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day Black life,” providing the chance for us to think about the movie and apply it to our society.
Hollywood is always changing to match the cultural and political climate of the country. Early versions of superhero movies can be viewed as allegories for white supremacy, given that most, if not all of the heroes were white and trouncing around in masks and capes, but it seems like a bit of an extremist viewpoint. Social revolutions and media critiques have allowed the industry to evolve into something better instead of maintaining this so-called “cultural stasis.”
There’s also been more of an effort to include more women and people of color in the industry and the audience seems to be responding well. DC Comics’ “Wonder Woman” earned $821.8 million in the box office and Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” raked in $1.128 billion. Both movies featured a female lead.
Additionally, movies featuring people of color were well received. “Black Panther” earned $1.347 billion while “Aquaman” earned $1.148 billion. It’s no secret that Hollywood has a diversity problem, especially when it comes to superhero movies, but it’s slowly changing for the better.
In Moore’s defense, his interview came out before many of the now-revolutionary movies were released, therefore outdating his original claims. Whether his opinions have changed since then is still up for debate, but Moore’s comments are part of a larger array of superhero critics.
Martin Scorsese, one of the most influential filmmakers in Hollywood, also criticized Marvel movies last month. In an interview with Empire Magazine, Scorsese said the movies aren’t cinema and later on wrote an editorial for The New York Times in response to the backlash.
Either way, superhero movies are now playing a much larger role in society compared to when they were first being released. Those who say otherwise don’t recognize the revolutionary milestones that many of the movies have created and the industry faults that they are trying to correct.