Anghus Houvouras asks, ‘why does it always have to be Marvel vs. DC?’…
Binary theory. I’ve written about this before at great length. The constantly evolving concept that everything has been reduced to a “1” or a “0”. Famously expressed in thoughts like “You are either for me or against me”. Either something has value and is worthy of praise (i.e. a “1”) or it has zero value and should be purged from existence with righteous indignation.
It’s a theory I see played out in the media every day. In politics where candidates are viewed by half the population as saviors and as demonic entities hell-bent on stripping away our freedoms by another. The 21st century has been about polarizing our society into a ‘for’ or ‘against’ mentality that leads to contentious conversations. Just look at the America Presidential election or the recent Brexit vote in the UK. These are prime examples of how Binary Theory has gripped our society and torn it in two. But I’m less interested in politics and more interested in movies, hence my ramblings about Binary Theory are often applied to the world of media.
The last time I talked in-depth on the subject was in regards to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, whose famous thumbs forever changed film criticism reducing movie reviews to a pass/fail scenario. Is it worth seeing or isn’t it? Fast food film commentary that eradicated nuance and ushered in the modern era of Rotten Tomatoes pass/fail aggregation.
I found myself once again considering Binary Theory as the first wave of Suicide Squad reviews poured in online. What should have been an in-depth analysis of a movie quickly turned into a Binary Theory fueled fire fight between Marvel and DC fans. Some of the most popular critics and film personalities weighed in, with many of them referencing Marvel movies.
@devincf SUICIDE SQUAD review coming: DC fans no longer have grounds to mock Marvel movies.
Why does the first thought someone has about Suicide Squad in reference to the polarized fans of their favorite comic book publisher? What does that have to do with the movie itself? The answer is; absolutely nothing. But it continues the polarizing writing style of so many lazy critics who are less interested in reviewing the movie and more interested in reloading the tank of their flamethrower to continue fanning the fire of a pop culture flame war that keeps the comments section of each article brimming with bile.
If a critic mentions the word ‘Marvel’ in their Suicide Squad article, you can immediately write them off a victim of the polarization of modern media. It’s an indication that the contents of the movie are less important than how it fits into a larger ongoing pass/fail narrative being driven by click hungry writers. Marvel has nothing to do with Suicide Squad. If you want to reference the similarities in plot between a movie like Suicide Squad and Avengers, that is fair. There’s nothing wrong with drawing comparisons, like Drew McWeenys ‘glowing thing’ trope observation. However, the idea that every DC movie or Marvel movie has to be compared to the other is a clear indication that these are agents of Binary.
The fans themselves don’t help because they often find themselves as slaves to a Binary narrative. Like the recent group of frustrated and beleaguered DC fans petitioning to shut down Rotten Tomatoes, accusing critics of posting unjust reviews for Suicide Squad, a claim that was also made during the release of Batman v Superman.
Who are these fans that are so vehemently committed to one particular comic book publisher? Does liking a DC movie make you dislike Marvel movies? Of course not, but there are those who can only see things like this through a Binary lens. When a critic disparages a Marvel movie, they are accused of being a DC fanboy. When a critic rakes a DC movie across an acre of broken glass, they are told they are shills paid off by Disney.
Personally, I’ve never understood this kind of rampant fanboy frustration. Isn’t it quite possible that the vast majority of us like both DC Comics and Marvel? That there are lifelong fans of comics who find value in both the Justice League and the Avengers? Are the movies any different? Can I add any more questions to this paragraph?
This Binary narrative of warring Marvel and DC fans represents a small sub-section of fans and is promoted by websites who feed on their seething rage to help generate page views. Too many film fans are obsessed with the concept of winning and losing. They bring so many external factors into the conversation about the movie. Perception, critical reviews, likes & dislikes, box office performance domestically & internationally. These are fine for Reddit conversations or comment section shoot outs, but these aren’t the kind of factors that should be making their ways into supposedly legitimate film reviews.
A movie should be reviewed on its merits. From the time the production company logos come up to when the final credits roll. The movie theater should be a place where preconceived notions are addressed with the creative content of the story and where outside factors are disregarded. How a film performs in China and the studios return on investment should have zero impact on your perception of a movie. By considering these things, movie goers are diminishing their pure enjoyment of the movie. And when film critics discuss them in their reviews, they are contributing to you enjoying the movie a little less, whether you realize it or not.
Take the upcoming Doctor Strange movie from Marvel. It’s a film that had to deal with a somewhat manufactured ‘controversy’ of casting Tilda Swinton in the role of The Ancient One. It’s certainly a thought that will cross my mind when I see the movie this November, but it should in no way be a determining factor to whether or not I view her performance as a success or failure in the finished film. Nor should it appear in any legitimate review.
For example, if someone says “Tilda Swinton was great in Doctor Strange…” there would be no issue. However, if they added “…I don’t know what the controversy was all about.” Now you’ve added exterior influence into the review. You’ve taken events that transpired outside the theater, outside the creative work, and introduced it as an influence to your readers and the ultimate decision making mechanism of the critique. Critics need to fight the urge to turn every review into a Marvel vs. DC cultural battle like two kids arguing at the playground about whether Batman could beat Captain America in a fight.
We live in an a golden age where every geek property is getting a movie or TV adaptation. Comic books have never been better or offered a more diverse slate of exceptional storytelling. So why do some fans have to take these properties and turn them into a binary battle because of ridiculously immature favoritism.
And even worse, why do critics?
How about we abandon the idea of Binary Theory and just treat each film as its own, individual piece of cinema instead of another bullet in the chamber of the pop culture war?