The other day a buddy messaged me a link to a Quillette article titled, The Conservative Manifesto Buried in ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ asking what my take was on the thesis. I didn’t even know he was reading Quillette. Didn’t he know that’s part of the “Intellectual Dark Web” and therefore crime-think in polite society? That this was a gateway drug to the Alt-Right? The New York Times concern trolled the Intellectual Dark Web last year in its Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web.
Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”
… Today, people like them who dare venture into this “There Be Dragons” territory on the intellectual map have met with outrage and derision — even, or perhaps especially, from people who pride themselves on openness.
In other words, today’s dangerous ““there Be Dragons” territory” was yesterday’s conventional wisdom. Of course for that very reason, the IDW isn’t any sort of intellectual movement; it’s simply a catch-all term for public intellectuals who found themselves on the wrong end of the SJW guillotine simply by not changing their entire worldview every time there is a new outrage trending on Twitter. The fact that they make such a tiny fraction of opinion makers is troubling though. An honest intelligentsia would almost always find itself on the wrong end of Twitter madness. I guess we don’t have one of those.
But on to Endgame and the answer to the question, is there a conservative manifesto buried in Avengers: Endgame?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Also No. I loved Avengers: Endgame, as I wrote about here, but the author’s contention, that the MCU version of time travel is more conservative than what he calls the “standard model,” seems like nonsense. The standard model is that when you time travel, you are going back to your actual past and can influence things in your past to change your present. This was amply demonstrated in Back to the Future among other films. Marty McFly’s changes in the past actually give him a better present. In the MCU however, Dr. Banner/Hulk calls this nonsense. You can’t change the past. What’s done is done. All you can do is go back and, by actually being in the past, create a new and distinct timeline, where your past changes will have no effect on your own past or history, only on the new timeline you’ve created.
As a theory of time travel, this actually makes more logical sense and is more up to date with Quantum Mechanics as nonscientists such as myself know it (to time travel, they go through the ‘Quantum Realm’) than the old version. But there is nothing particularly political about it. The fact that you can’t change the past in the MCU time travel version doesn’t mean you are trapped by consequences, since in one sense, that sort of time travel frees you from consequence. You can go back to the past, do anything you want, like kill your grandfather, and it won’t affect you, your history, or anything about your “present” since the consequences are borne by the alternate universe created by the time traveling. As a consequence, Tony Stark gets a heart to heart talk with his father in 1970, Thor gets a heart to heart talk with his mother in pre-Ragnarok Asgard, and Captain America gets into a brawl with his own 2012 self.
So instead of conservative manifesto, I see clickbait. You can do better Quillette. However I do acknowledge that the villain Thanos is a Paul Ehrlich-like enviro-nut. Frankly, Endgame was such a dense movie that they barely could fit a single “you go gurrls” scene in the film.
That’s not to say that liberal Hollywood doesn’t make unintentionally conservative films. They have to, because like it or not, they live in a world that mostly runs along conservative (small c) rules. Juno of course is a great example. Although screenwriter Diablo Cody seems horrified that the film as viewed seems to have a pro-life message, and has stated she regrets she wrote it in such a way, the truth is that’s what makes it a heartwarming film. There is no version of that movie in which Juno decides to go to the clinic to get rid of a clump of cells and everyone shares the same heartwarming ending. The movie just would not have become the hit it did or even have gotten made. If they could, Hollywood would make movies all day about women who exert their choice to abort their babies, but that doesn’t make a movie concept that sells.
During the 1970’s, when street crime was much more of a thing, and was a cause of real fear and anxiety among the general public, the Dirty Harry and Death Wish films were highly popular, because they represented a real fear of street crime among the public. Hollywood was just as liberal then as now, but they recognized the money making appeal of the average guy getting revenge on criminals, or a cop bending the rules to provide street justice when it wasn’t available through the system.
Red Dawn was a rare exception to the rule that cold war fears were to be exploited solely by the left. “Because…we live here” is probably the most right-wing thing said in American cinema. Try using that as an argument for immigration restriction in your college Social Issues class and see where that gets you.
Hollywood will continue to make movies that are outwardly lefty and lose money, and movies that really do have a conservative bias (like The Dark Knight Rises) which totally slips by the Hollywood censors, but I don’t think Endgame falls in either category. For that, you’ll have to wait for Marvel Studio’s Phase 5, The Intersectional Avengers.