So, people are mad at the best voice actor in “Shark Tale” again.
Martin Scorsese, the director who needs no introduction, has doubled down on his 2019 critique of the film industry at large in an essay dedicated to Federico Fellini, director of Italian classics like “8 ½” and “La Dolce Vita.” A bunch of hot actors and their fans are super upset because they thought “The Irishman” was too long. And hey, I never saw it, so I can’t say anything about that, but I don’t think people defending (at best) haphazard writing really have much to say to the guy who’s been trying to support marginalized voices long before Disney-Marvel’s performative streak of corporate activism.
Yeah, I get it, Scorsese makes a lot of movies about men. First of all, go watch “Raging Bull” or “Mean Streets” or “Taxi Driver” and try to tell me they aren’t psychological examinations of masculinity at its worst. Second, are we really going to pretend that “Captain Marvel” is an example of feminist praxis? Really? I love Brie Larson as much as the next gal, but when Marvel is literally funded by the U.S. military and queerbaiting you until you sign up to go stand guard for an oil empire under the guise of defending yet-to-be-seen freedoms, you’ve lost.
But whatever. The thing is, you really don’t have to like Scorsese’s movies. Everybody has different tastes. Let’s just focus on what the old guy’s saying for a minute.
Art shouldn’t “treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else,” Scorsese explains in the essay. Art shouldn’t be in the hands of a media conglomerate with a vise hold on every upper-middle-class Millennial elementary school teacher who is willing to get COVID-19 if it means they can get engaged to their equally milquetoast boyfriend in Mickey Mouse ears at a morally ambiguous theme park. Disney is a robber baron. It has monopolized art. How many more live-action remakes or gritty reboots do we need? How reliant are we on nostalgia? I’m glad Billy Eichner got a fat paycheck but did anyone even like “The Lion King”?
The really sick thing is that if they inexplicably came to my door and offered me a role as Songbird in a comic-loyal version of the mutant civil war, it wouldn’t take much convincing for me to take it.
I’m a reformed Marvel fan. I used to get excited about “The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” because I bought into the defunct notion that nerds are an oppressed people and reading comics was like owning a book in “Fahrenheit 451.”
The truth is that people desperately want to feel like they belong. Humans are devastatingly lonely. We love the found-family trope, pretending we have powers and will be whisked away to an academy for gifted individuals. We really love buying into celebrity culture, watching all the late-night TV interviews and thinking, “If that rich out-of-touch actor got to know me, I think we’d be really good friends.” Alex Pappademas says it better than anyone in his article, “The Decade Comic Book Nerds Became Our Cultural Overlords”:
“This is what nerds are now: a volunteer army of PR freelancers for the biggest media companies in the world, shouting down anybody who refuses to read ‘BLACK WIDOW EQUALS FEMINISM’ or ‘BABY GROOT IS AWESOMESAUCE’ off a cue card held by a dancing Spider-Man. To these poor souls I recommend carving out a few hours of the waning decade for a movie called ‘The Irishman,’ in which a guy commits for life to an institution that doesn’t care about him at all and realizes too late that he’s absolutely powerless.”
It’s really just depressing. Sure, when I think about the terrifying expanse of time ahead of us, then yeah, eventually we’ll probably get to the point where Disney loosens its gorilla grip on the film industry. It’s like that saying about how if you put a bunch of chimps in front of a typewriter for infinity, then they’ll eventually have written all of Shakespeare. Except in this situation, it’s just waiting for them to finish writing scenes in which a Russo brother hints at a nameless character being gay so that Disney can get inclusivity points while still making me watch Captain America tongue-fuck his niece. Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter aren’t blood-related, but still.
Look, I just think Marvel needs to remember how to have fun. No more drone striking in “Spider-Man” movies, no more gritty reboots. I watched an episode of “WandaVision” and thought it seemed like a step in the right direction. If they just stop taking themselves so seriously, take the military out of it and maybe take a break from making ten movies a year, we might all be better off. A lot of people have more concise ways of putting this but, basically, just try watching other movies.
Daily Arts Writer Mary Elizabeth Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.