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Joss Whedon has directed two of the biggest superhero films ever, so he knows the genre like few can — and there’s one thing in particular that bothers him about it.
During a Tumblr Q&A, one person asked if the popularity of superhero movies might have something to do with “the rise of authoritarian wannabe regimes all over the world.” The director responded in the affirmative.
“I think you’ve addressed an issue that’s bugged me for years — that was the chief conflict in Ultron,” Whedon wrote. “Superhero stories are on some level fascistic. I still love them, but you’ll notice that as much as I love the elevated self, I hate the idea of the few being rightfully better than/in control of the many. That’s why buffy shares her power at the end of the show, to lay down the western mythos and create stories celebrating community.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron saw Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) take world security into their own hands (to disastrous results), with follow-up Captain America: Civil War exploring those consequences. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice did something similar earlier this year — with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) both unhappy with the other’s use of power.
While fascism wasn’t really part of the conversation in those films, that charge has been levied at Frank Miller’s 1986 take on Batman in The Dark Knight Returns, which sees the hero declare a one-man war on crime, while other comics, such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen, have also explored the unsavory implications of superheroes and society.
For Whedon, he says this concern hasn’t put him off the genre.
“I still want to make westerns. And superhero movies. The tension between those conflicting views will, I hope, keep my work from becoming a polemic,” wrote Whedon.
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Santa Barbara International Film Festival