WE’RE ALL going to die and no one is doing anything about it. The response from our political leaders in the face of impending climate catastrophe has amounted to little more than cursory acknowledgement. Never mind the deniers—the 2018 midterm elections ended up running a large fraction of the true climate deniers in Congress out of office as part of an overall shift towards Democratic control of the House. It’s the rest of the political system we have to worry about. Even the politicians who believe in anthropogenic climate change have not made it a priority—they put out gravely-worded statements on the latest UN report, joked about the President’s misreadings of it, and went back to their signature issues. Climate change, if left unopposed, will transform the totality of life on earth. And no one really seems to care.
In the wake of the political upheaval of 2016, cultural critics predicted that the Trump presidency would, for all of its inevitable calamities, bring about a golden age for political art. They were wrong. Instead of a flowering of genius works of protest art, the past two years have brought a deluge of half-assed attempts at political commentary. We’ve seen enough faux-woke pop songs, prestige TV plots based around “Fake News”, and Oscar-bait that pontificates on “American Culture” over the last couple of years that even the biggest news junkie must be sick of art that tries to be topical — to be important.
Certain ticket reservations for the Stanford College Republicans’ recently announced event with controversial conservative group Turning Point USA have been deleted and cancelled, with the cancelled reservations possibly having been targeted in a manner in violation of SAL event policy.
The most shocking thing about Avengers: Infinity War, the nineteenth film in the all-conquering Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU), is that it is, for the most part, coherent. For the bulk of its two-and-a-half hour runtime, Infinity War operates as if it’s just another movie — one with clearly sketched characters, some of whom have arcs of their very own, and a plot that builds to a climax befitting the movie’s overwrought title. This may sound like damning with faint praise, but just clearing that low bar of coherency is something to celebrate. Considering the vast amounts of capital (of both the narrative and literal kinds) invested over the past decade into the MCU by its owners at Disney, it was always more likely that Infinity War was going to be a mediocre, focus-grouped-to-death product that muddled through its contractually-obligated crossovers with all the joy of negotiating a corporate merger.
A common theory of eternal damnation is that of the personal hell— a uniquely tailored punishment for each sinner to eke out the most possible suffering. It’s a theme that’s animated pop culture for centuries, from The Divine Comedy to The Good Place. I’m not sure I quite believe in personal hells, but if they exist, I know what lies down there for me: An endless stream of awards shows, of self-congratulatory speeches segueing into misbegotten tributes segueing into maudlin performances then back into those same damned speeches about the power of cinema or how wonderful the music industry is.
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