For some background: The AV Club, which began life as the arts and entertainment section of The Onion, was a massively influential pop culture outlet for many years. It gave us important film writers like Scott Tobias, Keith Phipps, and Nathan Rabin, and later helped birth the culture of TV episode recaps. All looked at movies, TV, and other pop culture in a savvy way.
Instead, we get this unbelievably dumb exploration of one of culture’s most tired debates.
The gist is that Martin Scorsese, like most men who are 80 years old and didn’t grow up reading comic books, isn’t a huge fan of the Marvel movies, something he mentioned in passing in an interview years ago.
Every time he gives an interview about one of his new movies, he’s asked about this, and every time, that’s what ends up being aggregated. Scorsese, it’s clear, is sick of this debate, and the truth isn’t “Scorsese hates Marvel.” It’s “Scorsese doesn’t think about Marvel at all.”
This isn’t an interesting debate, nor is it something that there’s anything new to say about. But Marvel fans aren’t content with owning the current pop culture; they insist that everyone has to like what they like.
The AV Club story is by “Ray Greene,” a writer so obscure that some speculated he might be a nonexistent creation of AI (the AV Club has not exactly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to that):
There’s a new Martin Scorsese movie coming out, so of course it’s time for another round of the esteemed filmmaker’s King Lear-like rants against Marvel Entertainment and superhero movies as an existential threat to the art of cinema, Western civilization, and the very act of moviegoing itself…. But to act like “theme park” movies are a new phenomenon deserving of fresh and universal agita is disingenuous coming from a filmmaker who has had Steven Spielberg and George Lucas on speed dial for over 40 years.
I’m not sure if Greene is a real person or an AI, but either way, he’s read “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” at least enough to absorb its thesis.
The war Scorsese wants filmmakers to wage was either lost decades ago or maybe never existed. It arguably began in earnest in 1977, when the freakish holdover success of Star Wars drove William Friedkin’s dark action noir masterpiece Sorcerer out of theaters so C3PO could gobble up more screens. The battle pretty much ended almost literally in a cloud of dust by 1980, when Michael Cimino’s anti-capitalist Western Heaven’s Gate lost 20 percent of its running time just before a wide release so disastrous it was said to have destroyed United Artists, the studio funding the film.
Then there’s this embarrassing kicker:
When Marty is gone, and an entire body of work steeped in the belief that toxic masculinity is the organizing principle of the cosmos is reassessed, it will be interesting to see if his highly personal oeuvre can stake the same claim.
Room for Both
Look, the reason this is a stupid debate is that there’s plenty of room in the world for both Martin Scorsese and Marvel. No one wants to ban or suppress the other, nor could they. It’s a ridiculous thing that we argue about every four years when we could be talking instead about the new Scorsese film. And like the Pauline Kael/Nixon business, there must be a whole generation of young filmmakers who know Martin Scorsese only as “that old guy who hates Marvel.”
The reaction to the piece is mostly sadness, over what’s become of the formerly great AV Club, and that new places aren’t exactly rising in its place. (The AV Club diaspora remains active, however, with Phipps and Tobias at The Reveal, Rabin at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, and several of the TV writers at Episodic Medium, all on Substack.)
Not everything you don’t like online is “clickbait,” but the AV Club story is. And it appears to have worked; on the former Twitter, the piece had nearly 4 million views as of Tuesday morning.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.