I know it’s hardly a secret that I’m a big fan of The Avengers. Admittedly, I don’t follow its comic book lore at all. I’m just a big fan of the movie project itself – from its inception to its glamorous execution on the big screen. While such superhero action flicks are often an opportunity for us to escape into a dream where good – in spandex, armor and green skin – struggles to prevail over evil, they also reflect, in some wildly exaggerated way, our values and attitudes. In this case, I see The Avengers as an assembly of heroes that represent different ways of ‘saving the world’; earth’s mightiest heroes are in fact hardly a unified homogenous group at all. They don’t belong together, but together they can do wonders.
1. Black Widow: Your token female hero? Perhaps. but she certainly stood out as an agent that played to her strengths and even leveraged on her perceived weaknesses. Are females – a highly underutilized and under-recognized human capital possessing tremendous emotional and intellectual aptitude – the answer to saving our world?
2. Iron Man: “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”. Is the answer to our world’s problems in the hands of enlightened private, rather than public power? Does the future belong to the “privatization of world peace” as Stark exclaimed in Iron Man 2? Also, does it involve us fully embracing and harnessing the powers of science and technology? To embrace the possibilities, even, of singularity as well?
3. Thor: Do the answers to our growing pains lie in magic and gods? In believing in things, people and worlds bigger than us? Thor, a hammer wielding god of thunder and lightning from Norse mythology, seems a perfect idealization of that our belief in gods that look good and do good, but also look extremely good doing good. It sits well with prevailing cultural beliefs and norms, and putting our hope in deities and beings beyond our own understanding (because we often construct them to be that way) helps us know they would never fail us.
4. Captain America: Or, is the answer to our problems in the unparalleled bravery and heroism of soldiers, and by extension, the flags they fight for? Every nation makes it a point to exalt their heroes – both past and present – who donned their colors and made notable sacrifices to protect the sovereignty and freedom of their people. Are such people the answer to our problems? Or, perhaps, is America itself the answer? Pax Americana may be an irrelevant concept today but does it continue to wield a softer ideological power over us still? After all, how many countries can say they’ve managed to sell a hero named after their own country to a global audience? (Captain Singapore? I don’t think so…)
5. Hawk Eye: Had a rather muted role in the movies but still had a moment or two. It wasn’t really his pinpoint accuracy or his deadly skill with the (heavily modified) bow and arrow that enemies feared, it was his ability to see, to analyze the situation, identify patterns and call out strategic attacks. So how do we save the world? We need to see the world first. To analyze global patterns and make sense of indicators and data to determine how to best manage and channel our resources to alleviating the problems.
6. The Hulk: Looking at how a single human can turn into ferocious being of invulnerability raises the question: where does all the energy come from? The answer to earth’s problems may lie in harnessing untold energy to lower our dependence on fossil fuels and to complement the inadequate amounts of energy produced by current alternative sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric.