You feel it; I know you do because we all do. That deep, aching, existential pain lamenting our civilizational decline: things cannot continue like this, and we know who’s causing it. They haunt our institutions while facilitating the dissolution of our social fabric.
I refer, of course, to the scourge of superheroes.
How Did We Get Here?
Since the turn of the century, there have been dozens of superhero movies and TV shows (primarily produced by Marvel and DC studios, respective subsidiaries of Disney and Warner Brothers). And despite the mid-to-late 20th century similarly churning out cinematic adaptations of various caped crusaders’ escapades — and Fox’s “X-Men” franchise kicking off right at the start of the millennium — the genre found a steadfast foothold in the post-9/11, Great Recession digital era.
Due, in equal part, to the groundswell in computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology and the West’s newfound sense of vulnerability, superhero movies provided people with comforting and aesthetically engaging stories of interesting and self-actualized men and women who fought the good fight by taking matters into their own hands. People could easily escape their social and economic woes by flocking to the theaters to see Tobey Maguire web up petty crooks, Robert Downey Jr. take on the military-industrial complex, Christian Bale attempt to restore order to a city overrun by nihilistic cynicism, and Henry Cavill ponder what it truly means to be human.
These movies were generally well-made and very positively received by critics and consumers, alike. But most importantly, they were profitable, and as such more were ordered by studio execs.
Because of the positive critical and commercial response to things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, global markets exploded with all sorts of superhero merchandise while screen projects continued at a breakneck pace. And to be fair, the consumerist thirst could not be quenched — people genuinely loved these things. Centuries from now, archeologists will unearth thousands of plastic cups proudly proclaiming “Hulk Smash” and “Made in China.”
But studios grew cocky and self-righteous — many such cases in Tinseltown!
The Rise Of Capeslop And Superhero Flanderization
During the glut of superhero content throughout the 2010s and early 2020s (particularly the Covid years), leftwing political themes like feminism, environmentalism, Western resentment, and racial grievance became thematic focal points of tentpole Hollywood productions.
Coastal elites have always heavily skewed leftwing, a fact which no serious person denies. As such, for decades, American entertainment has jabbed at anyone to the right-of-center but generally kept the criticism relatively tongue-in-cheek. After all, being blatantly adversarial to half of the country is a risky calculation — Republicans watch movies, too.
But, naturally, as unabashed left-wing radicalism spilled into the mainstream during this time, the people tasked with creating entertainment jumped the shark and crammed it into every medium we consume. And studios embrace it — recall Disney executives proudly touting their “not-at-all-secret gay agenda.”
Story and immersion took a backseat to “representation” of “marginalized” people and hardly veiled leftist commentaries replaced character development. The goal became lecturing, not entertaining.
For instance, Marvel’s “Black Widow” was a movie about the oppressive and manipulative nature of patriarchy; “Thor: Love and Thunder” laid the LGBT propaganda on thick while Flanderizing formerly complex female characters into girl-boss archetypes; “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” harped on racial animus; and the entire plot of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” revolved around an intersectional proletarian uprising.
This drastic overemphasis of thematic leftism even led lifelong comic book fans, such as Nerdrotic’s Gary Buechler, to go to war with what he branded the “M-She-U.”
And whereas Disney’s Marvel is the biggest culprit, since it has the largest catalog, blame must also be placed at the feet of DC Studios. With each release of duds like “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Black Adam,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” and “The Flash,” DC leaned heavily into feminist resentment and anti-Western chauvinism while writing quality circled the drain.
The fictional characters and situations that provided people with years of escapism and release gave way to genre deconstruction and cynicism while beloved cultural figures became Flanderized versions of themselves, with an over-emphasis on minor attributes such as race, sex, or speech pattern to the point of consuming the character.
The genre became slop, and the audience was expected to consume it and ask for more.
Going the Way Of the Western…Sort Of
The “golden age” of the Western lasted roughly from 1940 to 1960. Due to saturation in content and what became predictable formulaic storytelling, the genre faded in popularity — and these, compared to contemporary cinema, were largely apolitical. At least, these filmmakers weren’t blatantly antagonistic to their audiences. There were simply too many Westerns and people got bored.
Similarly, people are less and less excited to rush to the theater to see comic book adaptations these days. Ticket sales are decreasing as “superhero fatigue” increasingly appears to be a real phenomenon. Folks are tired of seeing their values maligned by a never-ending, absurdly entitled leftist content mill that expects them to perpetually patronize their industry despite decreasing quality.
While the Western fell out of favor largely due to oversaturation and predictability, the superhero genre seems to be losing ground not just because of the sheer number of productions, but also due to the deliberate and unabashed politicization of entertainment that has alienated much of the viewer base.
Hollywood, it seems, has traded the escapism and relatability that once defined the superhero genre for an ideological agenda that, quite frankly, doesn’t resonate with a significant part of the audience. The superhero films of the 2000s and 2010s, even with their occasional political undertones, remained primarily vehicles for storytelling, character development, and visceral thrill. Today’s films, however, are often so overtly and clumsily political that the story itself feels like an afterthought — a mere coat rack on which to hang a heavy tapestry of ideological messaging.