Movies and TV

Captain America: Peak Superhero?

Superhero Google Trends Graph

Superhero Google Trends Graph

I only enter a movie theater a few times a year, preferring to view everything a few months or years later on the HD screen at home on my own schedule. But I did get out to see Captain America: Civil War, which I highly recommend if you can stand the shaky-cam battle scenes with their low frame rate — visually disturbing to many. Deadpool, which I saw via Amazon streaming a week ago, also fired on all cylinders, with a foul and funny script and good characters.

As Marvel productions are capturing more and more of the total box office revenues, are we approaching “peak superhero?” The above graph shows how several franchises have peaked and then declined. I couldn’t fit vampires in, but they peaked earlier, then were followed by zombies, which are now in gradual decline as saturation has been reached, with over a dozen movies and series having thoroughly explored most of the possibilities.

Superhero stories could at first be simple, with cardboard characters, since the novelty of the superhero / supervillain conflict could carry the story for a less jaded audience. But now everyone has been exposed to many generations of Superman, Batman, and X-Men, and stories have to be more character-based. The action scenes can still be exciting, though we’ve already seen peak CGI and after spectacles like 2012 and San Andreas, which did well in overseas markets despite simple stories and shallow characters, there’s not a lot of hunger for more raw CGI destruction. Without humor, romance, and a good script, future big-budget CGI movies will do poorly in the US unless they are involving in some other way.

Tomorrowland was a major flop, for example, because its story and script were murky and unsatisfying. Few viewers came away from it wanting friends and children to see it despite some delightful set-pieces — it started out bemoaning the defeatism of our dystopia-loving age, then reinforced it with a murderous cardboard bad guy, chase scenes, and a “hopeful” ending of Apple-ad-style androids sent to Earth like missionaries to direct humanity toward the correct technocratic path. To hell with that, I thought… (See Tomorrowland: Tragic Misfire.)

The most recent Marvel superhero movies have been well-acted, well-written, and thoughtful, and they have made so much money that Hollywood copycats will be getting greenlights on more and more superhero productions. But between TV and movies, the genre has been mined out — or has it?

Deadpool was especially enjoyable because it had interesting characters and bucked typical blockbuster movie censorship conventions — and as Deadpool himself points out in voiceover, it’s a love story! Kick-ass women and less conventional men make for a fun mix.

The highest-grossing vampire movies, the Twilight series, were also romances and attracted major female audiences. I don’t know of a successful zombie romance and it’s easy to see how that would be tough — zombies make for unattractive love interests, since major parts may fall off at critical moments and lovemaking and brain-eating don’t mix, though we’ve seen good zombie comedies (e.g., Shaun of the Dead).

Major flops occur when old franchises are rebooted without respect to the iconic characters’ existing symbolism — for example Batman vs Superman, a stinker because not only was it implausible (how could Batman, a tech-assisted human, really fight Superman, powerful enough to move mountains and spin the earth backward to turn back time?), but it clashed with Superman’s deeper image as embodiment of the American Way.

Marvel has not made this mistake, and Captain America has been developed as a slightly-updated version of his original WWII comicbook persona. His American idealism, once cliched, is now refreshing, and his willingness to go against the grain of bureaucracy to fight for Good resonates in a population tired of increasing nanny-state rules and regulations.

Identifying with a superhero protagonist enables a fantasy of independence and power for individuals. Boys are stereotypically fascinated by stories of finding a way (technology, magic, a spider bite!) to become independent and powerful fighters, but the appeal is broadening to girls, women, and everyone else as more and more our life-choices are dictated by those who believe they know better than we do what is best for us. Putting ourselves in their place lets us fantasize that we can make a difference, while in our real lives we wait on hold to deal with health insurance companies and pay the IRS whatever it asks since it is too hard to figure out their computer-generated letters.

More reading on other topics:

FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegregation Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Captain America and Progressive Infantilization

Captain America speaks

Captain America speaks

Amanda Marcotte is generating clicks with her complaint about the new Captain America: Civil War movie. Complaining being the primary mode of progressives, because everything is “problematic” unless one of their fellow travelers made it.

In her piece, “Captain America’s a douchey libertarian now: Why did Marvel have to ruin Steve Rogers?”, Marcotte is upset because the Cap didn’t knuckle under to “reasonable, common-sense” restrictions on his freedom to act for good. It’s not worth a detailed fisking — generating clickbait articles for a living doesn’t allow much time for careful writing — but she does reveal the mindset of those who believe every decision should be made by a committee of the select. The “unregulated” and “uncontrolled” are too dangerous to tolerate. Some key bits:

Steve Rogers is an icon of liberal patriotism, and his newest movie turns him into an Ayn Rand acolyte…

Most corporate blockbuster movies would cave into the temptation to make the character some kind of generic, apolitical “patriot,” abandoning the comic tradition that has painted him as a New Deal Democrat standing up consistently for liberal values. Instead, in both the first movie and in “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” we get Steve the liberal: Anti-racist, anti-sexist, valuing transparency in government and his belief that we the people should hold power instead of some unaccountable tyrants who believe might makes right.

Steve is All-American, so he is classically liberal: believing in the rule of law, equality of opportunity, and freedom to do anything that doesn’t step on someone else’s rights and freedoms. Amanda does not believe in individual freedom — she believes in “freedom,” approved by committee, with individual achievement subordinated to identity politics aiming at equality of outcome. No one should be free to judge the morality of a situation and act without lobbying others to achieve a majority and gaining approval of people like her.

Which is why I was sorely disappointed that the latest installment of the Marvel cinematic universe, “Captain America: Civil War,” decided that, for no reason whatsoever, Steve is now a guy who believe it’s cool to belong to a secretive paramilitary that rejects oversight and accountability to the public. Because while we all know and love them as the Avengers, hero squad, the brutal truth, which the movie does admit, is that is exactly what they are: A mercenary group who has resisted even the most basic oversight from democratic governments, oversight that would allow the people that the Avengers are supposed to be protecting some say in what this militaristic police force is allowed to do.

So she thinks the Avengers’ business model is to take the side of the highest bidder in any conflict (the meaning of “mercenary.”) Marcotte is already pretending that not voluntarily agreeing to bind yourself to be commanded by a murkily-governed international group that has demonstrated an inability to act to deter the worst human rights-abusing states is just like going to war for money.

Quick recap: In “Civil War,” the Avengers are facing growing international criticism for the way they handled the events in “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Many people are arguing that they are operating without government oversight and innocent civilians are getting killed in the process. While it’s true that those civilian casualties are not the fault of the Avengers — they were fighting off serious threats and unfortunately, in war, civilians get killed — there are nonetheless growing demands for some kind of accountability and oversight.

These issues aren’t just about a silly comic book movie, which is why this is all so irritating. In the real world, right now, we are awash in arguments over accountability and oversight when it comes to both the police and the military. From the Black Lives Matter movement to questions over the military’s drone program, our country is embroiled in debates over just these issues.

The liberal position, the one that the Steve Rogers of the past two movies would hold, is extremely clear: The police and the military are accountable to the public. If people die on your watch, there needs to be a hearing. The military’s powers should be held in check. We sure as hell don’t want a mercenary organization that answers to no one crossing international borders and fighting wars without any input from democratic systems of government.

I think Steve would agree that the police and the military are accountable to a properly constituted government which operates in accordance with constitutional principles. Once one has taken the oath of public service, one has agreed to serve under those terms. Steve stops short of taking that oath and signing on the dotted line precisely because he realizes the government he would be agreeing to serve is not a proper one, and that he would be kept from doing the right thing in the future by so binding himself.

Marcotte’s analogy to current issues of police misbehavior and drone warfare is just wrong. To adequately capture an analogy would require that she acknowledge that the UN is corrupt like Chicago is corrupt, and that, like US police, the new Avengers would be protected by a union which would prevent punishment of any of its members for all but the most egregious offenses. After, say, destroying a small city to pursue a personal vendetta, the Avenger responsible would be suspended and then put back to work a few months later in another district despite a record of misuse of authority.

The demands being made by various governments and the United Nations in “Civil War” are more than reasonable. They want the Avengers to stop being a privately run paramilitary organization that answers to no one. They want them to sign a treaty agreeing to transparency and some government oversight. This is common sense and what we would expect the standard liberal position to be in a world where superheroes exist.

Like the President, Marcotte thinks her view is always “common sense,” and dissenting views are simply nonsense, illogical error. Why would any right-thinking person disagree with common sense?

More importantly, for consistency’s sake, this exactly the position that Steve Rogers has expressed before. In “Winter Soldier,” the entire debate between Steve and Nick Fury, which is resolved firmly on Steve’s side, is over how much power military forces should have without democratic oversight. Nick argues that SHIELD, a fictional international organization that is basically the world’s police, should have broad powers to spy on citizens and take unilateral military action in secret. Steve disagrees, pointing out that he fought in WWII specifically because he opposes strong-handed, dictatorial powers of that nature. In the end, Steve wins, dumping all of SHIELD’s secrets onto the internet and turning the power over to the people.

But now, in this movie, Steve is singing a different tune. He seems to believe that because he knows the Avengers mean well, that’s good enough. He doesn’t want to have justify his behavior or include democratic governments in the decision-making process.

How many of those governments are truly democratic? Marcotte makes the classic error of the illiberal thinkers: democracy is good, even when it’s 51% agreeing to violate the human rights of individuals. She can’t imagine actually turning power over to the people as individuals, to direct their lives as they see fit; no, every decision must be made by a government or it’s illegitimate.

Connecting the dots, this is the same tendency seen in the Special Snowflakes on campus: find everything problematic, and look to a nanny state or school administrators to take your side and punish those that offend you. In this child’s view of the universe, any disagreement with the perfect utopia of equality is not to be tolerated or compromised with — open debate is too stressful, so exaggerated grievances and calls for authorities to suppress the disagreeable are the new campus sport. Jonathan Haidt has written on this effectively.

Given the alternatives, Captain America acting in a wider world realizes his only moral alternative is to go without the safety net of government oversight, until such point as there is a legitimate world government. Having seen what unquestioning obedience to the wrong hierarchical organization can lead to, he chooses to remain independent.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. — Luke 12:48

Agreeing to be bound by an authority already demonstrated to be corrupt is lazy and immoral. Working without a net is harder. But Marcotte’s view of responsible adulthood is to always give up your own moral agency to some group.

We are all to be slaves to each other.

PS — Vanity Fair thinks Cap and Bucky exude too much “heterosexual virility.” Where’s my eyeroll emoticon?

Twitchy coverage here.

Lots of useful discussion on the Salon piece here (Reddit.) Someone needs to point out how douchey Amanda Marcotte is for implying that a) all liberatrians are douchebags, and b) somehow Cap is acting like Ayn Rand.

PPS on the publication that employs Marcotte to attract clicks: “Salon has been unprofitable through its entire history. Since 2007, the company has been dependent on ongoing cash injections from board Chairman John Warnock and William Hambrecht, father of former Salon CEO Elizabeth Hambrecht. During the nine months ended December 31, 2012, these cash contributions amounted to $3.4 million, compared to revenue in the same period of $2.7 million.” I’m surprised they don’t get government grants! I used to do some business with Hambrecht and Quist. John Warnock ran Adobe, which employed many of my friends…[edited after I realized I was confusing Gordon Eubanks with Warnock!]


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegregation Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

“Sublime Narcissism” – Freddie deBoer

Social Justice: Listen and Believe!

Social Justice: Listen and Believe!

Freddie deBoer spends time on Twitter so you don’t have to, and thinks independently instead of being a herd creature (which doesn’t let you off the hook.) Today in his post The Sublime Narcissism of Getting Offended On Other People’s Behalf he tears into the faddish accusation of cultural appropriation and other efforts to condemn behavior on behalf of someone else who shows no sign of being offended:

A few months back I got into a Twitter argument about the uselessness of complaints about cultural appropriation, in particular a muscular form that takes it as offensive to consume the goods of cultures to which one does not belong — food, clothing, music, and so on. I pointed out the usual problems with this thinking. All culture is hybrid; there is no place where legitimate appreciation ends and shameful appropriation begins; a world without cultural borrowing is a bleak and terrible place; and as I’ve said many times, saying “you should only consume that which comes from your own culture” is functionally identical to the efforts of white supremacists to keep the people pure.

Maybe most importantly, given that cultures are always large, diffuse, and made up of lots of different people, the idea of appropriation has to inevitably posit some ideal member of the group, when in reality all cultures are made up of many people. I had very earnest Twitterers telling me that American Chinese food is appropriation, not seeming to grasp that it was Chinese people who spread their cuisine in the United States, in order to make a living. In much the same way, thought white people doing yoga has been attacked as cultural appropriation, it was in fact a concerted effort by Indian people to spread the practice that has caused it to become an economic juggernaut in the West. Certainly members of those cultures can get mad at the other members of the cultures who spread these things. But they can hardly do so by claiming cultural appropriation on the part of those who they disagree with. Nor can any of us from outside those cultures rightly decide who’s an “authentic” member of the Chinese or Indian culture. But in order to make these complaints, you have to: you are, by definition, asserting a right to define the authentic for a culture you don’t belong to in order to claim that the authentic has been somehow corrupted.

This doesn’t mean that a person who is deeply knowledgeable in a culture other than their own is not allowed to point out deficiencies in how it’s portrayed or used. We’re free to note with amusement how tragically awful Hollywood was at depicting, say, African tribal culture in early movies. But those were not intended to be instruction manuals for diplomats. If all portrayals are to be examined for authenticity, most of our cultural production would fail. Which is beside the point: a story is told for values other than perfect fidelity, and if there’s a good-faith effort not to unfairly demonize another culture, that is better (no matter how flawed) than no attempt to bring in other cultures at all.

Some other recent “appropriation” controversies:

J. K. Rowling’s Pottermore extension of wizarding lore to the New World and Native Americans, attacked for insensitively using Navajo Skinwalker beliefs: Indian Country Today, N. K. Jemesin’s criticisms. Rowling is accused of doing “real harm” by fitting a modified Skinwalker belief into her fictional magical lore — in other words, she has committed heresy — or what would be heresy if she were Navajo. If Skinwalkers were central to her story, there might be some concern, but it’s a colorful detail which no one with any perspective would take seriously. Magic isn’t actually a real thing, and neither are skinwalkers. No one outside Navajo religious practice is required to do deep research to mention it in passing.

Two members of Bowdoin College’s student government to be impeached for holding a party featuring tiny sombrero hats. Realizing how foolish they looked, Bowdoin administrators have since backed down, but the knee-jerk accusations wasted everyone’s time and damage credibility when real issues might need to be addressed. Who would listen to such fools? The birthday party was set up by students, invitations sent out by a student of Colombian descent. Actual Mexicans and Latinos were not offended, any more than they would be by a Taco Bell.

One student of Guatemalan and Costa Rican heritage, freshman Brandon Lopez, pronounced the whole kerfuffle “mind-boggling” and called the disciplinary consequences a “travesty,” especially in light of the dining hall’s Mexican night a week later. (Lopez was invited to the party but could not attend because of baseball practice, he said.)

Freddy’s point is that this “concern on behalf of others” is itself condescending and betrays a belief that the other cultures are so weak and their adherents so helpless that sensitive progressives must come to their aid and appoint themselves judges of proper behavior toward the “lesser cultures.” And I will add this point about virtue-signalling generally (from a Facebook comment on his post):

It’s condescending to the individuals of the culture involved. It’s also most commonly intended to signal that the offended-on-behalf-of one is not only enlightened, but enlightened in an uncommon way so that those who don’t share their insight can be deprecated. Aimed at nearby tribal enemies. Which is why it doesn’t satisfy to condemn evils of greater magnitude that everyone deplores, like FGM and throwing homosexuals off buildings. “More empathetic and sensitive than thou.” A corollary sin of pride.

“The Man in the High Castle” – Pilot Episode

The Man in the High Castle - Amazon Studios

The Man in the High Castle – Amazon Studios

Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle is one of his best books, apparently having been written in less haste and under fewer drugs than some of his others. It’s an alternative history set in the US of a 1962 where the Axis powers won WWII and the pacifist US succumbed and is partitioned, with the West Coast ruled by the Japanese Empire and the East Coast under a Nazi puppet state a la Vichy France. But like all his books, much more is going on here than just an alternative history story; reality is slippery and no one is quite what they seem, and this history may not be real, either.

It is not really science fiction — there’s no scientific explanation for what is going on, or portals between multiverses, although some characters can “see” other realities in foggy San Francisco. The delicacy and ferocity of Japanese culture is examined, the I Ching functions as a kind of Greek chorus pronouncing on the plot, and there’s a shadowy author who has written a book describing a world where Roosevelt wasn’t assassinated and the Allies win the war. The author points out what all historians know — the conquerors are affected by the conquered and absorb some of their culture.

Most of Dick’s novels and stories have been made into movies by now:

Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty,[6] eleven popular films based on his works have been produced, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau and Impostor. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923.[7] In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

He is now seen as marketable by Hollywood financiers. His estate’s commercial success is a bit tragic, since he died largely unrecognized in 1982.

Now we have a miniseries of Man in the High Castle, partly produced by Ridley Scott (another magic name in Hollywood) and financed by Amazon Studios. I watched the pilot and highly recommend it for its high production values and good acting. Because the complexity of the novel would be hard for film viewers to follow, it’s been simplified a bit, but the essence of the novel appears intact. This is the kind of production SyFy would mount if it weren’t run by science fiction illiterates.

Watch the Pilot Episode at Amazon Prime Streaming

Review by Jim Henley

For more on pop culture:

“Game of Thrones” and the Problem of PowerThe Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Raising Arizona” — Dream of a Family
Coen Brothers: 30 Years of Great Movies

Coen Brothers: 30 Years of Great Movies

Hudsucker Industries -- "The Future is Now"

Hudsucker Industries — “The Future is Now”

I featured Raising Arizona earlier, and Christopher Orr in the Atlantic blogs is reviewing all of the Coen Brothers’ movies released over their 30 year career here.

He’s lukewarm about The Hudsucker Proxy, which is one of their most stylish and fun efforts–and a suitably warm-hearted holiday movie for all ages, unlike many of their works (which can be violent and grim, like No Country for Old Men.) Many of their films are morally instructive but only enjoyable if you have reached a stage of maturity to be receptive to their lessons. A good example of that is the Job-like trials of the main character of A Serious Man, a Minnesota suburban Jew who is beset by tragedy and numerous irritants making him question his commitment to doing what is right. When you understand the morality they are playing with, it becomes a wicked comedy; if you do not understand, it must seem baffling and un-entertaining. “Why watch two hours of suffering? I get enough of that in my own life!”

For more on pop culture:

“Game of Thrones” and the Problem of PowerThe Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” Gives You Anorexia and an Abusive Partner!
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Raising Arizona” — Dream of a Family