mild language warning here for folks who've never read FILM CRIT HULK before
TO GIVE AN EXTREME COMPARISON, WHEN AYN RAND WAS COMING OUT OF SOVIET RUSSIA SHE WAS ACTUALLY DEAD ON ABOUT VOICING CRITICISMS OF COMMUNISM'S UNIQUE BRAND OF TOTALITARIANISM, BUT THE PROBLEM IS SHE TOOK HER INDIVIDUALIST COUNTERPOINT TO COMMUNISM TO ITS FURTHEST AND MOST DANGEROUS END, RIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM: THE COMPLETE FREEDOM OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO DO WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT, FOR GOOD OR ILL. WHILE THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT COMPARABLE IN MORALITY NOR SCALE, INARRITU IS STILL GOING TO THE FURTHEST POSSIBLE REACTION. MEANING YES, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY A NUANCED ARGUMENT TO BE MADE ABOUT THE FASCIST NATURE OF SUPERHEROES...
THE THING IS THAT MOST OF THE FILMS THAT DO THIS THE BEST ARE ACTUAL SUPERHERO FILMS.
NOT JUST WITH THE MODERN INVERSIONS OF TROPES LIKE WATCHMEN AND OTHER BITS OF DIRECT META-COMMENTARY, BUT THE IDEA IS EVEN CENTRAL TO MOST OF THE GOLDEN AGE APPROACH TO HEROISM AT ITS VERY CORE. JUST LOOK AT THE MODELS: PETER PARKER WEBS PEOPLE AND LEAVES THEM TO BE ARRESTED. HE PAYS THE PRICE FOR THIS HEROISM IN COUNTLESS WAYS AND NEVER MAKES MONEY FOR DOING SO. LIKEWISE, SUPERMAN IS DEFINED BY HIS SAVING PEOPLE, AND ALWAYS AT HIS MOST COMPELLING WHEN HE CAN'T PUNCH ANYTHING AND THUS HAS TO BEG FOR EMPATHY. YES, THESE STORIES ARE "DREAMS," IDEALS OF WHAT WE MIGHT BE INSTEAD OF WHO WE ARE - BUT ALLOW HULK TO ARGUE THAT THAT IS THE COMPLETE FUCKING POINT. ESPECIALLY BECAUSE THESE CLASSIC STORIES AND CHARACTERS (OFT POOR) ENGAGE THE NUANCED ARGUMENT OF HEROISM / CLASS / SOCIETY THE FIRST DAMN CHANCE THEY GET, IN HOPES THAT THEY WILL TEACH US TO TRANSCEND IT... THAT'S LITERALLY THE POINT OF THEM.
AND INSTEAD OF BIRDMAN PRESENTING A NUANCED ARGUMENT, WE GET A SENTIMENT THAT THESE FILMS "ARE OBVIOUSLY BAD, SO LET'S MAKE FUN OF EVERYONE WHO INDULGES THEM AS WE ASPIRE TO MAKE REAL ART!"
WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH JUST AN UGLY, FLIPPANT HOLIER-THAN-THOU ATTITUDE THAT DOESN'T EVEN ENGAGE THE REAL ISSUE.
At the risk of quoting myself, I've already gone exploring the idea that even for the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne being Batman, where pop culture has gone with him in Batman: the animated series and Nolan's Batman trilogy ...
Particularly in the by now classic animated series Batman wasn't just beating the snot out of crooks. As Bruce Wayne he played a role in giving criminals who were trying to transition back into regular society day jobs. There's a particularly memorable story arc for Arnold Wesker/The Ventriloquist toward this end. We see Bruce Wayne struggling with the idea that he WANTS to believe that someone like Pamela Isley can truly be reformed but can't reconcile himself to it being reality, then we see Bruce Wayne giving Wesker a chance to build a new life for himself after he's put Scarface behind him. As FILM CRIT HULK was saying, the best superhero stories do actually dig into the questions of the use and nature of power. Even in the case of the rich guy Batman, we can still get a Bruce Wayne who can recognize that some people turn to crime not because they want to be bad but because they have mental illness that needs treating or lack the opportunity to do legal work with their limited social experience--and in BTAS, we'd get a Bruce Wayne who wouldn't "just" beat up the bad guys, he'd offer to get them the psychiatric help they needed.
So, yeah, not hard to be sympathetic to FILM CRIT HULK's frustration about the reflexively dismissive attitude some people have about genre work. Eve Tushnet had some quote years ago about how realistic fiction is something for those who are assuring themselves their view of the world is realistic and the rest of us make do with genre ... but the precise wording eludes me.