Saturday, May 05, 2012

Theogony

I'm not the first, certainly not the last, to say this: for a long time, people have had superheroes, subdivinities or divinities — the principalities and powers of the world, or the worlds.
What is always interesting is the kind of world that our choice of principalities and powers reflects. In a world where Newton is the Prophet, we look towards determinism in the physical and mystery in the metaphysical, but with one reflecting the other — for Sir Isaac was an alchemical theologian as well as a natural scientist. In a world where the Hulk can pound a Norse god into immobility on the floor of a penthouse in the sky, we bridge the two and conflate power with power, bia with kratos.
I watched The Avengers, Joss Whedon's masterpiece of modern kinematography, on the cusp of Saturday night and Sunday morning. There were gods of all kinds invoked and evoked, with even Death making an appearance (in a way) towards the very end. They create an uneasy balance throughout, although the movie is so much fun that you forget this. But my focus was almost completely on Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans.
Captain America highlights one problem of his eponymous state: he looks at the Norse gods as they bicker and fight, and his thought is that his own God is not like that. Then that thought too is gone, as he has to become the umpiring principality in a battle between Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark as technotitan of electronic wizardry, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as legend of thunder and lightning. Somewhere in the background, Loki (played to the backstabbing hilt by Tom Hiddleston) wearily ponders the kindergarten-style brawling (of the don't-take-my-stuff variety).
Principalities and powers, indeed. If my foreground eye was focussed on the good Captain, my dark-adapted background eye was focussed on those psychologically warped children of the Cold War, the Black Widow (Ms Scarlet, haha) and Hawkeye. They, like Steve Rogers, don't feel as if they were ever trained for theomachy — but where Captain America sucks it up and goes to war, they grit their teeth and make the little things count. After all, 'twas an apple that started the Trojan War, and an arrow that effectively forced it to its end.
I enjoyed myself. But I couldn't help thinking such thoughts as I wandered home in the night before dawn.

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