In this post, I will not get into the plot of Avengers: Endgame. Nor will I say if it is a good or bad film. (I honestly can't tell. It's certainly long, certainly a bit too talky, certainly has gorgeous space scenes, and Thor is amazing for reasons everyone will soon find out). My main concern here relates to something I pointed out in my 2018 article on Avengers: Infinity War. It is this: the super-heavy villain, Thanos (Josh Brolin), collects all of the Infinity stones for the purpose of eliminating 50 percent of all major animal life forms in the universe (I say major because I'm not sure bacteria were included in this apocalypse). His reason for the destruction of so much life? The universe is overpopulated. He is certain that once there are fewer things loving, flying, dreaming, sleeping, eating, and so on, the universe will be a much better place. As I stated in my 2018 article, Thanos is a liberal, in the American sense. He is the kind of political figure Sarah Palin had in mind when she warned her base that Obamacare would result in death panels.
Let's return to Sarah Palin's famous and, sadly, effective, statement:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society.'
In Avengers: Endgame, what happens to the world after the destruction of 50 percent of all large-scale life on Earth and other planets? People live in huts, gather food, eat less meat, spend more time with their families, and billionaires must learn to compost. This is what the Green New Deal will apparently look like. The horror. It is the mission of the Avengers to restore the American way of life.
Thanos turns out to be right. Life in Earth's seas is revived because humans are consuming less and living in harmony with the rhythms of nature. But the cost of an environmentally stable Earth and universe came at too high a price. Yes, there are more whales now, but what about my loved ones? The galactic death panel might be fine for nature as a whole, but not for humans in particular.
Two grievances are expressed in Avengers: Endgame. One, the galactic death panel resulted in the loss of close friends and family members. Two, people are forced to live in drab conditions. Though the film wants the audience to believe that the first grievance is the main one, it is not. Clearly, the second one hurts humans (and particularly American humans) the most. What is deeply missed on an earth globalized by American consumerism is the background of abundance: farm houses with gas-guzzling pickups, hot dogs that come with condiment choices (mustard, ketchup, or what have you).
To hell with this composting business. Nevertheless, the first grievance is used to justify the Avenger mission. And this is for a good reason. It is understood that the use of all of this superhero power for the sole purpose of restoring a consumer paradise of supermarkets packed with, among 40,000 other things, hot dogs and hamburgers is, at the end of the day, not that noble. (The realization of this fact—military power is about the over-choice in a US supermarket—is what shocks the hero of The Hurt Locker into permanent war madness.)
It is the shame of the horror. It's there in the dusky end of Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, and so its trans-empire (British Empire to American Empire) feeling. (A link of this kind is made in the script for The Hurt Locker, but, regrettably, did not make it to the final film.) The great American writer Diana George described this feeling of shame in this way, when referring to a Guardian article about the Iraq War in her 2003 article "Shamefaced with Triumph": "...perhaps you're also helpless to prevent a slight blush from creeping up your neck as you hear your countryman say of Ur, [Iraq] 'I've been all the way through this desert from Basra to here and I ain't seen one shopping mall or fast-food restaurant.... These people got nothing.'" Avengers want you to believe that they are more than just about fast food and overstocked supermarkets. They are about families that feel deeply connected when eating hot dogs and hamburgers at a picnic table set on a piece of land carpeted by the US's main crop, turf grass. ("US Homes, golf courses and parks may grow more acres of turf grass than U.S. farmers devote to corn, wheat and fruit trees — combined.")
Amid the various critiques of the proposed Green New Deal, few capture the alarmism of the American right quite like Sebastian Gorka’s now viral claim that the deal’s proponents “want to take away your hamburgers … this is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved”.
Gorka will certainly love Avengers: Endgame.