By Anne T. Donahue
For what it’s worth, I was never going to see The Flash. I don’t care about The Flash. I don’t care about DC. I don’t care about Batman, I don’t care about celebrity cameos, and I don’t care to make enough room in my mind to absorb another comic book movie. (I mean, I obviously care enough to write this piece, but that’s neither here nor there.)
I’m not alone in any of this, and I’m especially not unique in my Flash apathy following the serious allegations brought against star Ezra Miller. (Which, like . . . are we supposed to pretend nothing happened?) Yet I know my anti-comic movies (minus anything Spiderverse) stance isn’t original, either. The DC/Marvel cultural saturation is unparalleled. The Marvel/DC universes have eclipsed the one we actually live in, and I don’t have the time or resources to acquaint myself with the minutiae of the superhero sphere.
The thing is, my argument isn’t that superhero movies aren’t good or that they don’t qualify as cinema. As much as I think it should be, my taste isn’t universal and box office returns prove many, many people love a Marvel and/or DC offering, which is a relief for anybody who works on them. (And jobs are important!) My issue is the real estate: since comic book movies take so much space up, we’re inundated with the message that these movies are everything. I know nothing about The Flash and yet I know absolutely everything: I know dude’s mom died when he was small, and he can toy with timelines which proves devastating, and Michael Keaton shows up. Then, we’re set up for a sequel, and I scream “Stop the madness!” at anybody who will listen.
We know that COVID truly destroyed our TV and movie norms, and that our current economy means that going to the movies just because is no longer economically feasible for the majority of us. Going to the movies is a bona fide event again, and studios obviously want to ensure that they cater to the notion of an experience. But movies like Top Gun: Maverick and John Wick (and even the upcoming Barbie, I’m sure) prove that you can merge the worlds of blockbusters and original narratives. You can have heroes and villains and an interesting premise about good versus evil (and the grey in-between) without anchoring them to franchises stationed out of the Batcave. Movies like The Flash give the vibe of eating cotton candy after feasting on a lobster-rich brunch buffet: it’s not the worst idea, but you’re probably going to wish you didn’t indulge so much.
Of course, this is rich coming from somebody who’s not necessarily well-versed in DC Comics or even Marvel, for that matter. But the fact that the majority of my film-centric content is tethered to an Ezra Miller vehicle to the point where I know who’s who doing what means the national obsession is going a little too far. I don’t get to see movies in the theatre as much as I would like, but I know that a cinematic event doesn’t need to be reserved for the visual equivalent of those 3D rides at Canada’s Wonderland. My favourite movie-going experiences have always been the kind rooted in the universality of a feeling; the rare moment in which a room full of people put themselves in the place of a pro or antagonist and exist only in a particular emotion. Can superhero movies do the same? Of course! (When Groot almost died in the first Guardians of the Galaxy I, like everybody else, cried.) But oversaturation breeds fatigue, and I know I can’t be the only person who’s exhausted.
Maybe what I’m asking for is more of an equal playing field, or even as much discourse reserved for movies not about space and/or time travel. This era boasts our spoils of choice, but yet we’re all enduring wave after wave of blockbuster homogeny. I think, in the same way I needed to stop watching so many episodes of Forensic Files, I need to be indulged by something outside of a former comfort zone. I am being educated about The Flash against my will, and I’m willing to bet you are too. Ultimately, I’m not anti-comic books or blockbusters, I’m anti-film franchise equivalent of that scene where Homer Simpson is being force-fed donuts in hell. There are too many Batmans, and too many capes. I miss having to defend the merit of superhero movies or the surprise of realizing that when done well, they are great.
Instead, I will save that energy for the upcoming Barbie. (Her capes are at least a little more fashion-forward.)
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