Last week, I wrote about “Avengers: Endgame.” (Don’t worry, I’m still not going to spoil anything.) It’s the final movie I saw for this column.
After nearly nine years of having the immense good fortune to occupy this space in Express each week, it’s time for me to move on. It seems appropriate, then, that The Reelist closes with the concluding chapter of a 22-movie arc that has stretched across my time here at the paper (and beyond). Beginning with “Thor,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been the signposts that have marked my way.
These movies will always have a special place in my heart — not only because they kicked off a month before my son was born (I saw “Iron Man” while HUGELY pregnant), but because they’re a good way to learn about film as a whole. Like every movie, each tells two stories — one that’s contained in the script, and one that’s unspoken but just as present. The MCU movies are, on the whole, super fun and entertaining. But underneath the stories of bravery and bad guys, they also have implications relating to, among other things, race and gender.
Now come the cries of “Ugggggh, of COURSE Kristen has to mention race and gender the last time I have to read her stupid column.” And it’s true — those topics have been recurring here. That’s not only because they interest me, but because they’re topics present in nearly every film. We just don’t usually pay attention to them because films so often reflect society’s norms. All six of the original cinematic Avengers are white, and all but one are male. That’s a reflection of the comic book canon, yes, but the comic book canon reflects common biases: Superheroes who are white and male are the norm. Superheroes who aren’t are the exception. It’s the same with movies of most genres.
I hope my time writing here has made you laugh, at least a little. I hope it encouraged you to see a movie you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. I hope it made you happy that I got the picture from “Civil War” of Captain America clutching the helicopter into the paper five times (and if this column didn’t make it No. 6, I WAS SO QUITTING).
But overall, I hope this column has encouraged you to see that a movie is never “just a movie.” Each one reflects or responds to society at large. That doesn’t mean you have to go into every film ready to write a doctoral thesis about its relationship to something larger; it just means I hope that, from time to time, you look at what a movie is saying beyond the story it’s telling. Why did the Wakanda salute show up everywhere after “Black Panther” came out? Why did women roll their eyes in recognition when some guy smarmily told Captain Marvel to smile? Why did people leap out of their seats during “Endgame” when [redacted]?
In the end, my main goal here was to make you aware that movies are so many things. They’re entertainment and they’re commentary. They build worlds and they build empathy. There is no artistic medium that reflects the history of America better than movies.
Now our time together is over (I feel like I should make a “final reel” joke here, but that’s far too easy). Thanks for letting me into your brains once a week, and please remember two of my core beliefs: Pick up your popcorn bags and soda cups when you leave the theater, and PUT YOUR CELLPHONES AWAY.