You may not have noticed, but the world is a garbage dump.
Everything is terrible, nobody is happy, and the news is filled with stories of famine, pestilence, war, death, and Kanye.
So it’s only sensible that our light entertainment would reflect the soul-sucking depression that consumes our every waking hour. Instead of providing a brief, colourful respite from the festering boil that is the year 2017, popular culture has instead decided to reinforce again and again that we’re all terminally, unequivocally, unconditionally screwed.
This creeping gloom is everywhere. Video games? Dark, dreary, grey. Television? Zombie apocalypses, dragon attacks, Big Bang Theory. Movies? Where do I start? Even our superhero films are so drab and depressing that the audience is left feeling as abused and violated as the heroes. But at least they have the super-strength to deal with it.
Take Wolverine. He’s that hairy Canadian guy with the metal bones and the haircut that looks like the Wu-Tang logo. He’s the best at what he does, and what he does is wearily drag himself through his endless life, watching his friends and family waste away and die, while gloomily slicing his enemies into ribbons. Not to mention there was a period of time when he was hanging out with will.i.am, which is like adding insult to whatever an invulnerable person’s equivalent to injury is.
As long as you ignore his terrifying backstory, Wolverine used to be a ton of fun! Chomping cigars, getting tossed around by big Russian guys covered in “organic steel,” and just generally being an ornery fella. Sure, he would occasionally be decapitated, or have his bones ripped out by Magneto (X-Men #25; Marvel, 1993), but he never stopped being a rough-edged, well-meaning team player.
But have you seen his latest movie? Depressing! Dour! Really, really violent! When it was over, I didn’t feel inspired to fight intolerance in all its forms, I felt like digging a hole and crawling into it. It was a bummer, man.
Even Superman, that unshakeable symbol of peace, prosperity, and nationalism, hasn’t gone unspoiled by the crippling gloom overtaking us all. Gone is Christopher Reeve throwing fists (and saran wrap S-logos) at Gene Hackman in a funny wig, replaced by steely-eyed Henry Cavill raining debris and severed skyscrapers onto unsuspecting civilians. Even worse, he refuses to unspin the Earth in order to undo all of this war, famine, and political upheaval. Next time, the guy should just stay dead.
Perhaps, just for a bit, our superheroes could try lightening up. Maybe it would be ok for Batman to be unable to dispose of a big globular bomb, instead of fighting with Superman over their mother’s shared first name. And Superman could help a few kittens out of trees instead of murdering General Zod with eye-lasers. Even crusty ol’ Wolverine might be able to crack a smile now and again.
Darkness can be fine, and even entertaining, but it surrounds us all 24/7. Escaping from the tar pit of modern living for 90 minutes isn’t about taking your eye off the ball, it’s about reminding yourself of why you fight against the gloom in the first place. Things are bad, but there’s still a little bit of hope out there. And when our heroes start believing that, maybe the rest of us can follow suit.