From the Vault: Democratic Presidential Candidates as Marvel Villains

The Hollywood & Washington Collaboration That No One Asked For

WARNING: MCU SPOILERS AND “POLITICAL” PIECE BELOW. How stupid is it that I apparently have to warn people about that last part though? Well anyway every view expressed is my own despite me, as always, being as objective as possible.

Ah, American politicians. There are a lot of them, their personalities vary, most of them seem underdeveloped and generic, and they tend to have good intentions that are paired with their more-than-questionable actions. The interesting thing is that all of those qualities I listed seem to also apply to comic book movie villains. Isn’t it strange that elected officials and people in power seem to often become synonymous with “bad guys” (as The Notorious AOC herself has mentioned)? It’s almost as if the system designed to keep us free actually oppresses us by directly encouraging those with privilege to act unethically in their own self-interest an-

Okay, sorry, I’m getting off topic. I should probably mention that I’ve been banned from talking politics at family events because I need to “stop trying to brainwash the kids into being dirty socialists”. Well that will not stop me from writing about it here and focusing on the three rounds of Democratic Party debates that we have had so far. Real-life villains aside (like the current American idiot in office), in comic-book-movies the antagonists can be fun, idealistic, and sometimes you even want to root for them! So to distract myself from how existentially stressed out I am about 2020, and to attempt to fill the “no Marvel” void I will also feel until 2020, this piece was born.

If you’re looking for some actual serious debate discussion, check out The Overrated Podcast and our ongoing Election 2020 coverage. Today, here and now, I will be going over a select number of the Democratic candidates by comparing them to the villains we have seen so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)! To still be “political” (Lord knows I can’t resist), I’ll also be categorizing them by how much you should care about them at this point…and probably more.

HAVEN’T QUALIFIED FOR THE NEXT DEBATE

1. Governor Jay Inslee – Ava Starr aka “Ghost”

To ease you into this piece, let’s start off with a candidate/villain I actually really liked and am bummed I seemingly won’t hear from again. Inslee burst onto the debate stage with (for the most part) a single issue: Climate Change. For whatever reason, the average voter decided that isn’t a sexy enough single issue, and similarly Ghost doesn’t get much universal love from the more casual viewers of the MCU.

Inslee’s solid record and environmental policy didn’t even get a chance past the second debate, and Ghost wasn’t even included in most of the websites I used for research on the best MCU villains. Both deserved better, both disappeared too soon, and I wish the best for both of them.

2. Marianne Williamson – Kaecilius

Okay enough wholesomeness, let’s get to the shit show. Both Marianne and Kaecilius are anti-science, huge advocates of magic, and are constantly trying to channel the dark dimension. All while ignoring the very real effects their actions have on people and the material world.

They’re disillusioned with the current leadership, which makes them interesting…right up until the point where they start to tell people that their problems (like curing HIV and cancer) can be solved with fanaticism, that they’re the only one who really cares about you, and that the world can be saved by some weird sort of enlightenment they’re preaching. 

I have no factual confirmation if Marianne believes in an inter-dimensional dark entity like Dormammu…but would any of us really be surprised if we found out that was true? It’d be just about as surprising as the time she said that fat people need to pray harder, and that people on antidepressants are weak. These two are glorified “self-help gurus”, they’re not particularly mean-spirited, yet that doesn’t change the fact that they’re full of shit.

3. Governor John Hickenlooper aka “The Loop” – Trevor Slattery aka “The Mandarin”

Why? Because fuck this guy and fuck Iron Man 3, that’s why! (This is definitely more of a hot take on the MCU side than the political one, as the Loop got booed on stage at the California Democratic Convention.)

Both the Loop (and those who resemble him politically) and the Mandarin were an absolute waste of my damn time and I’m glad we’re not talking about them anymore. Speaking of which, time for the new category of candidates. 

WHY ARE WE STILL HUMORING THIS?

1. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard – Secretary Thaddeus Ross aka “Thunderbolt”

Remember how Ross was in The Incredible Hulk a long time ago, then showed up again in Captain America: Civil War seemingly a different person by being anti-war and changing his policy? (Ross wanted to emulate the super-soldier serum, lied to Banner which created the Hulk and ruined his life, and then suddenly gets tasked with regulation of the Avengers? That’s like throwing minorities in jail for smoking weed and then talking about how you used to smoke weed in college!…or am I just thinking of Kamala Harris now? Oh well.) Then when we REALLY didn’t need to hear from him again because we’re already pressed for time, he shows up? This whole thing is pretty accurate for Tulsi too.

Both Ross and Tulsi are ex-US Military and fought in big wars (Vietnam and Iraq, respectively). Tulsi went from being pro-life and campaigning for an anti-gay rights group…to outright supporting federal funding for abortion and having a 100% pro-LGBTQIA+ voting record in Congress. Outside of a few great points, including her attack on Kamala in the second debate, it seemed pretty obvious that we didn’t need to hear from Tulsi again past the second debate, maybe the third. Yet here we are with her not qualifying for the 3rd and getting another chance in the fourth. Wonderful. 

Just like Ross’ scene in Avengers: Infinity War, I’m probably going to watch the fourth debate and wish the time was spent on something a little more productive.

2. Senator Amy Klobuchar aka “Klobes” – Ronan the Accuser

Klobes and Ronan’s biggest “fault” is honestly how generic and boring they are. You get the feeling that there has to be something more there, then they show up again in a different debate/movie and do more of the same thing and you’re left confused and unsatisfied. 

Similar to Ronan, Klobes’ biggest “moments” come from shouting a bland “criticism” at someone else in the scene which, upon the slightest analysis, makes no sense even though it sounds flashy in the moment. I am of course referring to when Klobes told Bernie in the third debate that (paraphrased): “You might have written the damn bill, but I read the damn bill!”

What does that even mean? I mean I would hope you actually read the bill if you’re going to debate about it. Why did anyone applaud that? Similarly, what was Ronan thinking when he stole an Infinity Stone from fucking Thanos? Did you think this guy got the nickname “The Mad Titan” by letting Kree punks walk all over him?

I once again have no factual confirmation of this, but given what I know about Klobes, I would definitely believe it if someone told me that she would be insanely confused by the sight of a dude dancing and subsequently lose all of her focus.

3. Andrew Yang – Quentin Beck aka “Mysterio”

Unpopular take, but I could dedicate an entire piece to Yang and his dumb ass alone, and if you’re really curious then check this piece out by a longtime friend of soggz-blogs, Uday Mehta. I’ll try to summarize my rage and stay productive and on-topic…or I could just offer everyone a chance at a thousand dollars just to humor me instead, right? (Insert Pete Buttigieg’s eye-roll here)

Beck and Yang are scorned tech workers that lost their jobs. Beck had one good idea that Tony Stark refashioned into an actually useful invention (B.A.R.F), Yang had one good idea that I’m sure a much better candidate could build upon and turn into actual policy. Both say off-putting things, have an unhealthy need for attention, and you better believe that both have taken their “one good idea” way out of hand to the point of idiocy with support from their cult-like-following that, frankly, need to open their eyes and see that there’s much more to this whole “President thing” than the lazy discourse being proposed.

Okay screw this I can’t resist, YANG CRITICISM TIME: You seriously mean to tell me that your solution to campaign-finance-reform is DEMOCRACY DOLLARS? Really? MORE free money? Oh sure, that’ll out-spend lobbyists like the NRA for sure! For fuck’s sake this was also AFTER he implied that gender discrimination in the workplace can be solved by his fucking “Freedom Dividend”…because women who are tired of toxic-masculinity in corporate culture can just “leave and invest in themselves”. Which is great and all but it literally still leaves THE ACTUAL PROBLEM UNSOLVED. Oh and when Yang did his whole “We should be telling the immigrant success stories instead” bullshit? Buddy, I’m pretty sure there’s an ENTIRE GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE IN IMMIGRATING HERE that would have some shit to say about you pushing the antiquated and fucked up “model-minority” agenda. How is this FUCKING CLOWN polling higher th-

Look I said I’d TRY to stay on-topic, and clearly I failed. Moving on.

4. Tom Steyer – Malekith

You are going to have to google both of these two to know who they are, but you most likely won’t, and frankly shouldn’t, because they’re not interesting enough to even warrant minimal effort from you.

I WANT TO LIKE YOU…I THINK

1. Secretary Julian Castro – Darren Cross aka “Yellowjacket”

Julian Castro has tons of political experience as the former Mayor of San Antonio and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Obama administration. He was even on the shortlist for being Hillary’s running mate in 2016 (which would’ve been a much better choice than the slice of untoasted, lukewarm wonderbread with low-fat margarine that was Tim Kaine).

So far in his 2020 run, his debate tactics have consisted of: Emulating Barack-like mannerisms and speech patterns, saying he’d do better than Barack on immigration, and going after Uncle Joe saying (paraphrased): “I’m living up to Obama’s legacy, you’re not”.

Clearly he’s got some kind of a “mentor complex” that’s simultaneously hurting and helping his campaign. Very much like Darren Cross and his complicated relationship with his mentor, Hank Pym.

2. Mayor Pete Buttigieg aka “Mayor Pete” – Helmut Zemo

Mayor Pete’s meteoric rise to being one of the most widely discussed nominees is nothing short of impressive, going from being the Mayor of a town in Indiana to going point-for-point with Senators who have been in Washington for years. This reminded me of how Zemo, with no powers, was able to somehow handle twelve different heroes, four of whom were on the original Avengers roster. The similarities don’t stop there: both are ex-military, young, wholesome family men, very politically savvy, and have a knack for taking “option C” on big political issues. 

This is honestly my biggest issue with Mayor Pete, much like Zemo for most of the movie, I have no idea where he actually stands on things and what he’s pushing. While “Leftist vs Liberal” seem to be the two “teams” on the debate stage and in the party itself, Mayor Pete seems to live in this perplexing new form of centrism where he’s chosen the “center” of the two teams. He half-asses his support for universal healthcare by giving it the new name of “Medicare for all who want it,” he very wrongly and pompously accused Bernie and Warren of not “caring about the American people” in discussion of universal healthcare (really dude? Bernie’s been caring about the American people since you were in diapers. I’m sure it was a fun and sassy moment for you, but come on bro. You know better), and it seems like half the time he’s trying to make both leftists and liberals sound bad while chalking himself up to be a better option than all of them. 

In an already divided Democratic Party, Mayor Pete’s tactics could end up hurting more people than it does help. Much like breaking apart the Avengers on your own terms instead of just supporting or opposing the Sokovia accords. 

3. Congressman Robert O’Rourke aka “Beto” – Ultron

Ultron was built by Tony Stark to be the perfect defense mechanism against extraterrestrial armies that could threaten mankind. Similarly, in the 2018 midterm elections, Beto burst into the hearts of Democrats everywhere as the man who was the perfectly built politician, enough to make Texas go blue. The hype behind both Beto and Ultron was real…but when all was said and done, both seemed rather disappointing (probably due to over-enthusiastic nerds on the internet in both cases).

Beto came across as rather robotic on the debate stage, especially in the first two. He also unfortunately accepted almost half a million dollars from the oil and gas industry, many of which came from big oil executives. As we know from Ultron’s vibranium-stealing shenanigans, it appears both of these guys are fans of drilling into the earth for a natural resource that will result in greater harm later (to be fair, Beto has since changed his position on this).

Perhaps the biggest reason I chose this comparison is that I’ll still defend both to an extent. Not only do I think Beto and Ultron are better in their respective fields than a vast majority of the other candidates/MCU villains we’ve seen, I just have to give credit where it is due for unique things that both have done. I’ve said it before (as early as last month’s piece) but Ultron is one of the only MCU characters period to call out the Captain himself on his biggest flaw (more so than Tony, who always made things personal whenever he called out Cap).

As for Beto, my personal stance on guns in America has gone from “Maybe this is my ONE thing I’m conservative on” to “Okay maybe we should limit some stuff” to “I don’t even know anymore” to “Just ban the damn things, I’m sick of this shit”. That being said, it was very refreshing to see a Democrat on the debate stage cut straight to the point instead of pussyfooting around with the typical “I support the second amendment, I just think ____” nonsense. In the third debate, Beto spoke for every frustrated American who is sick and tired of innocent children being shot in class.

The point is, I think that the moderators/writers just didn’t give Beto/Ultron a chance to explain themselves more.

4. Senator Corey Booker aka “Book” – Johann Schmidt aka “Red Skull”

Red Skull is one of the most iconic Captain America villains and many thought he’d be a long-term MCU villain. Book was one of the most hyped up potential nominees amongst Democrats if we were talking about this in 2017.

Then they went for the Tesseract/Big Pharma money, got cast out and forgotten by fans, then confused everyone by showing up again in crucial moments. Yet now it just seems like their entire purpose is to guide others to a treasure they can not possess: The Soul Stone/the Nomination. Speaking of which…

ACTUALLY HAVE A CHANCE AT THE NOMINATION

1. Vice-President Joe Biden aka “Uncle Joe” – Ego

Uncle Joe is an older man who’s been around forever, comes off extremely out-of-touch, is constantly touching women, and is trying so hard to get elected on the clout of his title and the idea that he’ll be America’s new dad. Ego is a centuries-old entity, lives on his own planet that he can’t leave for too long (or else he’ll die?), is constantly touching women (and then subsequently stealing the babies), and thought that he could get what he wanted on the clout of being a Celestial and the idea that Star Lord needed his estranged father back. 

Much like the Guardians’ first interactions with Ego, in every group of five average American voters: one will be completely mesmerized by him, one got too cautious too late, one will ask about his penis, one is too busy insulting everyone else in the group, and one is Groot. 

Look, I get the nostalgia and “simpler times” associated with the Obama administration. Hell, the ACA was the most impactful thing that any politician has done for my family…but can we stop acting like Uncle Joe had that much to do with that? As a wise man once said: “He may have been your father boy, but he wasn’t your daddy”. 

2. Senator Kamala Harris – Secretary Alexander Pierce

“Hard on crime” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot among politicians, and both Kamala and Pierce are about that life. Kamala was a former prosecutor in California, and Pierce was the former Director of SHIELD before one got elected Senator and the other got promoted to Secretary. Both are so outwardly dedicated to the idea of justice, Pierce even declined a Nobel Peace Prize saying that “peace wasn’t an achievement, but a responsibility”.

They seemed great, they came off as tough and ready to get things done, they had trust on their side. Right until you find out that Kamala is responsible for subjecting so many non-violent offenders to the hellish landscape known as the “American for-profit prison system”, and that Pierce is trying to use SHIELD Helicarriers to have absolute control over people, and then you’re just disappointed (to say the least). 

What’s also interesting is Kamala’s unwillingness to acknowledge and apologize for her choices. I’m sure many people would actually look past her history if she, like Tulsi or Beto, actually mentioned her murky history. Despite being called out for this same thing twice now on the debate stage, she always finds a way to circumvent the topic and continue her “I’m too tough for Donald Trump” facade. 

You can definitely apply what Nick Fury said about Pierce to how I feel about Kamala at this point: “See, its stuff like this that gives me trust issues”.

3. Senator Bernie Sanders – Adrian Toomes aka “The Vulture”

This is the rare case where the comparison has already been made long before I got to this piece, because Vulture and Bernie are both grassroots leaders of working class citizens and are the most concerned with ensuring the safety of everyday people. Both are incredibly intense old men who are still extremely sharp, tough, and passionate for their age, both are huge advocates for science and research, and both are always incredibly quick to antagonize billionaires.

While in comic-book-land, billionaires are epic heroes, in real life the very idea of their existence is immoral and a huge testament to the economic corruption in the country. In real life the only good billionaire is one that has HAD ALL OF THEIR FUCKING MONEY LIQUIDATED AND GIVEN BACK TO THE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE THAT SUFFER DAY TO DAY WHILE THEY SIT AROUND NOT BEING PRODUCTIVE AT ALL AND AFTER THAT THEY’LL BERN VIA VOLCANIC SACRIF-(removed by my editor)

4. Senator Elizabeth Warren – Thanos (Infinity War)

They’re incredibly intelligent, they’re fed up of everyone else’s shit, they’re environmentalists, and they’re finally ready to execute their plans after a few years of seemingly sitting around and preparing for it. 

Much like Thanos has the right Infinity Stone for every situation, Warren has a detailed plan for every political talking point and she’s ready to fight about it. They’re focused on the goal and nothing else, as Warren is one of the only candidates who hasn’t antagonized someone else on the debate stage and has made a name for herself by simply promoting her policy and doing her best to stay on track. She’s been one of the most productive in the debates, and I’m excited to see her hopefully climb in the polls. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Dread it, run from it, progressive politics will still arrive…

…and that’s a really good thing, just to be absolutely clear, before someone misunderstands my views (I thought I made it pretty obvious) or before someone reads too much into me comparing Democrats to comic antagonists. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like writing about Joker this month.

 

From the Vault: A Character Study of the Captain and his Hammer

Just a Kid from Brooklyn

Avengers: Endgame was undoubtedly the pop culture event of the entire decade. After Game of Thrones ended with a lot of controversy (is George even finishing the books?) and JK Rowling has taken to twitter to continually embarrass Harry Potter fans, the conclusion of the Infinity Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will be hailed as the bar for nerd franchises for a very long time. 

Perhaps one of the most captivating scenes that audiences everywhere went crazy for was when Steve Rogers/Captain America wielded Mjolnir, the hammer that was only meant to be lifted by those deemed worthy by Asgardian King Odin himself. When paired with the scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron, where multiple Avengers try to lift the hammer and Steve moves it ever-so-slightly, the internet immediately started asking the question I will be addressing in this piece:

“Could Steve always lift Mjolnir? Or did he become more worthy overtime?”

Kevin Feige, my personal idol in the industry, responded to this question in a reddit AMA with this answer:

2019-09-06 16_14_05-Window

Anthony and Joe Russo, whom I have been big fans of for a long time now (#sixseasonsandamovie), responded in basically the same manner:

2019-09-06 16_14_33-WindowApparently those working on the movie seem to interpret all of this as Steve always being able to lift the hammer, but he didn’t want to (quite literally) steal Thor’s thunder.

As a day-one MCU fan, and as a person who has come to value Captain America as their absolute favorite Superhero (sorry Batsy, Cap won in the end after all)…I gotta say, I fundamentally disagree with this take on every level. 

Now at least let me justify myself before the nerd rage begins:

  1. I can have great admiration & love for these creators and still disagree with them. 
  2. Notice that their language in answering this question emphasizes “our interpretation” and “we like to think”, meaning that there is room for fans to have their own headcanon, which can be done with many other moments/themes in the MCU.
  3. It’s so boring to simply accept Steve as consistently perfect. He has the greatest heart in the universe and its always in the right place…but having those qualities doesn’t mean that a person can’t be misguided, lost, or even wrong sometimes. 

It is much more interesting for Steve’s character arc if Mjolnir was something he couldn’t quite do until he went through some catharsis. This piece will provide my interpretation of this iconic moment in movie history, and even provide some insight into what I take away from Captain America’s journey.

Before we go into movies specifically, I want to point out how Steve deals with conflict. Despite all their differences, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark both want the same thing: to defend the earth and all of its people from those who would harm it. When things happen to Tony, we see it very visibly (mostly through his anxiety attacks). When things happen to Steve, he…doesn’t exactly address them properly. The conflict in Captain America: Civil War was never about politics because, (let’s be real here) if this was an actual real-life scenario we would all want some answers from heroes for the collateral damage. The conflict is moreso about Tony projecting his guilt from Ultron and his previous arms dealings, and Steve trying desperately to hold onto the only things that give him a purpose. Hold this thought. Now, we can go into the movies.

THE FIRST AVENGER

We are introduced to a sick, physically weak, and timid Steve Rogers trying to enlist in the army. Its admirable enough to keep trying after being rejected, but you truly see Steve’s passion and heart in an interaction he has with his best friend

Steve: “Bucky, come on! There are men laying down their lives. I got no right to do any less than them. That’s what you don’t understand. This isn’t about me.”

Bucky: “Right, because you’ve got nothing to prove?”

This isn’t exactly selfish behavior, but we see that Steve himself is tired of being passed off as weak, especially when stronger men than him seem to be failing (he got beat up by some jock disrespecting the army in a theater, if you recall). After continuing to show his heart in conversations with Dr. Abraham Erskine and Peggy Carter, he is eventually chosen to receive the super-soldier serum. Before he does, there is an incredible moment that defines Steve’s entire character arc that often gets overlooked.

Similar to when Ho Yensin told Tony Stark (in a cave, with a box of scraps) not to “waste his life”, Dr. Erskine gave Steve similar advice as a mentor. Re-read and remember this, as it’s the basis for my entire point:

“Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. You will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

Bucky also reminds Steve of this later in the movie, by telling Steve that he isn’t following “Captain America”, rather he is following the stupid kid from Brooklyn who would always lose fights because he wouldn’t run from them. For the rest of the movie, Steve is who he is and lives up to what he promised Erskine…and then he wakes up 70 years later.

THE AVENGERS

Viewers often forget that Steve absolutely doesn’t belong in the 2010s, and that loss of time is what he’s mostly dealing with internally. We saw that in the previous movie he was looking for purpose, and after being gone for 70 years it makes sense that he would be trying to look for some semblance of that again. “Luckily” for Steve, he is immediately thrown back onto the front lines against Loki’s invasion of New York. With the urgent need of a soldier, and the fact that everyone in 2012 only knows him as a war hero, he falls into this role with ease. After this is where things start to get more complicated.

THE WINTER SOLDIER

We’re introduced to a Steve that’s trying to adjust to the time, but is moreso looking for things that remind him of the past for him to hold on to. Not only do we see him advance significantly as a martial artist and SHIELD operative, we see him reminiscing in his own museum exhibit and even see that he’s found Peggy again. 

What stings for Steve is that this whole thing is getting harder. He’s trying to find new things to be excited about (his friendship with Sam Wilson and his crush on then-undercover Sharon Carter) but it’s not working. SHIELD has ideas for dangerous plans to essentially control society, Peggy has Alzheimer’s in her old age, Bucky is back and is being mind-controlled, and then he finds out that he’s been living a huge lie: HYDRA has been growing inside SHIELD for decades. 

A great scene that gets us inside Steve’s head is when he is seemingly less stressed out talking to Natasha when HYDRA is revealed. He has an enemy, he has a purpose again. This gets further amplified when he decides that he’s going to look for Bucky and get his best friend back. 

However, all of this is leading to Steve getting used to a life of constant conflict, rarely taking any time for himself to address his own issues. At this point, being a soldier is a necessary coping mechanism for Steve.

AGE OF ULTRON

This movie is an interesting one, because if you get into the details then you notice that a lot of Steve’s flaws are starting to show (obviously we need some hindsight after knowing the events that take place after…but that’s a lot of this movie in a nutshell as, upon rewatch, it’s basically “Phase 3: The Set-Up Chapter”).

For one thing, many fans speculate/assume that this is where he begins to lie to Tony about the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark at the hands of Bucky. Even with that detail aside, we really get more when we get to the first real encounter with Ultron (where Wanda Maximoff is present as well after Ultron stole Vibranium from Ulysses Klaue. Wanda is super important here). 

Ultron hits Steve with an incredibly personal attack here: “Ah, Captain America. God’s righteous man, pretending you could live without a war. I can’t physically throw up in my mouth, but…”

Ultron wasn’t a very well developed villain, but he hits the nail on the head here. At this point, Steve has based his entire identity off of a few things that give him something to fight for. It’s almost as if he’s becoming somewhat desensitized after living in the 2010s (and who can blame him?). We see this emphasized more in the nightmare-sequence induced by Wanda’s powers, where Peggy is trying to tell him “the war is over…we can go home” and then immediately disappears, leaving Steve alone in a dance hall. The realization that, as much as he might want to, Steve can’t go home? That’s haunting, and that would do a number on someone mentally. 

The movie ends with him insisting to Tony that being an Avenger and training the newcomers is “home” for him, so we know he’s trying. For the most part, he does seem to find some semblance of peace with the Avengers…and then…well…

CIVIL WAR

This is where it can get fairly obvious that Steve is lowkey losing it. The Avengers’ very existence is threatened by the Sokovia Accords, Peggy passes away, Bucky is in the public eye, and he’s disagreeing with his own friends (Tony and Natasha). 

As mentioned, a lot of Steve’s determination and drive seems to be stemming from him wanting to hold on to what makes him comfortable. What makes this worse this time around is that he has to pick and choose between Bucky, Tony, the Avengers, etc. The situation with Zemo happens to work out so that he has to apprehend Zemo regardless, but after Steve and Tony both played right into his hands…Steve has to finally tell Tony the truth. 

From here, take where we had Steve in the 40’s vs now. The world he’s been trying to adjust to has finally beat him down into the loss of Peggy, Bucky (under containment in Wakanda), Tony, the Avengers, SHIELD, his public identity as a hero, and his own shield. There is nothing else left for Steve but the only thing that has given him peace in the entire time he un-froze: becoming a perfect soldier.

INFINITY WAR

Steve didn’t get much screen time in this movie, but I like to think of that a good director’s choice that is indicative of what he’s going through at the moment. I personally don’t mind the cliche of “character goes through physical change to signify emotional change” because I’m just dramatic like that too, so obviously we can start with Steve clearly looking edgy in appearance (Spider-Man 3, anyone?). However there are some other tell-tale signs of Steve being less-than-himself here

If we start with his persona, he’s less talkative and outwardly expressive. Most of his lines are, in some way, giving out orders or only related to the conflict at hand. Piggybacking off of how he was in Civil War, he makes this grand gambit with the mind-stone to save Vision because of how much he cares about the Avengers, and because he doesn’t want Wanda to go through the same thing Peggy did all those years ago. After all, the Avengers always win…right? 

Because I’m an MMA nerd, I can also make the case of Steve being much more of an aggressive fighter than we’ve ever seen him before. I guess that’s what happens when T’Challa gives you two shields that work better as punching mechanisms than defensive weapons, but I do think Steve’s fighting prowess went up even more here. Even Thanos was impressed!…right up until the point where he knocked Steve out cold. 

At this point you’re probably wondering “well majority of his arc is this ‘perfect soldier’ thing, then when does he ever become ‘worthy’ of Mjolnir?”. I’m getting there, but the most important detail of Infinity War/the start of Endgame is that after losing previous parts of his life, he’s now simply just lost. All he had left was defending the Earth, and he couldn’t even do that. Worse, half of the entire universe suffered because he couldn’t live up to what he always told himself his purpose was, and that stings. Especially when Tony calls him out and airs out all of their dirty laundry from Ultron/Civil War. So what now?

ENDGAME

Five years in the future, and the first thing we see is Steve isn’t defending, but uplifting others instead. Being close friends with Sam must have taught him something, because he took a page out of Sam’s book and is providing grief-counseling for victims. After that, we see him specifically visit a friend to console her as well. I personally don’t think Steve is holding it together very well and is internalizing again, but he’s doing certain things differently and we see him less eager to “punch his way out of a situation”. Also, he shaved.

There’s more! Steve is rarely ever a part of the “science-scenes” in these movies but he is there the first time the team attempts time-travel. He’s smarter about avoiding fights when he doesn’t need to have them (“Hail Hydra”). He’s capable of laughing at himself with his own doppelganger saying “I could do this all day”. Finally, he trusts Tony to retrieve the Tesseract. 

The absence of a war taught Steve there was more to being himself. Slowly the idea started to plant in his mind that maybe he could just “go home” when the fighting is done and be something more than a soldier. In every scene in the five-year-time-skip, you can see the subtle differences in Steve’s behavior. He’s starting to be himself again, he’s starting to once again become a simple and good man. I don’t think this should be the story of a guy that was always right, nor do I think it’s the story of an okay-ish guy that got better. I think it’s the story of someone lost, who had to go through a lot regarding his identity so that he could find his way again. I think that a lot of this clicked for Steve himself when he got to see Peggy again while Tony was trying to grab the Tesseract, and I also think this is where he made the decision that he would return the Infinity Stones and return to Peggy. Upon their return, the only thing standing in his way was Thanos, and suddenly the possibility of losing all that he found again was present. Not this time, however. This time Steve remembered his greatest strength, and who he really was. When the time came, and he called on Mjolnir, it was all his personal growth that unlocked his true potential. He was always worthy, he just had to be reminded of what made him worthy in Erskine’s eyes in the first place. 

That, I think, is a pretty cool interpretation of the Captain and his hammer. One I think everyone can learn from and be inspired by. After all, Steve is a hero, and shouldn’t inspiring others to believe in the good in themselves be a big part of heroism?

From the Vault: The Tragedy of the Lion King

Is THIS Your King???

The oversimplified definition of a “tragedy” in entertainment refers to any work that does not have a happy ending for a majority of the characters, including the hero. Back in the day, the master of telling these stories was none other than William “Mothafuckin” Shakespeare (experts say that was indeed his middle name). Shakespeare’s work is so influential that I don’t really need to give you a history lesson, odds are that anyone reading this is familiar with at least one or two of his tragedies from high school english classes. 

It is also a tragedy in entertainment when a classic story that was already told gets told again almost verbatim, invoking nostalgia and breaking the box office, and taking away attention from new stories that are the product of rigorous original work. So why do I bring this up?

My high school english teacher ruined The Lion King for me. Don’t get me wrong, he was amazing and is still one of the best teachers I’ve had in my lifetime, but man did he make The Lion King weird. When we were studying Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he guided my imagination to a world where the “Circle of Life” was instead a ring of sex, existentialism, madness, and death.

It is pretty common knowledge that The Lion King is based off of Hamlet. A dead king, a conflicted prince, a murderous uncle, exile, and revenge? Disney is remaking The Lion King!…by which I mean, quite literally just remaking it. Many reviews are criticizing the CGI update of the classic tale as essentially a copied & pasted version, in terms of both the story and major beats. Obviously I’m still going to see it for the same reason I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story despite bad reviews (the reason being Donald Glover), and because it’s still The Lion King, but it is somewhat of a bummer that there isn’t anything different about this updated version…right? I’m glad you agree.

Now I could sit here and write about my ideas to flesh out Scar’s backstory, or emphasize what Simba/Nala were doing between childhood and adulthood, or even go into the politics of Pride Rock and why Mufasa had a grip on the situation whereas Scar didn’t…but then I thought: “Why don’t I just repackage a classic story and market it as something different too?”

As my english teacher did in 2012, I have taken it upon myself as the people’s champion (as long as “the people” means a few strangers on the internet that have nothing better to read than soggzblogs…for which I adore you all very much) to provide an idea for an updated and different version of The Lion King. Since Disney has acquired all of Fox’s film assets, including the rated-R Deadpool franchise, and since they seem hellbent on running the entire film industry…let’s work in the space of a hypothetical reality where Disney’s The Lion King (2019) actually is the tragedy of Hamlet beat-for-beat. Not this lazy “oh well it’s based off of Hamlet” thing. No folks, today we shall pretend that instead of literally remaking their own version, Disney instead copied & pasted Shakespeare’s Hamlet itself into a CGI version of an African jungle with the characters we all know and love from 1994 (and some added soggzblogs garnish). We will do this in three steps: Emphasizing the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy, Matching every Hamlet character to a Lion King counterpart, and finally summarizing the story (leaving the reader’s wild imagination to burn the imagery of things like lion-incest in their head). Let us begin:

THE ELEMENTS OF A SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY

  1. Tragic Hero – Pretty self-explanatory, Hamlet is pretty flawed and it almost feels like he’s cursed. He’s never happy and is also not going to be alive at the end.
  2. Struggle Between Good and Evil – This one is also obvious. Even if the character’s actions are morally grey, you’re still pretty aware of where Hamlet and Claudius are coming from.
  3. Hamartia – This refers to the fatal character flaw of the hero. For Hamlet, it was his indecisiveness that left him too paralyzed to act. Even if literally no one said literally anything, Hamlet was still out there pressing “X” to doubt.
  4. Tragic Waste – Good, neutral, and evil characters alike all die. A lot of them.
  5. External Conflict – There is all of the craziness with Claudius, and there is still some other external conflict that Hamlet has to deal with. At one point when I was reading this in high school, I think I said “Denmark be fucked, yo” to my friends out loud in class.
  6. Internal Conflict – Hamlet just can’t figure out how to overcome his hamartia, but he tries and there comes the internal conflict. You feel bad for him for sure, but hey it makes for some beautiful soliloquies that you get to perform for your theater class final.
  7. Catharsis – Audiences should have an emotional connection to the story via empathizing with the characters. 
  8. Supernatural Elements – There needs to be some form of magic, usually portrayed via witches or ghosts. 
  9. Lack of Poetic Justice – Shakespearean tragedies aren’t as simple as “good guy wins”. Again, things end badly for everyone.
  10. Comic Relief – While you’re over here immersed in all of the juicy drama and the constant crisis and conflict…you get to enjoy a few laughs! 

THE CHARACTERS

  1. Hamlet = Simba: This one is obvious, our main protagonist and Crown Prince of Denmark Pride Rock. What’s changing here is that we’re not getting goofy, lovable, and adorkable Simba anymore. This is a tragedy, Simba will be pulling a Hamlet and basically overthinking himself to death.
  2. Ophelia = Nala: The female lead, easy. Although it should be noted that Ophelia is more timid and less of a “get your shit together” presence for the hero, so I have to apologize to Nala fans in this hypothetical.
  3. Claudius = Scar: Another easy one, our main antagonist who has taken the throne of Pride Rock due to his alleged murder of King Mufasa. Scar himself was a total dick, but Claudius genuinely did show some semblance of compassion & potential guilt. Granted, he was also known for being a huge horn-dog…horn…cat? I’ll figure it out.
  4. Gertrude = Sarabi: The Queen of Pride Rock formerly married to King Mufasa, now married to Scar. Sarabi didn’t really get much to do in the Disney story except basic “mom things”, but Gertrude is an interesting character herself. We’re gonna have fun with this one! Well not too much fun, because #tragedy
  5. Polonius = Zira: Okay so here is where I have to start getting a bit weird. Polonius is Ophelia’s father and a pompous old douche who is the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’ Court. In nature itself a pride of lions tends to have only one male, and if there is another then that means competition. Scar killed Mufasa for that “alpha-male” title, and Simba is younger and is still on the come-up, so it really doesn’t make sense for another old male Lion to be in the picture because he would’ve either been king or been killed (infanticide itself is pretty common among male lions). THEN I remembered in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, the antagonist Zira was this crazy lady that worshiped the ground Scar walked on and tried to take back Pride Rock in Scar’s name…so that makes the most sense? This does, however, mean that we have to retcon Nala into being Zira’s daughter.***

    ***Biologically speaking, male lions usually tend to mate with multiple females in the pride. So Zira’s kids have to come from somewhere, right? We’re assuming Mufasa was a right proper lad (faithful to Sarabi) and it is established that Scar has quite the sexual appetite. While not outwardly mentioned, in THIS version it will be implied that Nala might be Scar’s daughter (through subtlety in interactions between Scar and Zira)…making Nala and Simba cousins. If Disney is so obsessed with live action realism that these CGI lions can’t show emotion when they sing or talk, then I feel like they have to respect the actual behavior of lions in nature! Plus, we’ve all seen blood-related-lions bang in live action anyway, they just had the last name “Lannister” (I’ll be here all week).
  6. Horatio = Zazu: A loyal friend and political ally to the Prince that follows him around giving him advice that he won’t listen to? Yeah, Zazu’s got big Horatio energy.
  7. Laertes = Kovu: Remember this guy, again from the sequel that people apparently forgot? Well he’s the only character in the canon that fits the bill of a younger male rival for Simba to have a fight with at the end. Plus, he actually is Zira’s son (and looks enough like Scar to be his son too) so that makes sense, which also retcons him into being Nala’s brother. Look, no one gives enough of a shit about the sequel to care anyway (I mean I personally liked it, but you know how it goes).
  8. Fortinbras = Shere Khan: I can explain. Fortinbras is basically the leader of another Kingdom (Norway) that’s making his way over to Denmark to conquer it. If we have to keep it within Disney and go with the fact that “king of the jungle” goes to an animal of the feline variety…we can substitute Norway with the Indian Jungle that The Jungle Book took place in, and install this scary ass tiger as the leader there. If you’re wondering how a tiger is going to make his way from India to Africa…I am too and I have no answer for it, so just insert some Disney magic here (for the record, The Jungle Book is still my favorite Disney live-action remake).
  9. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern = Timon & Pumba: Two dingbats that follow the hero around? Duh. It is implied that they are old friends with Hamlet, but they’re tasked by Claudius to spy on Hamlet so we’re rolling with that here as well.
  10. The Ghost = Mufasa: Dead father of the hero that appears in a supernatural fashion.

THE STORY (AKA DOING MY BEST TO SUMMARIZE A COMPLICATED WORK OF ART)

We open on a dark night in an African jungle, with a scene of two elephants keeping watch as guardsmen for the king. They’re having a small conversation about the threat of an attack on Pride Rock by the vicious Shere Khan, before they are alerted to the presence of an intruder. They discover this trespasser to be none other than a ghost that strongly resembles their late King Mufasa. Zazu arrives on the scene, who then goes off to find the Prince Simba (a grown lion, no cute cubs in this one). The ghost speaks to Simba and confirms that he is indeed Mufasa, and that he was murdered by Simba’s uncle Scar who now sits on the throne and is married to Simba’s mother Sarabi. After a heavy conversation, Mufasa orders Simba to take the throne back from the usurper and then disappears. 

Simba agrees to do this, but because he’s naturally contemplative and the whole deal is a bit overwhelming, he instead starts saying and doing some really weird shit. This should feel like Simba is pondering if he should quickly accept what the ghost said and act decisively against Scar out of duty, or if he has free will to do this his own way, or if he shouldn’t do it at all. He takes this idea even further when he starts to question if anything that anyone ever does even has any meaning. This puts our hero in the position of him being unhappy, his family in shambles, and also Shere Khan is on his way to fuck shit up. Zazu voices concern as Simba decides he’s going to delay his revenge, but Simba’s going to do it anyway and wants to screw with everyone in the process.

Rumors start to spread across Pride Rock that the Prince has gone mad. Worried about her son, Sarabi brings these concerns to her new husband. This leads Scar to send Timon and Pumba to hang out with Simba more often and keep an eye on him (making for some comedic moments). Zira arrogantly starts to claim that Simba’s madness stems from him being madly in love with her daughter Nala, but we also see that Simba’s been making subtle jokes at Zira’s expense when he talks to her. At this point, Simba’s craziness is incorrigible. Scar himself is concerned and decides that he himself would pay extra attention to Simba and Nala’s conversations in the future. When we get there, Simba seemingly definitely seems out of his mind, but gives Scar some concrete evidence that he isn’t in love with Nala, going as far as to being a misogynistic jerk to her in conversation. Nala is heartbroken, Scar is kind of scared, and Zazu is worried about Simba as he decides on some rather dramatic steps to get evidence of Scar’s crime.

Simba employs a group of monkeys (led by Rafiki, because Rafiki is awesome and I have to put him somewhere fun) that are famous for putting on grand performances throughout the jungle, and he essentially stages a play in front of all of Pride Rock that somewhat resembles how he imagines Scar’s murder of Mufasa. He does this to test if Scar feels any sort of remorse and has any reaction to what is being played out in front of him. When the actual murder scene happens, Scar leaves the scene, giving Simba and Zazu some sort of confirmation that Scar is guilty. Zazu advises this is the time to attack Scar, but Simba instead goes to confront his mother because he’s overthinking it again. After Simba confronts Sarabi about this and starts going crazy in the conversation, accusing Sarabi of co-conspiring with Scar to kill Mufasa, he hears something moving behind him. He believes this to be Scar and immediately attacks to kill…which makes it awkward when it turns out to be Zira. It is now incredibly confusing if Simba is still screwing with people, or if he’s actually insane. It’s also confusing if Scar/Sarabi are trying to calm Simba down because they’re guilty of what he’s accusing them of, or because they’re concerned about his insanity and the danger that comes with it.

For his “accidental” murder of Zira, Scar exiles Simba with Timon and Pumba (also giving those two secret orders to kill Simba). In the aftermath of Zira’s death, Nala is overwhelmed with grief and her brother Kovu returns to Pride Rock (pissed off as all hell). Word eventually reaches Scar that Simba has returned, claiming that hyenas attacked his party and that Timon and Pumba are dead (which is also unclear because there’s a possibility Simba knew of their secret and killed them himself). In an attempt to get rid of Simba, Scar prompts Kovu to kill Simba when he has the chance. These feelings are amplified when Simba arrives at Nala’s funeral (its implied that she took her own life, because #tragedy) and Kovu accuses him of being the cause of Nala’s death in front of everyone. Simba attacks Kovu in a rage claiming that he always loved Nala, and that Scar is responsible for everything wrong as of late.

The fighting breaks out and it is an absolute riot between animals loyal to Simba (moreso Mufasa, really) versus those loyal to Scar. Kovu is more of a fighter and fatally wounds Simba, but in the madness Sarabi is killed, making Simba angry enough to overwhelm and kill Kovu. Simba goes straight at Scar and finally murders him, and before we can actually get some closure on the ambiguity of all of Simba’s words and actions…he dies, tasking Zazu to tell his story. Shere Khan shows up to a horrifying bloodbath of a scene, and we fade out slowly after we see that  Zazu has started telling Shere Khan the story of Simba.

It all makes sense now, doesn’t it? THIS is the version Disney doesn’t have the balls to release! Why change or do anything else when your movie already sells, right? They can repackage their stories and keep giving us movies that we don’t need but will pay for anyway, and they most likely will!

In the process, however, let it be known…THAT SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF HOLLYWOOD.