Note: I am an American citizen and a veteran of the U. S. Navy. I have fought for this country and seen their practices first hand, being a sailor during the Iraq conflict of the 2000’s. I’m not trying to make this a political debate, but I feel I’ve earned the right to a few opinions. However, that is not the purpose of this editorial. Also, when speaking of the U.S., I’ll be using we, as it’s less wordy.
Thor: The Dark World is a great movie, one of the better Marvel movies in my opinion. Still, there was small line mentioned early on that bothered me. One that signified a pretense I, like many, have taken for granted. For me, it instantly conjured images I had when reading Propaganda by Edward Bernays. Now, I’m not claiming there’s some large scale conspiracy happening at Marvel, only perhaps these mass audience conditioning techniques have become so ubiquitous that today’s creators utilize them without realizing.
Thor begins, after the opening credits, with a bombastic fight scene, seeing the elite of Asgard (Thor – Chris Hemsworth, Sif Jamie Alexander, etc.) against the helmeted, faceless troops of Vanaheim. Cool, no? This is what Thor does, he’s a Viking. The battle ended, the offending parties arrested, taken to prison cells in Asgard, peace restored, and the Hogun inexplicably written out of the movie. Fast forward a bit, Thor eventually returns to Midgard (Earth), and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). She asks where he’s been for the last two years. His response though, was troubling. After the events of the first Thor, and Avengers, chaos broke out across the Nine Realms with marauders pillaging and plundering, and only Thor with the forces of Asgard could quell the slaughter. My question is, who appointed him?
Why was it Asgard’s job to police the Nine Realms? Odin, as far as I know, only had jurisdiction in his realm, Asgard. Why did it matter what the other realms were doing? Is it with great power comes great responsibility? Or does might make right? Better still, how does this make Asgard similar to the United States?
In my opinion, there hasn’t been a conflict since World War II that the United States should have participated in. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (parts I and II), we had no right participating in. There was a vocal minority that protested each conflict, but the silent majority remained just that, silent. The U.S. has been called ‘The World Police’ (there was an excellent documentary about it) and is often derided by other countries for our incessant need to involve ourselves in other’s problems. Why have so many U.S. citizens not taken issue with this?
Conditioning. Simple as that. We as a country, a people, a world, are often distracted and manipulated by unimportant, “frivolous happening” so “the important few” can continue unhindered. Those words, and ideas, come from Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations. This man documented how easy it is to control and manipulate the public in a technique he called “engineering by consent,” and it is exactly as it sounds. How many movies, like Thor, is there a conflict where some hero involves himself? Where he cowboys up to save the day? There are countless movies, shows and books centered around this idea. Admittedly, it’s not a bad idea. Still, there’s subconscious conditioning that everyone needs to keep in mind.
Propaganda was published in 1928. Surely something published nigh a century ago could have no bearing on today’s modern communication age. This book should be required reading in Junior High School, and college (university), and on your drivers test. Bernays was always open about his methods. These are the same techniques advertisers, employers, and most of all, governments use to engineer your consent. There’s an excellent series of podcasts discussing the book in a modern context, chapter by chapter, hosted by Guy Evans at Smells Like Human Spirit. He even interviews Berney’s daughter, Anne. If you can’t make time to read a 100 page book, at least make the time to listen to one of these shows. Know the tools others are using to manipulate you. Arm yourself with knowledge.
I remember watching a CNN report on my ship in 2003 as the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down in Firdos Square in Baghdad, Iraq, while a fellow sailor and I conversed. She pointed out how happy the people looked, how we freed them, and what we were doing was good. I countered, in one of my all too few moments of percipience in my 20’s, how this is what we were being shown, who knows how they actually feel.
That is the point, don’t take things at face value. Look at what you’re being fed. Ask questions. When it came too light that the U.S. government was monitoring and recording their own citzens, no one cared. Why? Years of conditioning through entertainment. I’m not calling for a boycott, a protest, or a sit-in, I’m only asking that you take note of the subtext. It’s not all tights and capes. Oh wait, yes it is. Ask Fredric Wertham.
Notice anything in your favorite superhero movie? Think that Bernays guy was on to something? Comment below!
Seriously, not trying to start a political debate.