saying, “Yes, if you assume Gotham is the same as a place like New York City, but that’s not the case” (“Christopher Nolan”). Wheeler Winston Dixon argued in his 2004 publication, Film and Televi- sion after 9/11 , that “the bulk of mainstream American cinema since 9/11 . . . seems centered on a desire to replicate the idea of the just war” (1). Thus, despite early, often toothless, attempts at self-reflection, comic book movie convention dictates that by the third act some undeniable evil requires the hero to (re)assume their mantle. This inevitable threat, alongside some bombastic explosions, ultimately drowns out any moral questions. It is here the secret identity of the comic book adaptation might be revealed. Despite the veneer of sociopolitical relevance, the colorful costumes and fantasy setups of these films deflect the criticism leveled at more “grounded” fare such as westerns and action movies, yet the fantasy contains the same vigi- lante ideology that mainstream cinema had perpetuated from John Wayne to John Rambo. These films tend to validate individualistic, even illegal efforts, to defend a community that will not defend itself. This narrative tallied with a government increasingly at odds with the international com- munity, seeking revenge by methods that were widely considered illegal, in defense of a community (domestic and international) that increasingly cast them as “outsiders.”
39 The Golden Age of Comic Book Filmmaking Faultline Texts By building on America’s national myth, these films may perpetuate its atten- dant ideology, but the multiplicity of readings and outward resistance of audi- ences to the rhetoric of films such as 300 (even while they enjoy its spectacle), suggests that these films are not simply dull instruments shaping a passive audience’s worldview. 20 For instance, one 31–35-year-old fan displayed greater awareness when asked if she would attend future Marvel Studios productions following a screening of Thor , “I have problems with the ideologies in some of those films.” As Steve Neale argues, a stringently ideological approach is “open to the charges of reductivism, economism, and cultural pessimism” (“Ques- tions of Genre” 65). Similarly, even if audiences do gravitate to comics and their adaptations for nostalgia, escapism, and wish fulfillment, this is not nec- essarily a regressive activity. Far from mindless drones, the audience research found participants who sought these pleasures, while also recognizing how fleeting or empty they may be. Given this contestation, these films are a good example of what Alan Sin- field describes as “faultline stories . . . they address the awkward, unresolved issues, the ones in which the conditions of plausibility are in dispute” (47).
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