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The Avengers: End Game

Toshi X. Tomori

July 24, 2019

The Avengers: End Game was just re-released with additional footages a little over a month after it hit the theater. The film grossed over $2.7 billion worldwide and has been seen by over 100 million people. These numbers are enviable for those of us are trying to build mass social movements. As such, in a film about genocide, it’s worth examining what type of people are notably absent or discarded since their very lack of representation signals that they are the primary victims of the erasure.

It’s a film teeming with surprise reappearances; in fact, the casting and cameos makes it a rather overcrowded film which is a bit ironic since the movie’s universe’s population has been wiped out by half. Which means there is an oversupply of a certain group of people while an underrepresentation or stark absence of another.

The film plays off the genocide ambiguously. It may be a good thing since, based upon a passing but by no means understated remark, the environment has improved. Let’s push this dismissed line just a bit further and connect it with the racially underrepresented people in the movie: the film seems to say, rather daringly, that by cutting human (though it’s all living creatures in the movie but whatever) population by half, we may escape or delay the inevitable environmental catastrophe.

But who should be eliminated? It would seem Thanos just eliminated people at random, but, to follow the racial logic of the film, the ones who are not on screen are the ones who are the ideal candidates for genocide: Asians, Latinos, and Middle Easterners. Which brings me to the very odd killing of the only (signifying) Asian in the film. He is supposed to be a Japanese yakuza and his murder is justified by the fact that he’s not a good man. It’s a throwaway role but they’ve cast a recognizable Japanese actor for what? a fifteen second part? He’s also wielding a samurai sword in what is probably Tokyo, although I must say the whole scene looks like a set dressed as Tokyo. In other words, inauthentic.

Has anyone seen yakuzas walking around with samurai swords in Tokyo? It’s such an inconvenient weapon of choice. It is more iconic than practical, hence another layer of inauthenticity with this character and scenario. It’s what gaijins imagine what yakuzas look like. His death is connected to Mexican narcos since the killer is actually one of our dear Avengers turned vigilante. His motivation is that how could these evil people survive the genocide when his family was killed off. OK, fair enough, but interestingly the bad guys worthy of vigilante justice and death are conveniently located outside the US. It’s a faint, faint signal in a system of signs and signification, but I think this is where the film locates its ideal demographic for genocide.

If these groups of people didn’t exist in our world (Asians, Latinos, and others) or if they can be eliminated immediately, we can cut down on pollution and stave off the “inevitable”—Thanos’ signature term of endearment for himself.

The film doesn’t portray this idea as embodied by Thanos as a completely evil plan. Not the stereotypical triumphant villain, Thanos is shown living peacefully and in harmony with his environment. He’s a hippie. It’s benevolent genocide that he was advocating for. Even his much abused daughter vouches for him. It’s a perverted idea, but it’s one being pushed by the film; that perhaps it’s not so bad at all to sacrifice entire groups of people so that the other half can live and it’s not such a farfetched notion either (which should be the scary part) as this will be the likely scenario in the inevitable decades to come.

The final image. It’s nostalgic. It almost counters the time machine logic than is set up in the film which it also violates. It’s a mournful image of an America that can longer be, whether because of degraded environment, precarious economy, MAGA, or whatever else one can think of. The film thinks it’s showing a romantic image instead of a romanticized one and this is the one true inauthentic point the film makes: America is in decline. There will be no “to be continued” as usually concludes a Marvel film but a long deep slide into darkness.

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