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7/1/04
"Spider-Man 2"

Reviewed by Victor Niederhoffer

Spiderman 2 finds the movie cut from the cloth that fully clothes the world: one of the premises is that the normal lot of the common man is a life of suffering and pessimism, of sacrifice of one's pleasures as a necessary consequence of achieving happiness and productivity. The owner of a pizza store fires Spiderman. The newspaper editor is only interested in cheating his employees. Consumer transactions are not based on the win-win of mutually beneficial voluntarism and improvement, but on the desire of the consumer to cheat the purveyor by getting something for free. Landlord has no heart and hounds him unmercifully for his money. The banker gyps his customers with unreasonable foreclosures and false advertising.  The father of the girlfriend shows up back stage merely to borrow some money. The owner of the Fusion Corp is a caricature of an investment banker trying to hype the public without regard to environmental consequences. The scientists are destroying the environment. Technology is used for such evil purposes as trying to find a cheaper source of energy, like nuclear fission, in order to make life better without regard to the danger of a meltdown. The universities are filled with corrupt professors.

Indeed Spiderman himself is the average Joe, failing at everything, being taken advantage of at every step in life, while merely trying to go about the humdrum business of living and arresting the dangers of progress in the face of a world interested only in material gain without regard to externalities and communitarian goals. Everything that happens to Peter Parker, from the first time we see him being balled out by his boss Joe at his pizza store to his unjust firing coming next, the numerous times the newspaper publisher chisels him out of money due, the numerous times that he fails to pay proper attention to and kiss Mary Jane, the usher that unfairly keeps him out of the play, and the betrayal by his best friend, embodies and accents this suffering. In short, this movie is propaganda ideas such as "keep man small" and "let's improve our self esteem by showing that all above us are corrupt," and "there is no difference between the communist system and the free market system" and "the snail darter is more important than the human" and "all private property must be used for public benefit" and "the purpose of life is to live for others" version of the agrarian reformist movement.

But when one is seeing this movie with one of his six daughters, and she tells one that she loved this movie partly because it supports everything her teachers have told her about the way the world works, one is glad he didn't walk out after the interminable high tech battle scenes between Spiderman and the mad scientist trying to profit (played by the worst actor in history, Alfred Molina, destroying yet another role almost as badly as he does by playing Teyve in the current fiddler), and the nonromantic love scenes between Spiderman and the completely everywoman homely Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson.

7/1/04
George Zachar Comments:

I did my undergraduate honors thesis on propaganda.

The most powerful type of propaganda, by far, is that which invisibly shapes the envelope of conventional thought.

By placing positive understanding of entrepreneurs and human progress completely outside the realm of day-to-day discourse, the funhouse mirror distorted view of human society the Chair ably details in his Spiderman2 critique becomes accepted as the reality upon which both personal and public choices are tragically based.

The pedantic but accessible Propaganda by Jacques Ellul is one of the major theoretical works addressing this.

Anyone attuned to this, and trapped in an airport with CNN pounding out of the ubiquitous screens, has involuntary flashbacks to Orwell's depressingly prescient 1984.

 

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