I Heart Thanos And It Bothers Me
Confession: I’ve seen Infinity War seven times and each time I exit the theater more enamored with Thanos than before.
At first, I didn’t really notice. I was kinda team Thanos as it is, simply because I think humanity is too flawed to continue existing. The more violence, abuse, and casual disregard for other people’s lives, not to mention the wanton cruelty by so many others, that I see, the more I think we as a species don’t deserve to survive. I spend my days wishing an extinction level event would happen, partly because I don’t want anyone to remember me or care about my leftover shit. But, alas, here we are, living in a corrupt society comprised of levels of exploitation while spinning lies to convince ourselves that we’re more caring, generous, and compassionate than we actually are. We live lives of excess gained from the constant mistreatment of others who are fighting for a chance to survive, and all the while we pretend our gains are earned, instead of stolen.
If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of contempt for humanity, myself included. So, the idea of cleansing this planet doesn’t bother me. I kinda wish I could, especially if I could wipe out those who do the most to hoard the most. But I can’t, so I live with the fantasy of one day having that power and the will to enforce it. And wrong as Thanos was, he did what he had to do to attain that lofty shit.
And you know what? That shit’s hot.
It’s also fucking disturbing. Thanos was an “any means necessary” type of being, and that usually means hurting a lot of people to get your way - which he did. Repeatedly. He took out anyone who hindered his path towards his goal. With the exception of Heimdall and Loki, it didn’t even feel malicious. It felt like a man with a plan and the will to implement it. Dare I say, ambitious. Cuz, yeah, he was ambitious. You kinda gotta be when your plan is to kill half the universe with a snap of your fingers.
It really bothers me that I think he’s hot. And not the actor. I just watched Deadpool 2 today and Cable did not give me the same feels. Not even close. Not to mention that Thanos is a CGI character. A 7-ft 8-in purple titan from another planet in a fictional universe, and here I am thirsty as hell for that bodied-out Teletubby. He’s a fucking monster with a ruthless, horrific plan, yet I’m like, “Yeah purple man with the big hands. Come sit by me.”
I should not be into Thanos, but what can I expect having grown up in a country that idolizes and romanticizes its monsters and promotes them as heroes? I’ve learned to love the horrors of humanity.
American history is fraught with murderers reframed as liberators. Trying to name an american hero whose legacy isn’t saturated in blood is challenging. America’s history is one of oppression, exploitation, and genocide drenched in the blood of its victims. Cyclic violence that many white people appear to revel in…they live in a space where they feel entitled to strip people of their humanity on a whim. They convince themselves that extreme violence is heroism, that it creates civility and culture, rather than murdering people and stealing it. Their idea of moral high ground is atop the bodies of all they have slain in their quest to convince themselves of their superiority, a self- perpetuating cycle that continues to fester and feed on others before finally consuming itself.
I grew up learning that might makes right and that only the strong, smart, and ruthless survive. Thanos is all these things. He embodies the characteristics I’d been conditioned to see as strength. He regrets the need to murder his daughter, but he doesn’t allow his feelings for her to stop him from pursuing his goal. He doesn’t hesitate…but he does mourn. The monster does feel pain at his actions.
Throughout my life, I’ve learned what it is to suffer at the hands of those who I’ve been taught I should love. I’ve been told how to suppress my trauma and continue functioning, hiding my broken behind a smile. I’ve learned how to navigate physically and emotionally hostile environments and take abuse from men and white people – I’ve figured out how to love something that constantly hurts me and seeks my downfall. Monstrosity is the breeze on my skin and the oxygen in my lungs. Cruelty is just an obstacle whose injuries I’ve learned to accept as normal and it’s a strength I’ve learned to appreciate. Mass murder has been depicted as an acceptable loss on the path to my desired outcomes. I am a monster who loves monsters and from that standpoint, Thanos is worthy of my regard. This character managed to display a savagery that appeared reasonable and a vulnerability that didn’t compromise his strength, something many men I’ve known never bothered to try. In a world where men glorify their emotional stuntedness and revel in their inability to cry, Thanos managed to expresse a vulnerability that elicited compassion that enhanced his masculinity. The monster that is Thanos exhibited more reason and emotion than is seen as acceptable in our society and instead of diminishing him, it made him stronger. It elevated his humanity and enhanced his appeal. And still he remains a monster.
But, you know, I’m american and if there’s one thin I’ve been taught, it’s how to love monsters because loving monsters is as american as apple pie.