On Cronenberg, superheroes and childhood

the dark knight returns

The following is a response to David Cronenberg’s assessment of The Dark Knight Rises. You can read that over here.

After the release of The Dark Knight Rises, there has been many a review that has sparked an outcry from fans. The one most deserving is David Cronenberg’s review, or lack thereof. Instead of critiquing the film’s story, acting, directing or technical aspects, he simply dismissed the movie because it featured Batman. In doing so, he not only dismissed Christopher Nolan’s entire Dark Knight trilogy, but superhero movies in general. Why? Because superhero movies are kiddie movies that could never be high art. Why stop there? Why not say superhero shows and comics are also only for kids. Why not say that anything that features superheroes is just adolescent crap. Now that we’ve dismissed an entire genre that spans all mediums, I can tell you that David Cronenberg is a (earmuffs, children) fucking asshole.

It’s not because he hates superhero movies; everyone’s entitled to like what they want. It’s because he dismissed them as nothing more than child’s play, something only children should and could like. Really? This coming from the guy that turned A History of Violence, a graphic novel, into a movie? Yes, some things that feature superheroes are for children. Some things that feature superheroes (off the top of my head, Watchmen) aren’t for children and might even be a little too complex for some adults. If you think about it, though, this shows how far we’ve come as a culture. People used to dismiss superheroes because they thought they were a bad influence on kids. Now they dismiss superheroes because they think they’re only for kids. The reasoning might change, but they’re still (earmuffs) assholes. Now that I’ve fulfilled my duty as a nerd defending superheroes, I’d like to defend childhood itself, which is always under attack from (earmuffs) assholes.

Let’s say Cronenberg was right, and superhero movies are all for kids. What’s wrong with that? Couldn’t you just as easily say all animated movies are for kids? Would that stop animated movies from being high art? It shouldn’t, though it always seems to. Wall-E should have been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. There has always been a sense of looking down on things from our childhood, that gets to a point where if it remotely reminds us of childhood (is animated, features superheroes), we look down on it as being stupid and silly and never take it seriously. But why? If you’ve ever had to babysit kids, you know its no easy task keeping them entertained. Yet certain shows and movies do that rather well, and sometimes even educate. Even if you’ve re-watched something from your childhood and thought it was lame, wasn’t your inner child excited? And if not, then why? Did you kill your inner child to become more mature and grown-up? How’s that worked out for you?

Why the bashing of childhood? What is so wrong with liking something that’s out of your supposed demographic? I enjoy eating cereal with frosted sugar bits, marshmallows and chocolate puffs (sometimes all in the same bowl) and watching cartoons that feature John DiMaggio as a talking dog, and the other one where he’s a talking robot. Both are cartoons, but according to the TV rating system, one is not for kids even though both can be for adults. Maybe I’m rehashing an old Toys R’ Us slogan when I say I don’t want to grow up. I did, though, but my tastes in entertainment and art haven’t changed. They’ve expanded. I won’t look down on what I liked in my youth, even if I don’t like it now. And I won’t look down on anything that’s considered only for kids. Even if I don’t get it, my inner child probably will. He also thinks David Cronenberg is a skull-fuckingly stupid shit-bag. No reason for earmuffs, now. Over the years, his vocabulary has expanded too.

  • To be fair, Cronenberg has made some fantastic movies.