Theory: Spider-Man: Far From Home Is About School Shootings
Spider-Man: Far From Home made so much money that Sony could probably develop its own genetically engineered spiders to alter Tom Holland's DNA just to save some time on CGI. Among other things, it was the first movie in the MCU after Endgame, and thus answered a very important question: "What happens when half the population suddenly reappears five years after being murdered?"
The answer is apparently "Not much." In an interview with Fandango, Kevin Feige, the explainer of all things Marvel, summed it up by saying, "We think it's funny when high school kids call this horrific, universe changing event the Blip." Naturally, many articles were written about this, with people not finding it believable that teenagers would take such a glib attitude toward life-altering terror. But all those articles were written as if the Blip took place in the real world -- where, to our knowledge, we don't have people, be they spider or iron, to stop aliens from attacking us. In contrast, the MCU has a new alien invasion whenever a series gets too big for the hero to fight a twisted analogue of themselves.
In fact, in the span of just a decade, the people of the MCU have dealt with an alien invasion led by a Norse god, a spaceship owned by evil elves crashing into London, helicarriers commandeered by an army of cryptofascists hidden in the American government crashing into Washington, D.C., a terrorist in a robot suit kidnapping the president, a killer artificial intelligence with a god complex trying to use an entire city as a meteor to annihilate humanity, a group of killer robots attacking an expo in Queens, an Avenger who "broke Harlem" the last time he hung out there (the second-worst thing the Hulk did, after dabbing), and much, much more. Basically, check out the highlight reel of destruction from Civil War, then mentally add all the mangled corpses and grieving loved ones that the PG-13 films had to excise.
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Three of these events happened in New York, where Spider-Man and his classmates live. It was even recently confirmed / hastily retconned that Peter Parker was the boy in the Iron Man costume who nearly gets blown to pieces at the climax of Iron Man 2. These kids have grown up in a world where they were likely to be attacked by someone in a fancy costume claiming to be the Somethinginator or the Nefarious Whosawhatsit, probably via a swirling portal in the sky that threatens to destroy the planet. The Blip is just another, well, blip in a seemingly relentless parade of disaster and existential threat.
And in fact, we know that teens wouldn't show public despair over the MCU's endless crises, because we can see precisely that phenomenon in how real-world students relate to the threat of school shootings. Well, we can't, but researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the psychological phenomenon of desensitization can. Their study used social media to track the negative responses of students following six school shootings, and they found "a significant decrease in disgust, sadness, and anger" toward gun violence. The more it happens, the less it affects people.
There have already been 22 school shootings in 2019. In MCU terms, by the time a killbot designed by the world's leading designer of fashionable killbots finishes its flashy entrance, these kids have already processed it and are back to posting memes on Reddit. You simply have to move on once it becomes apparent that this is your new reality.
There's a spaceship hovering over downtown, and none of the incoming traffic is even slowing down. Life has changed, man.
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The same study did show a rise in anxiety following shootings, but Far From Home addresses this too. Let's start with the most obvious element: Mysterio. His scheme involves using fancy illusion drones to trick the world into thinking that he's a hero, because the world needs a new living icon now that Tony Stark is dead and Captain America is busy kicking ass at retirement home shuffleboard.
There's an extremely post-9/11 concept called security theater, which is something that we all go through to make ourselves feel better, but won't actually help at all in the face of a serious threat. You know, like instituting the mandatory use of pointless clear backpacks, or installing useless security features, or having a guy with a fishbowl on his head who would be slaughtered in a real fight pretend to save the world.
The more resources it looks like you're throwing at a problem, the more you can tell people that they're safe now, even as the fundamental cause remains unaddressed. And of course, you can't have a crisis without an Alex Jones/J. Jonah Jameson-style conspiracy theory based on the flimsiest of evidence. Surely there's some real logic behind these otherwise pointless and horrifying phenomena.
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There's also the question of why parents would even let their kids go to Europe so soon after vanishing for so long, but studies have shown that kids need to return to normalcy following traumatic events. Teachers in particular are prominent in providing support after trauma (and in this case, missing five years of pop culture is bound to cause some secondary fashion-related trauma too). Singling students out or making them feel abnormal just hurts them more.
So while the creators of Far From Home probably didn't intend a real-world parallel, it certainly turned out that way. We're used to tragedy; perhaps too used to it. But kids have always coped by joking around before trying to get back to normal, whether they're dealing with shootings or supervillains. It's just that in the MCU, they can safely assume they'll be saved from evil aliens by whichever spare superhero happens to be waiting for a franchise, while in reality, we're addressing mass shootings by, uh ...
Michael Hock is an MFA Student at George Mason University. Sometimes he reviews movies with his cat on his blog, Bad Shakespeare.
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