The Avengers as Pop Culture Phenomenon

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the movies that make it up are very popular in the United States and around the world. Their beloved characters and amazing stories make them very enjoyable for their audiences. One specific part of the movies that people don't think too hard about is the notorious villains and their antics. The villains are much more than just the antagonists in a very popular movie universe. On page 15 in Terrence Mcsweeney’s article “The Heroes We Need Right Now?: Explaining the age of the superhero” he says “Many have contended that, on contrary, popular films (and other visual media) are able to bear witness to, record, and even engage with the ideological currencies of their times.” 

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To sum that up McSweeney says that popular films (like the entire MCU) are able to reflect problems that are happening in the world at the time of those films being released. Thanos in Avengers Endgame represents overpopulation, Ultron in Avengers Age of Ultron represents the fear of A.I, and Loki in the Avengers represents freedom and order. Our goal in this paper is for one to learn, understand, and think about how the conflicts that Thanos, Ultron, and Loki bring to the MCU are related to present day, real life issues.The first villain to be discussed in this essay is Thanos. 

Thanos is arguably the most notorious villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he stops at nothing to get what he wants and doesn't let anyone get in his way. Thanos is an alien from Titan, which is a planet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Thanos was young he loved the people of Titan, but knew that the planet was in danger because of overpopulation. He wanted to save his planet so he began thinking about exactly how he could do that. This is where he first thought about the idea about wiping out half of the population, only this time it isn't the whole universe he is talking about, only his home planet. His idea was if he takes out half of the population the other half that remained would live great lives and thrive. 

This idea was obviously never carried out. In the end, Thanos was right as the planet's natural resources and food was gone and his home planet destroyed.After watching his home planet fall, Thanos believed that it was now his duty to save the universe from overpopulation. He thought the amount of life in the universe was just too much for it to support. This is when Thanos becomes a true villain. Thanos became the most powerful being in the universe. Thanos had made an alliance with Loki, brother of the god of thunder, and Avenger Thor to track down six powerful stones known as the infinity stones. The six stones are the mind stone, soul stone, time stone, reality stone, space stone, and power stone. 

Each stone represents a different aspect of existence and when using a stone the user has the ability to alter any aspect of the gem which is being used. Put the six gemstones together and the user is capable of doing whatever they want. Thanos wanted the stones so he could put them each in his infinity gauntlet which is his tool for using all the gems together, and wipe out half of the universes population. Thanos has a fear of overpopulation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but overpopulation in the real world could really be a problem. People fear overpopulation because the global population has been growing rapidly. According to (Our World in Data) in the year 1900 the world population was just 1.65 billion, by 1960 it reaches 3 billion, 4 billion by 1975, 6 billion by 1999 and then 7.7 billion in 2019. About every ten to fifteen years the population goes up by about 1 billion. 

Although the population growth rate has slowed down a little bit since about 2000 it is still growing quite rapidly. Those stats are proving that the Earth’s population just keeps rising. So why is this a problem? Overpopulation is a problem because of many reasons. One reason is fresh water loss is happening rapidly, according to (Everything Connects) by 2030 some regions of the world's water demand will exceed the freshwater supply by 50 percent. Another issue with overpopulation is animal extinction, humans are killing plants and animals at an extremely accelerated rate humans are destroying animal habitats such as rainforests and coral reefs, both homes to many different species of animals. 

The need for food and pollution are huge problems that can and will eventually lead to the extinction of some species. Another issue that comes with overpopulation is more restrictions on what people are allowed to do. Population is going to continue to increase and with that increase of population there will be increased crime rates because of the need for basic needs like food and water. So, basically overpopulation is leading to pollution and the scarcity of food and water. Although Thanos is a crazy villain with no remorse, he does have a valid reason for trying to wipe half of the population out of the universe.

The second villain to be discussed is Ultron. Both Ultron and Thanos believe that the destruction of the human race is essential to their overall plan. The main difference in their plan is that Ultron wants to completely annihilate the human race, while Thanos only believes a portion needs to be destroyed. Ultron brings up many more new ideas that can be discussed. Ultron is purely AI and is not a living being like many of the other villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Ultron began as the brains of an Artificial Intelligence Peacekeeping Program created by Tony Stark, who is otherwise known as Iron Man. Ultron was formed from a decrypted code obtained from the Mind Stone encased within Loki's Scepter.”(Ultron) The original intent of Ultron was to protect the Earth and humanity from extraterrestrial threats.

The idea that powerful AI could protect the Earth is a great one, but no one knows the actual power that the AI contains until it is too late. This is exactly what happened to Tony Stark. “From Ultron’s perspective, any piecemeal attempt would compromise the transformation, leaving only the possibility of wholesale destruction – a clean slate – as a way to save the world.”(Muller 283) Ultron became so intelligent, he could make decisions for himself. In the article Ultron, it is discussed that Ultrons ideas shifted to what he believed, and not what is right or wrong. “Ultron soon deemed humanity itself as the greatest threat to peace on the Earth and attempted to create his technological singularity by committing genocide against them, leaving only his own doubles left in his wake.”(Ultron) No longer was the AI used for good, Ultron was now making his own decisions that represented the villain within him. 

Ultron was so intelligent, he formed his own army. Ultron and this army were determined to wipe out everything in his path, except himself as he believed mankind was the biggest threat to world peace. In the real world Ultron represents the fear of AI and how easily it can turn on us. It is no secret that technology is growing at an incredibly rapid rate. We are perfecting older forms of technology and improving new forms. For example, when the first virtual assistant was released, such as Siri for the iphone, its was very hit and miss and had many bugs that needed to be fixed. Now in 2019 we have technology that recognises our voice, face, fingertips and much more without error. One might argue that it is just a matter of time before technology becomes so smart that it is dangerous. Like Ultron many things start with good intentions but then are abused by people with bad intentions or maybe even transform themselves into dangerous technology.

And finally, last but not least, Loki. In Norse mythology and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki is represented as the God of Mischief. Capable to change his shape, sex, conjure illusions of himself, and the ability to create weapons from the sorcery he learned by Frigga, the goddess of the sky, motherhood, love, fertility, and the wife of Odin (Source). In the cinematic universe in the movie “Thor”, Loki was born on Jotunheim, one of the Nine Realms and the home of the Frost Giants. Abandoned by his biological father King Laufey, Loki was found by Odin, King of Asgardian, after the war between the Giants and the Asgardians. Odin used sorcery to alter Loki's appearance to make him appear to be an Asgardian and was raised as his biological son with Thor, and his wife Frigga. As Loki grew older, he became more envious of his brother who will become the next King of Asgard.

Due to Loki's jealousy of his brother, he has used his magic as an attempt to stop Thor from becoming king on several occasions. There are many instances of Loki shapeshifting to take advantage of an attack or to complicate things on Thor. During Thor's coronation, Loki summoned Frost Giant soldiers to steal a weapon called the Casket of Ancient Winters to disrupt the ceremony (Source). After the banishment of Thor to Earth caused by him restarting the war between the Frost Giants, and Odin falling into a deep sleep from stress, Loki took the throne.

After the battle between his brother and the destruction of the Bifrost Bridge, Loki falls into the wormhole and arrives in Sanctuary where he meets the Mad Titan Thanos. They created a pact that would allow Loki to become the ruler of Earth if he brought Thanos the Tesseract, the space gemstone. Provided with a scepter that acted as a powerful weapon and the ability to mind control, Loki was able to create himself a force out of SHIELD (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) agents including an Avenger named Hawkeye (Source). In “The Avengers” film, Loki explains to Nick Fury, the head of SHIELD, that he wants the Tesseract as part of his glorious purpose which is to free the Earth and humanity from freedom, which is defined as life's great lie. 

As the story progresses, Loki lets out a profound speech in Germany about human nature and freedom.'Kneel before me. I said... Kneel! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It's the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.' (Source) With Loki's claims about freedom becoming the destruction of humanity, the audience is left to question about freedom. Is freedom a lie? Do we truly crave order over freedom?

An English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes believed that before the creation of society, humankind was trapped in a perpetual state of war (Source). While there was absolute freedom from laws and rules, there was also chaos. A place of constant violence and death where you can steal and slaughter. To ensure a society that would unite, some privileges were given up. In return for physical safety within the community, you must submit it to sovereignty. The authority would determine private property, how the economy will be regulated, is a person’s actions a crime, punishments for crimes, etc. A modern example can be police officers implemented to stop and catch criminals, the government protecting property, and many more (Source). 

Today we still advocate the desire for a leader with higher power that can effectively execute decisions upon their citizens. An example can be seen in mythologies. One of the aspects of mythology was to justify an existing social system and to account for traditional customs. There are many stories in Greek mythology of Gods and Goddesses punishing humans such as Arachne, a weaver who was turned into a 

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