Art critique

Stephen Dorff Marvel Movies ‘Review’ Presents Age-old Elitism in Art


When I was young (30) in second year in the University of Pittsburgh’s writing program, most of my fiction seminar professors had one rule: no genre writing. Despite the limitless potential of science fiction and fantasy stories to examine the very real problems of the world, the purely whimsical nature of these stories makes them “less than” in the eyes of many Serious Artists â„¢. One actor who would feel right at home in these classes is Stephen Dorff, who recently said he hated Marvel movies and was “embarrassed” about it. Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson. Dorff, whose acting CV is unknown to me, except for his turn in the years 1998 Blade, a Marvel movie, is in good company. It wasn’t that long ago that none other than Martin Scorsese decried the Marvel movies as not “cinema”, perhaps because the heroes don’t embark on a murderous rampage in the film’s final moments. and don’t get away with it.

Look, if anyone doesn’t like Marvel movies or DC movies or movies in general, that’s their right and shouldn’t tolerate any criticism from me. However, where I take a bit of shade is that instead of just saying he doesn’t like Marvel movies, Stephen Dorff takes it a step further by saying they are objectively bad. Objectivity in art, an almost entirely subjective experience, is nebulous at best. Yet even that is not what bothers me about it. Rather, it is that this attitude reflects a deep sense of elitism and snobbery when it comes to High Art® versus art accessible to the masses. Likewise, if a story takes on a hopeful tone or indulges in fantasy, it is somehow seen as lacking in comparison to stories that indulge in cynicism and despair.

What Stephen Dorff said about the Marvel movies sounds like sour grapes

Image via Marvel Studios.

Other than Real detective and Blade, personally, i don’t know about Dorff’s filmography, but i’m not writing this to dunk on him. (That’s what Twitter is for.) It’s impossible to really know what’s on other people’s hearts and minds, but Dorff’s comment sounds less artistic hipsterism than raisin. . You see, the reason we’re in a golden age of superhero movies is, in large part, thanks to Blade. It was the film that proved to Hollywood executives that VFX technology was where it needed to be to bring the power of these stories to life. It also proved, with $ 130 million returned from a $ 45 million budget, that there is an audience that will pay to see these movies. Of course, because these movies make money, it’s inevitable that the “you sell!” »The crowd will come looking for them.

Here’s what Stephen Dorff told Independent.com about the Marvel movies:

“I always chase the good shit because I don’t wanna be in Black Widow. It sounds like garbage to me. It looks like a bad video game. I am ashamed for these people. I’m ashamed for Scarlett! I’m sure she got paid, seven million dollars, but I’m ashamed for her. I don’t want to be in these movies. I really don’t. I’ll be that young director who’s the next Kubrick, and I’ll play for him instead.

There is a lot to unpack here. First of all, again, not trying to shame or ridicule Dorff for his career choices, but there are plenty of talented directors in the making in the Marvel Studios sphere. next director Eternals, Chloe Zhao has won all kinds of awards, including the famous Academy Award. Plus, directors like Joe and Anthony Russo weren’t kids, but previously only found work in TV comedy until Marvel handed them the reins of their biggest collaborative films (all of which feature Black Widow). . Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm have both created, through their Disney + streaming series operation, an incubator for “young talent” to bring their A game to a large audience.

Second, I don’t know what video games Stephen Dorff is playing, but the Marvel movies are, at least, excellent video games. Additionally, over the past 20 years (starting with games like BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic), the games include powerful storytelling. The last of us 2 has been praised for its fascinating history and gets its own adaptation. Third, Dorff definitely seems to feel “kind of a middle ground,” as my kid would say, about Johansson earning “five, seven million dollars” for a movie he absolutely doesn’t want to be or be a part of. He says he’s “embarrassed” for MCU stars, but I think it’s a different emotion starting with “E” that he’s feeling. (It rhymes with “envious”.) Plus, oddly enough, he didn’t seem to feel the same way about her. Real detective co-star Mahershala Ali was cast for the new Blade just over a year ago.

This kind of mass accessibility snobbery is centuries old

Commentaries like those of Dorff and Scorsese have a long history when it comes to conversations about art. In fact, almost any storyteller whose work long survives them in popular culture has probably faced this kind of criticism. Yes, there are countless wonderful works of art that challenge their audience and force them to do mental or emotional work to fully enjoy them. Still, that doesn’t mean that art that is easily accessible or indulged in the fantasy is less important. In fact, I would say that done well, it represents an even greater achievement to do what these other stories are doing while focusing on joy instead of loss, hopelessness, or other dark sides of human nature. Dorff may be embarrassed for Scarlett Johansson and her fellow millionaire Avengers, but I pity him.

The desire for stories featuring a giant spectacle, divine heroes, and very mundane real-world metaphors about humanity runs deep within us. Part of the reason George Lucas turned to Joseph Campbell and his mythological studies during the creation of Star Wars is because Campbell discovered that human cultures separated by time and geography developed very similar myths. One theory we can take from this is that there is something innate in humanity that draws us to these kinds of epic stories. They are not small art for the masses, but rather serve an almost primary need within us.

Ultimately, the issue is whether or not Stephen Dorff likes Marvel movies, they are not “garbage.” Loving them doesn’t mean that you are simplistic or unintelligent. You are just human.

What do you think of Stephen Dorff and his review of the Marvel films? Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

Featured Image via New Line Cinema

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he’s loved the medium ever since. He is the galaxy’s greatest star pilot, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book “What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More” is available in print on Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.