I began writing this column in the early afternoon on Tuesday, Nov. 8. I was going to write about Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad and superhero movies as an example of art’s greatest failure, apathy; about how a film you can hate has more power than one you just feel OK about.
That was before the polls started closing, before the media began reporting results, before Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States of America. I kind of lost my focus as the afternoon wore on, as you can imagine.
It seems silly to write about superheroes in this space this week and pretend that the country has not sailed swiftly, boldly into uncharted waters — for whether you are for or against him, nothing about Trump can be predicted.
But hear me out. It’ll all make sense soon.
I watched Doctor Strange last weekend. It was fine. It was acceptable. It hit the right notes at the right times. It did not excel, nor did it leap past the boundaries of my expectations. It met them, precisely, without one toe over the line. The Marvel Cinematic Universe chugs onward.
I left the theater feeling quite perturbed by my own indifference.
The failure of art — of life — is not found in lack of quality, but in lack of feeling.
When I saw Suicide Squad back in August, I thought that movie was a dumpster fire in action on every level: story, character, cinematography and even soundtrack. (I’ve never been so annoyed by a film soundtrack as I was this one.) I hated it. I spent days complaining about it. I warned other people not to see it — or at least to go in with tempered expectations.
And yet, which one sticks out more in my mind? Which one has had and will have greater staying power in our pop culture?
I think you know the answer to that one, puddin’.
As we survey the rubble of the 2016 election, does the same not apply? Donald Trump captivated the nation every time he opened his mouth. People couldn’t stop talking or thinking about him, whether because they abhorred his language or adulated his attitude. He is hated or loved. There is no medium.
Compare all those strong feelings of fear and hope to what Hillary Clinton mustered. It was not the same wave of emotion Trump had, or that Barack Obama did before him in a different way.
She was safe even amidst her scandals as a formulaic, familiar choice to lead America, not unlike the good Doctor. People showed up. I showed up. But it wasn’t enough. She failed, in part, because she did not summon enough strong feelings from enough people, one way or another, to persuade them to follow her.
Trump could, and did.
I say again that apathy is the killer of art, of life. Don’t let your emotions die with the election — whether you support or denounce Trump, let that passion dictate your next steps. Don’t let this be an interlude before you slide back into indifference.
Take your feelings, and fight for what you believe in. The story of our next four years has yet to be written.