Avengers: Infinity War — The Culture of Death Goes Galactic
by Rachel Adams
My mother complains that Marvel villains never make sense to her — their motivations seem unclear and exaggerated. And I tend to agree with her. Or I did until I saw the most recent film, Avengers: Infinity War, by far the top movie currently out. The motivations here are crystal clear, and very familiar if you know about the views on human population associated with Paul Ehrlich or, even more so, Eric Pianka. Our colleague Wesley Smith has written about those in The War on Humans, for National Review and here at Evolution News.
Warning: Some minor spoilers follow.
In the new addition to the expansive franchise of films known collectively as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we finally get to meet the archvillain who has been looming on the horizon for ten years. Thanos is a godlike alien being who has been collecting some elusive MacGuffins, the infinity stones, so he can finally achieve his goal: to wipe out half the universe.
The fact is, my mom may still find Thanos’s motivation a little far out. Killing 50 percent of the population of the galaxy? Really? That sounds like just another over-the-top premise for a flashy superhero movie. (What else can we expect from a movie called Infinity War?) But as his character takes shape, Thanos turns out to be more believable than at first glance.
When one character accuses him of being insane, Thanos calmly explains: “Little one, it’s a simple calculus. This universe is finite. Its resources, finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correction.”
He goes into more detail with Dr. Strange (whom we’ve mentioned before):
Thanos: Titan [Thanos’s home planet] was like most planets. Too many mouths, not enough to go around. And when we faced extinction, I offered a solution.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Genocide?
Thanos: At random. Dispassionate, fair. The rich and poor alike. And they called me a madman. And what I predicted, came to pass.
The people of Titan refused Thanos’s plan to forcibly lower their population, and as a result suffered starvation and, it appears, eventual extinction. Now, he wants to prevent the same fate from befalling the rest of the galaxy by pre-emptively vaporizing half of its inhabitants. He considers death a mercy compared to suffering and scarcity.
Now where have we heard that before? Thanos, a fictional character, is not alone in holding his misanthropic ideology. He’s joined by some nonfictional biologists, and he may be setting his sights a little low at only 50 percent.
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