The Ethics of Infinity War: A Missed Opportunity
The blog below contains no spoilers about the film.
Sometimes evil is simple.
We all love a good story that has clearly delineated good guys who we love to love and bad guys who we love to hate. When we get to hear, see, or read stories about retributive justice saving the day, we leave with a good feeling. . But sometimes evil is not simple. . Sometimes, the bad guy complicates things just enough to get you thinking. This is not an unwelcome discomfort because these kinds of plot twists force us to reckon with our own ethics. We must face how we understand good and evil in the world. These are important opportunities that the entertainment industry can safely provide, Or miss.
In the case of The Avengers: Infinity War, a large, ethical softball was lobbed up by the people of Marvel only to watch it drop without so much as a half-hearted swing. It should come as no surprise to you that Thanos, the villain of the movie, is a bad guy with an evil plot. In a nutshell, he wants to kill off half the population of the universe - exactly half. His motivation, stated repeatedly through the movie, is to rid the universe of the overpopulation problem that is consuming too many resources and causing pain and misery to the life of the other half. He does not delineate between class, gender, or species. He wants to be "fair" and random so that he can implement what he calls "mercy." Naturally, the Avengers spend a huge chunk of the movie working to prevent this. What they do not do is ever address WHY what he is doing is evil. “Isn’t killing half the population enough in and of itself to fight for? Why do we have to talk about it?”
Because in a number of ways, we are already talking about it. Thanos might be extreme but he is not simple evil. If Thanos, like so many villains before him just wanted power, authority, or glory then we could simply sit back and watch the plot. However, Thanos brings up a strangely debatable opinion that is more common than you would expect.