By Christy Dena
This piece contains mild spoilers and mild mind scrambling if you haven’t seen the 2018 film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Margaret Thatcher had something to say about Miles Morales, so too did narrative theorist Seymour Chatman, as well as those fighting the idea of a “half-black, half-Hispanic” Spider-Man (Rose, 2018). It wouldn’t be a stretch of my tingly senses to say these folks share the belief that there is no alternative, there is a single, right, way. Thankfully, the opening sequence of the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, story by Phil Lord), sets the scene for social change with some cool emancipatory narrative devices.
It’s the kind of interventionist work that needs to be done because audiences have been trained to approach their story experiences, and much of life, with closed thinking. As part of his work on The Psychology of Closed Mindedness, social psychologist Arie Kruglanski explains that ‘the need for closure is the desire to have certainty, to have a definite answer to a question and avoid ambiguity’ (Kruglanski, 2021). A consequence of this is we can ‘jump to conclusions about others, and to form impressions based on limited and incomplete evidence’ (Kruglanski, 2004, 2). That character is the killer! Capitalism is the answer!
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher found it hard to imagine alternatives, and encouraged everyone else to find it hard. Thatcher is associated with the slogan ‘There is No Alternative’ — which refers to the neoliberal logic she popularised. In a speech, Thatcher not only said ‘there’s no real alternative,’ but also said ‘What’s the alternative? To go on as we were before?’ (Thatcher, 1980). As if the future is a long, single, inevitable, line of progression and the only choice is to stick with what isn’t working or proceed in the only available direction. Do nothing and crumble, or do the only change available.
In Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher connected the belief that there is no alternative to capitalism with dystopian films and novels that don’t imagine ‘different ways of living’ (Fisher, 2009, 2). Instead of representing or prefiguring different ways of living together, many works of fiction depict the destruction of the world by unbridled capitalism. Even our fiction jumps to conclusions.Continue reading “Into The Spider-Verse and (Side)Setting the Scene for Social Change”