Writing about a genocide-craving, fictional Titan is not a writing exercise best suited for me, but there is a certain dynamic to this theory behind his madness that interested me beyond the fanfare.
The mad Titan, Thanos, first appeared in the early 70s in the Marvel comic books. His beginning was an apocalyptic event in the universe which would span across the decades to come, crumbling the universe and re-setting it as the years went by. Thanos was created by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin – and Starlin has openly admitted that the character was heavily inspired by one of the characters developed by Jack Kirby called Darkseid. Both DC and Marvel have been mutually inclusive with regard to being inspired from each other.
Many fictional superpowered characters have sprung out of the pages of their comics, but none of them, in my opinion, holds such an interesting ‘cosmic dynamic’ as Thanos or his DC counterpart, Darkseid. Both of them are otherworldly beings who visualise ‘beauty’ in chaos, and ‘balance’ in setting the Doomsday Clock.
With the release of “Avengers: Infinity War”, Thanos has received a proper live-action debut where the focus is on him instead of the heroes. Capes and spandexes were shown the bench in this installment, where the lion’s share of the narrative is attributed to how Thanos finds beauty in the equilibrium amidst the chaos. The depiction of Thanos deserves a solid salute – they (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) presented the character and his vision through a few scenes that described the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of his actions commendably. The character is portrayed as a survivor of a fallen world, marred by the burden of ‘too many mouths to feed’. Thanos, while describing his past history, positions himself as a prophet whose mission is to establish balance in the universe.
They say obsessing about anything turns the host bitter and can even derail them. In Thanos’s case, though, his obsession with equilibrium made him channel his energy towards conquering the cosmos. When we are given a glimpse of his past, it portrays why he is not just a run-of-the-mill super-villain. There is a method to his madness, a tenderness to his rough exterior and a moment of hesitation in his tyranny.
Thanos is obsessed with re-establishing equilibrium in the cosmos – a flashback to Gamora’s past shows how he taught her young self to concentrate on nothing but balancing the 2-headed dagger. Thanos is brutal, but not without a few trinkets of sympathy revolving around him.
Thanos presents a thought-provoking question that has always plagued people over the ages – how to establish the balance between finite resources and an ever-expanding population? People who found the easy route to this answer this question are regarded today as dictators and genocidal maniacs. One could see a reflection of Thanos in dreaded figures like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, especially with regard to how obsessed they were with establishing a mechanism of controlled order through genocidal chaos.
Let’s go back to this question of finite resources versus ever-expanding consumerism. How do we tackle this problem? Is it through collective will or by practising a poignant skill? It is something that lies on the border line between ethics and conflict.
Taking this question away from the fictional world, we can see how scary the proposition of wiping out half the population really is. The measure used by Thanos was a powerful snap that was not biased in favour of the rich or the poor. The bottom-line was the act of cleansing, irrespective of people’s ethnicities. A level of perfection is to be visualised in this method. But it’s horrifying all the same, as probably none of us would like to end up dead alongside half of the population
What really attracted me to this movie (apart from the presence of Robert Downey Jr, of whom I am a big fan) was how interesting the motive of Thanos was woven into the movie. Thanos originally does it in the comics to please his crush, Mistress Death herself. But the MCU has indulged in a plot which, in my opinion, is much more profound than the original premise.
I have often wondered what I would have done if I had the choice of choosing balance over the over-grown populace – and frankly, I have wished for balance quite often. Plentiful resources, a day when we do not have to fight over each other for sustenance – and I feel the balance is tipping. A gauntlet would be much more resourceful in the present day, but what if I am a part of that unfortunate half that gets erased? A trade-off is never pretty and we don’t trade lives (as Captain America says in the movie) – and maybe, that’s why life has always found a way to establish beauty in imbalance.