May 5, 2019 | Mythology
This week was interesting; I just realized that even though we live in the 21st century, virtually anything can be explained by science and most youngsters are atheists, people still crave mythological, mystical, superhuman heroes. Maybe even more than ever.
Firstly, the long-awaited episode 3 of the final series of the Game of Thrones was finally aired on TV. This series, based on a series of bestseller books by George R.R. Martin, has been mesmerizing audiences worldwide since 2011. The plot of this story is built around political skirmish in Westeros, a land inhabited by seven noble houses and their vassals. In the background, there comes a threat from the North of the country, as according to legends creatures known as White Walkers were planning to come back and invade the country after 8,000 years of peace. It turns out that the rumors are true. For worse, White Walkers not only exist but also have a commander: a demonic, blood-thirsty Night King whose ultimate goals are unknown.
So, this week, the big day has come: an episode in which the Night King and his army finally attacked Westeros after so many years of giving clues to the viewers that this will eventually happen. There were dozens of fan theories on who is going to die in the battle, and how this whole story will eventually end. The faithful viewers had their nerves on strings, keeping fingers crossed for their favorite characters. And what happened? The Night King just rapidly died in the battle. Just so. With his death, the whole army also went to the dust and this is how the war against White Walkers was won. This caused a major outcry of disapproval among the fans of the show, as they expected the villain to be more villainous and make more trouble to the protagonists of the story than he actually did. He was this mystical black character being built on screen for the last few years and suddenly killing him off did not satisfy the fans. They had an expectation to experience someone who is superhuman and almost immortal and simply did not accept to see his weaknesses on screen.
Secondly, I watched the latest Avengers: Endgame movie at a movie theatre. I must say that I am not big of superhero movies, but I wanted to know what all this buzz is about as this was one of the most anticipated movies of all time. Honestly speaking, after the visit to the movie theatre, I was surprised why the critics like the movie so much. Even my favorite movie critics like Chris Stuckmann who are normally very sensitive to the nuances of the story and character development were very positive about this one. To me, this was yet another movie with a bunch of superhuman characters who fight against a flat villain trying to destroy half of the universe by assembling some ridiculous items (some magic stones in this case). None of the conflicts presented in the movie seemed any relatable to me; it was all just a bunch of superficial storylines full of abstract problems leading to a final battle – which was not relatable as well, as it was based on comparing magic powers rather than on intelligence, strategy, and warcraft. So, I could not really understand why movie critics who are normally very critical towards movies, praise this one. It came to my mind that people have some intrinsic need for superheroes. Maybe the fact that these characters are not real human beings, releases the temptation to compare yourself to others. This type of pressure is what you often get when reading biographies of successful people, and it makes you think ‘why am I not as successful as this guy…’.
The Avengers and the rest of Marvel Studios Universum made me think about superheroes as the new American mythology. Americans do not have their own culture; society is a mixture of descendants from all the nationalities in the world and there are simply no legends and myths to relate to. At the end of the day – even today, when religion slowly dies out in well-developed countries – people still need heroes with a quotable origin story.
Lastly, this week I went to a lecture by Craig Wright who was just passing by the Netherlands and made an almost sensational appearance at the Bitcoin Wednesday Amsterdam conference. Craig is an Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur who is very controversial in the crypto space for his claims to be the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, a person or persons behind the concept of Bitcoin. There is some evidence suggesting that he, in fact, is not Satoshi (for instance his unwillingness to make any transaction using Satoshi’s private keys) but this is not what drew my attention. Craig probably makes it worse by himself by placing heated comments against other figures in the field on Twitter on a regular basis, but as a matter of fact, he would probably be hated in the field even without it. When I thought about this whole controversy, it came to my mind that whoever would reveal themselves as Satoshi – even the true Satoshi – would not meet with major enthusiasm from Bitcoin fans. What people need are these mystical, faceless heroes who save the world and not just yet another successful human who, even if contributed to the world, is simply smarter and wealthier than you. In a way, this is sad but also very human.