getting warmer… try digging a little…
Don't mind me, just documenting my further descent into madness.
We fell for it, guys. That cyberpunk future where corporations rule over all in a world of limitless technology, connecting billions across the globe, to the extent that we now have a functioning robot on Mars that can deliver hot laser death to the first communist pig that sets foot before pure American bootheels? It’s real. With our 4G tablets, interplanetary murder devices, and videogames being widely accepted as an artform, this is the future we dreamed of.
Sadly, we’ve paid a great price. “Nerd culture” has become the scourge of the earth, rampant consumerism, referential humor, and corporate worship has become the norm. Technological fetishism of consumer electronics is rising at an unhealthy precedent, so much that an internet weirdo can present some Photoshop mockups and a bunch of unsubstantiated claims of their production ability, and get millions of dollars just by promising to build a highly underpowered videogame console using mobile hardware.
Narrowing this down, the ‘cult’ is very specifically one of fandom, and ‘sacrifice’ is presented in terms of devotion to (and ersatz affiliation with) a media franchise.
The film symptomatically presents the conflict as one between sheer totalitarian brainwash and “the free market of ideas” - in the literal sense that people purchase and consume speech. No gray between.
Consider how the ending celebrates the multitude of opinions presented on cable news, but not the content of those opinions. It’s “Fair and Balanced”. Consider how Loki is essentially spotted by a Youtuber, brought to you by Google. The wireless camera trick is social networking taken to a logical extreme, and the content of that network is Marvel® character Loki™. By making your own videos about The Avengers, you are making The Avengers stronger, right? Maybe they’ll give you a reach-around.
The meta-franchise reading is well-supported by the text. In a continuation of Captain America and Iron Man 2, these characters are not only superheroes but brand names, with diegetic lines of merchandising. You wonder if they’ll ever broach the topic of whether Steve Rogers gets residuals for his likeness appearing everywhere.
As noted before, the film is celebrating the way that fans ‘participate’ in a franchise by generating content for it. This logic is applied to the role of social networking in the augmentation of a surveillance society, of evangelism in augmenting a church, and it’s pushed to an extreme with Coulson’s baseball cards. Coulson inserts himself into the Captain America franchise in every sense.
So what is to be sacrificed? Obviously Marvel doesn’t want real-world fans to literally die in the service of The Avengers, as Coulson does. But they can sacrifice their money on merch, and their free time on viral marketing. They can contribute to its record-breaking grosses. In return, they get sequels to every film, and a chance to ‘turn off [your] brain via popcorn fun’.
This is all extra troublesome, since the sole alternative presented by the film is rape.