In the latest Spider-Man movie, Far From Home, the web slinger travels to Europe and fights a ripped-from-the-headlines villain: fake news.
“I control the truth!” the villain shouts in an explain-your-motivations monologue. George Orwell is quoted warning that the “very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.” The movie opens with an intentionally cheesy segment of high school morning news produced by students. Later, one of the young protagonists suggests that the news media aren’t always trustworthy.
And in the end, one of Spider-Man’s old quasi-nemeses returns in the guise of an Alex Jones–like YouTube barker, spreading a mix of decontextualized truth and strategic disinformation. At times I had to remind myself that I was watching a Marvel movie, not paging through an issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.
Ultimately, Far From Home is a superhero picture—fun, frivolous, and forgettable—not a lecture on media ethics. That’s probably for the best, at least for viewers who may not be completely sure what the word ombudsman means. Still, I found myself wondering whether a Marvel superhero movie would ever dare to offer an argument about the real world, the one outside its imaginary bounds.
Tellingly, the high school news segment that opens the film isn’t actually about high school: It’s a brief in-film recap of this year’s earlier megablockbuster, Avengers: Endgame. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, super-news is the only news.
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