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Today’s post is about a reckless attempt I made to have a Twitter conversation. As I said yesterday, that never ends well. The initial tweet occurred during a quarantine watch party in which I was trying to keep my commentary quick and to the point so I wouldn’t fall out of step with everyone else. As a result, I didn’t have the time to post a string of tweets. All I gave was 280 characters.
Of course, that’s the only tweet many people read. Here’s my complete hypothesis in 281 characters or more. Note well that this could be expanded far beyond the superhero genre, but there’s no point in doing that here.
Filmmakers are very particular about what they place in their films. If they’re successful, every single element of every single frame of their film has a purpose (an unobtainable goal, I know). There are very few accidents. When I was watching Venom, I noticed that Eddie Brock’s primary vehicle was a motorcycle. As he was destined to become the titular anti-hero, I couldn’t think of another primary character in a recent superhero movie that used a motorcycle to drive to work, visit the gym, etc. Hence, the tweet.
I knew there were plenty of examples of motorcycle use in superhero movies, which was why I asked whether there were examples “outside of combat.” In a fight scene, the motorcycle’s purpose is to create great stunts like sliding underneath an 18-wheeler or picking up Captain America’s shield — even a compact car couldn’t do those — and that’s the effect it would have on the audience. In those scenes, the motorcycle is about defining the action, not defining the character riding it. On the other hand, if the character uses a motorcycle to get to the dentist’s office, it says something about the character him or herself as far as the audience is concerned.
So, you can give Cyclops a motorcycle. You can even give him a garage full of them and have him show them off to a friend. But because he’s a goody-goody hero type, you’ll never see him drive one to the grocery store. Should Cyclops be a tough guy? Maybe, but for whatever reason, they don’t want him to be, and in that respect it’s no coincidence that we never see him ride a motorcycle that way. Having him do so would break his intended character.
None of this is a value judgment; it’s just an observation. I don’t care whether I’m right. I’m merely curious as to the answer. So . . .
Am I Wrong?
The purpose of raising this point was to see if this hypothesis held up. Were the various filmmakers avoiding having the heroes using motorcycles that way? There were several examples of motorcycle use given.
Wolverine isn’t an anti-hero, but he certainly borders on it. In any case, he’s not a goody-goody, sickeningly sweet hero, so his use of a motorcycle wouldn’t cut against my hypothesis very much. That said, there are only two times I remember him using a motorcycle outside of a fight scene. First, in X-Men, he steals one. His use of a motorcycle is technically part of a crime. Second, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he was given a motorcycle by the elderly couple he met. It wasn’t something he chose for himself, and very quickly after receiving it, he was using it in combat. As you can see, his particular uses of a motorcycle aren’t going to reverse the way the audience sees him. Side Note: It’s too bad that movie was so poorly received. A series of “Origins” movies for the other X-Men could have been an interesting way to bring origin stories into the cinematic universe after the ensemble movies.
This was my suggestion, and it’s not a particularly good one. Batman never uses a motorcycle outside of combat, so he’s clearly consistent with my hypothesis. Moreover, he also is as close to an anti-hero as you can get. The only time he uses the Bat Bike (or whatever you call it) is when he’s engaged in vigilantism. As Bruce Wayne, he rode one once in the Dark Knight, but that was part of a crime fighting mission, and it was more about showing his wealth — you never see Bruce Wayne drive the same car twice — then it is about establishing his personal characteristics. Ergo, this is explainable even within the context of my hypothesis, though it’s arguably an exception.
At the end of the first Avengers movie, Captain America drove away into the sunset on a motorcycle. This is a clear exception to my hypothesis. Now, despite the nonsense I hear from people every day, one exception does not invalidate a rule. If it did, there’d be no rules, because they all have exceptions. But how could they be exceptions if there are no rules to except?
Sorry. Let me finish. Captain America is clearly an exception, but is there a reason for that? My best guess is that it’s because he’s a man out of time. He was frozen for 70 years. Would a modern audience have a different reaction to a person from the 1940s riding a motorcycle? Would that be expected of someone from that period (whether based on history or the modern viewer’s ignorance)? Does it matter that he’s a soldier? I suspect the answer to all of these could be “yes,” but again, it doesn’t matter. As far as I can tell, he’s still the only clear exception I’ve found or been provided.
Can you think of any others? If not, then the pattern is evident. Only the baddest of boys, anti-heroes, and villains ride motorcycles to market, and that must be intentional. Perhaps one day, one of these screenwriters will shake up the status quo. After all, it’s just a motorcycle.
Now look what you jackasses made me do. This post was way too long.
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