Snobbery: Is Scorsese the cinema gatekeeper?

While many would consider the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be one of the most illustrious franchises of the film industry, some, such as influential filmmaker Martin Scorsese, beg to differ.

Scorsese’s recent comments on his animosity towards the MCU not only reveals the issues with his snobbery, but also expresses the dangers that snobbery and gatekeeping present in our diverse world of art and media.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the highest-grossing media franchises in the world, carrying a total revenue of about $34 billion. As of now, Marvel Studios has produced 23 movies, 11 TV series, two digital series, five short films and contributed to 33 tie-in comics produced by the acclaimed comic company Marvel Comics.

From MCU’s first film, “Iron Man,” released in 2008, to its latest film, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the franchise has appealed to millions of families all over the world and inspired several generations with its ever-present superhero theme. MCU has not only been on the receiving end of a large amount of public appreciation, but also professional respect with relatively high ratings on review-aggregation websites such as Rotten Tomatoes.

However, these accomplishments fail to change the mind of American-Italian filmmaker Martin Scorsese.

In an interview with Empire in which he discussed his upcoming film “The Irishman,” Scorsese had some choice words to say about the MCU.

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese said. “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

Even as accomplished as Scorsese is in the world of filmmaking, his comments are self-centered and shallow. They are motivated by a prominent characteristic that has been present in the film business since the very beginning of “New Hollywood” — snobbery.

In Scorsese’s case, his snobbery originated from his belief that his films are superior to those of the MCU. Most of his films are based on themes such as machismo, guilt and redemption and modern crime, things that would usually be considered more “important” than superheroes and distant galaxies.

Snobbery in the film world builds on this belief that only movies portraying real-life subject matter should have any significance. Those who believe in this turn up their noses at blockbuster movies, which they believe is crafted to “appeal to the masses” and holds no meaning applicable to human life.

The thing is, movies aren’t made just to win an Oscar or make film critics happy. They’re constructed to entertain. MCU films have achieved both of these factors, so it seems useless to criticize or belittle the hard work and creativity that have gone into its films.

This display of snobbery mirrors a concept called “gatekeeping.” This occurs when a strongly opinionated person decides whether another has access to a community or identity, similar to how die-hard comic fans belittle other supporters that aren’t as familiar with the territory.

The issue with gatekeeping is demonstrated by how it isolates different parts of a community and refuses to allow any fair judgment from either side. This will lead to chaos and a cataclysm of disagreement. If you need to picture the results, imagine the battle of “Captain America: Civil War,” where either half of the Avengers brawl against each other in a display of futileness and disarray.

Our world is built on diversity, from different ethnicities to films to music. You won’t ever find someone with exactly the same interests, and not everyone appreciates a particular thing. These disparities are exactly what make our society so rich, colorful and unique. Imagine if the world were only one color, or if a dish only had one spice. It would be dull and bland. Although it can be intimidating to introduce someone new into a comfortable environment, sometimes looking past our imperfections and extending a helping hand can lead to new experiences and understanding.


Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 5 of The Guilfordian on Nov. 8 2019.