Warning: Contains Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers, and, yes, I know I’m still being a huge dork about this particular aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I will complain about it until Marvel hires me as a consultant, so buckle in, friends.
This will probably make more sense if you know two things. (1) I think the UN is a relatively useless institution in the 21st century, because it was designed to deal with Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WWII and uses a mostly out-dated concept of the nation-state (thanks, transnational capitalism!) as the basis for operation; (2) I thought Captain America: Civil War was lame, but I wrote a piece on how its use of the UN inadvertently critiqued it in an interesting way.
I enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming a lot more than I thought I would. For one, it was fun. It felt like a comic book movie and not another male revenge fantasy (someone I love died and/or was a brainwashed assassin for 70 years, let me lash out because I don’t know how to have feelings–Tony, Zemo, T’Challa, and Steve all had the same story line in Civil War and only T’Challa had a redemption arc) or a thinly veiled generic action movie (okay, fine, the airport scene was cool). For another, Peter Parker wasn’t angsty or brooding beyond typical awkward, teenage, how-do-I-talk-to-girls angst.
However, what I don’t understand is where Peter Parker stands in relationship to the Sokovia Accords–you know, the supposed point of the “civil war.” Because shouldn’t someone from the UN have intervened? I mean, at least when Iron Man had to fly in to fuse the Staten Island Ferry together? Maybe?
I have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to come up with an explanation that I can pretend makes sense. And I’m pretty good at suspending belief (some people may even call it “repression”).
The point of the Sokovia Accords was that the UN wanted to deploy super-powered individuals when they wanted to, supposedly when they felt the threat was great enough, even though the UN cannot actually do that because they have no authority and wouldn’t agree to it anyway given that most of the super-powered individuals we know of are Americans. (And the US would never agree to allowing other nations to have a say in when its superheroes are to be used in “peacekeeping” missions. Are you kidding me? The US won’t even sign a non-binding climate agreement.) This agreement is what Captain America opposed (in an overly self-righteous way, yes, even though he’s absolutely right not to trust governmental bodies given his personal history and, well, the entirety of human history). Presumably because Peter Parker was on Team Iron Man, he signed the Accords (even though he’s a minor and that would be super exploitative of the UN, but then they said they were dedicated to the promotion of gender equality in 1946, too, and we can see how well that’s working out).
So, where were the UN officials when Peter is on the news stopping ATM thieves with alien tech-powered weapons and trying to put together the Staten Island Ferry that got cut in half? Where were they when a Stark plane crashed on Coney Island? No one at the UN authorized actions to stop Vulture? Shouldn’t Spider-Man have been punished? Was Tony punished for Spider-Man’s actions behind the scenes?
Yes, Tony rightfully got mad at Peter for acting on his own, presumably because it was irresponsible and dangerous, and because he really seems to be looking out for Peter’s best interests (which is a nice bit of character building for Tony). But Tony could have just said, “That’s not in the Accords, kid. You don’t want the UN on your back, believe me.”
Tony was keeping an eye on Peter, though not properly communicating with him, and he did say he was the only one (of whom? Were there UN meetings we missed?) to believe Peter about the stolen alien-tech–even though the supposedly government-sanctioned clean-up crews should have been all over this. Surely someone in the last eight years saw a man flying around one of the most populous cities in the world in a goddamn vulture costume and reported it.
What we have to conclude is that, what, the UN has given Tony Stark–whose only “qualification” is that he is a wealthy capitalist who flies around in a metal suit–the authority to deploy non-Avengers, minors, mind you, to clean up major crimes in Queens? (I’m still mad that Tony thought it was okay for Peter Parker to come out and play in Berlin but tried to keep Wanda under house arrest–it’s either sexist or manipulative because she was siding with Steve, but either way, not cool.)
In some ways, it makes sense. There are comic book versions of Tony in which he does have political aspirations and/or is the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Plus, billionaires can, essentially, do whatever they want in this world, even though the Accords were written because of a mistake that Tony himself made. (I’m also still mad that they had Tony create Ultron–just so y’all know, it was actually Hank Pym in the comics. But I guess if you aren’t going to let mutants into the MCU, you’re going to have to do some selective hand-waving as to who faces consequences in order to get a civil war story line.)
My only even remotely plausible explanation is that Happy was promoted to some kind of UN position in which his actual job really was to keep an eye on Spider-Man and intervene when the kid did anything more than be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man who rescues people from broken elevators–with no intervention from the UN due to some caveat in the Accords regarding superhero child labor laws. But I had to do a lot of mental gymnastics to get there.
And, presuming I’m right, I’d maybe put a red mark on Happy’s first performance review.
Also, I’m willing to forgive Marvel for all of this UN/Sokovia Accords utter nonsense if I at least get Steve Rogers in the 70s-tastic Nomad suit in Infinity War.