As I’m sure many of you have seen it, I have little reluctance to write a piece on the latest piece of MCU fare, Avengers: Infinity War. If you haven’t seen it, be fore warned, SPOILER ALERT! However you feel about the film, it did provide us with some insight into Thanos. What interested me most about Thanos was his motivations. Through the entire MCU, there has been speculation as to why Thanos does what he does. The prevailing theory was that the purple Titan, like his comic book counterpart, was attempting to woo the physical incarnation of Death. That seems to be disproven by the events of the film. His motivations seem, at least to him, to be altruistic in nature rather than a declaration of love. While watching the film, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.
Objectivism, for those who don’t know, is a philosophy that states if mankind is motivated solely by self interest, we as a whole will be stronger for it. If you are poor, it is because you are weak. If you are sick or disabled, it is because you are less than. If one man is willing to commit unspeakable horrors to get what he wants, and you aren’t, that person, despite what he did, is a better person than you. Ayn Rand is the most contemporary luminary when discussing Objectivism. She has had a great influence on conservatives like Paul Ryan and Ron Paul. Due to the influence of Objectivism and Thanos’ clear association with it, I think it would be appropriate to analyze the philosophy through the fictional characters that adopt it.
Thanos is an excellent example. He has a goal. It is objective. It is dispassionately applied. It is serving his best interests. But more than that, Thanos has no compunction about committing inhumane acts in order to achieve that goal. He tortures, he kills, he commits genocide after genocide, all in the name of achieving his goal. He even kills his own daughter so that he may achieve his ends. There is no doubt that Ayn Rand would admire Thanos and even advocate aspiring to be more like him. She did, after all, admire the same qualities in a serial killer.
Here is where it get slippery, though. Ask yourself, “Did Thanos succeed?” I think the answer to this question will depend on your views on Objectivism. If you were Paul Ryan, you might think he was quite successful. He got what he wanted, and even became a better person for it because he excised the tumor of love from his heart, an essential component to Objectivism. But if you were someone that abhor’s the lack of compassion that Objectivism offers, you would see Thanos as a failure. What does he have when all is said and done. He sits alone, perhaps mortally wounded, with the no guilt on his shoulders over the lives lost and the pain suffered as a result of his actions. And what may be worse, he has no purpose left. Following his objectives has created a universe where he has no desires, no attachments, and no future plans. Thanos’ existence is simply pointless.