What ‘Ant-man’ is really about

The buzz about “Ant-Man” around the lavender bush is that people are getting the plot all wrong. This is an invasion movie in which females are enslaved by a male-dominated society.

In a parallel universe let’s call Formica, there’s a matriarchal society that exists on a large planet. The Formican society has cooperative brood care–every workers has guaranteed child care, however the society is broken up into castes and not all castes are allowed to reproduce. Labor is divided into reproductive and non-reproductive groups. Each social group is headed by a queen who has a hanger-on husband or husbands. Most of the work, including the military protective duties are fulfilled by females.

Eusociality is considered the highest level of organization among social animals. War does occur, but this is mostly a result of survival–with each Formican colony only looking for enough territory to fulfill the needs of the colony’s survival and not with the aim of world conquest or anything like Manifest Destiny or Imperial colonization with the aim of enslaving or exploiting others of different races or breeds.

This universe is disrupted when creatures from a male-dominated society in a parallel universe discovers a means of mind control over the entire Formican family of related species. The aliens then decide to use the female soldiers as expendable “cannon fodder” in order to achieve their own goals.

This enslavement goes on for generations, beginning in the parallel universe’s year marker of the 1990s. Scientist (entomologist and physicist) Hank Pym resigned from SHIELD when he realizes they are attempting to replicate his Ant-Man shrinking technology. Pym believes that the technology will endanger the human world. He leaves his own company, being forced out by his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross has finally  formulates a way to infiltrate the matriarchal Formican societies, but instead chooses to be associated with Vespidae societies although Cross has yet to develop a mind control device to take over the Vespidaens.

Pym (Michael Douglas) decides that rather than possibly sacrifice his daughter, Hope van Dyne, (Evangeline Lilly) he will use an ethical thief, former systems engineer Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), to help him defeat Cross. Lang is not adept at social groups and has been rejected and divorced by his wife Maggie (Judy Greer) who is now living with her police officer fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) and has custody of Lang’s daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Lang is relegated to the lower rungs of society, and can’t even keep a low-paid dead-end job, and joins his former cellmate  Luis (Michael Peña) on a robbery with the crew Luis has gathered: Dave (Tip Harris) and Russian computer wizard Kurt (David Dastmalchian).

Through the robbery, Lang is introduced to Pym and the Ant-Man shrinking technology suit. Pym has actually engineered the robbery because Lang is expendable while his daughter is not, yet for both Lang and Pym the Formicans they have enslaved are expendable. They don’t even bother to consider that Lang’s favorite mount, Anthony, is actually an Antonia, being a female and not a male. Unlike the Venusians in the 1958 “Queen of Outer Space,” the Formicans are not attractive to the enslavers and so the romantic or carnal lives of the Formican are of no concern to either Pym or Lang.

Pym trains Lang in the usage of his shrinking technology until Lang can shrink and re-size at will, but he also trains Lang in the mind control enslavement of the Formicans. As Lang battles with Cross in the Yellowjacket suit, however, the Yellowjacket suit seems only to amplify Cross’ megalomania and it becomes a battle between Lang in the Ant-man suit and Cross in the Yellowjacket suit, with Cross making a home invasion and taking Cassie hostage. The action alternates between the universe of the giant humans and the Formican-sized world although Lang does dare to go subatomic.

The movie teases that van Dyne will become Wasp (woman) and that Ant-Man will be summoned to help the Avengers Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) with Rogers’ troubled friend, Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). That means more Formicans will be sacrificed for the good of a parallel universe, the macrocosm of humans because not #AllLivesMatter. The disruption of eusocial female-dominated societies benefits a predominately patriarchal society because patriarchal societies always benefit from the subjugation and sacrifice of lower caste female workers.

While the tone of the movie is more comedic than dramatic, and the action switches between the macrocosm of the human world and the microcosm of the parallel universe of the Formicans, but except for the gender-wise misrepresented Anthony and the unfortunately enlarged pet ant, we are never asked to care about the many ant soldiers who are sacrificed to save humans.

Ants are of the class Insecta and the Family of Formicidae, Genus Formica.

In the movie, “Ant-Man” four species of ants are used: carpenter, bullet, crazy and fire. Carpenter ants inhabit wood, but unlike termites do not eat wood. They are also known as sugar ants. Bullet ants get their name from the pain generated from their bite. Crazy ants get their name from erratic movement patterns and are on the rise and invading southeastern U.S. Fire ants have large colonies and are very aggressive.

At home, like many people, I wage war against the local ants and wonder if the movie “Ant-Man’ will influence kids to take up the study of ants–to the despair of some parents and the delight of scientists.  I wrote this essay keeping in mind that there are so few movies being made about super heroines and this movies, while I enjoyed it, particularly the Latino flavor and multiculturalism that truly reflects Southern California, it does represent some problems if you look at it with animals in mind.



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