Before the Avengers could snap back to reality (stone), Thanos went and removed half the population of *checks notes* everything. We don't know if this included bacteria, possibly causing the deaths of trillions more as they grip their stomachs and think, "Man, last night's takeout is doing a real number on my OHGAWD". We don't know yet if Ant-Man can truly climb inside the basement end of the Mad Titan and blow him up from the inside like that very same box of takeout. What we do know, however, is real-world audiences were torn about his motives.
Surely, every great villain has an empathetic view of society. They just tend to take a few shortcuts/infinity stones to get there. What made the viewpoint of Thanos so interesting was the severity, and the impact, of his choices. On his own planet, he witnessed overcrowding and tyranny, and eventually the death of his people. Had they only listened to his ideas, then maybe Titan would still be kicking out little baby Lavender Bois. This concept is instantly relevant to many struggles humanity burdens today. We grow far too quickly, and are unable to safely control it without challenging our core ethics. This isn't an easy problem to solve, and we lack the means and, thankfully, the kind of heart necessary to allow this genocide to happen. Still, we must shoulder our burdens.
Now, in the coming wake of Avengers: Endgame, we are faced with the vocal meme-minority that claims "Thanos did nothing wrong." While this has led to more upvotes and page views than actual socio-political movement, it does highlight a certain node of humanity that wishes great change would come to solve our problems. This node, however small or slight, pings within us. We hear that plucked chord whenever Joker explains his chaos, or when Killmonger visits his father in the Wakandan spirit realm. This collection, this Cult of Thanos, is but a blip in our society's ocean, but what of the MCU?
With this next Avengers film expecting to tie up the long-running narrative, many questions will hopefully be answered. This question is probably a small one in the context of a still-lengthy 3 hour film, but where are the Snap Loyalists? Society has already proven that there is some love for Thanos' ideas, and all it took was a movie villain. In this constructed world, would there be those who band together in praise and reverence for our Koolaid-stained Savior? From a logistics standpoint, it is possible that Earth doesn't know the source of their loss. Thanos is certainly a big deal in the galactic community, but Earth is still new to the neighborhood and hasn't knocked on any doors yet. The few who do know might be too busy to go telling everyone. That brings up the rest of the universe. Thanos was cutting the deck on planets long before he bought enough happy meals to collect all six Space Charms. Surely, there must be others who suspect him behind this. If given enough time, would the Mad Titan be revered? Would the quiet unconsciousness awake from its slumber and find a new place in this community? Yeah, probably.
Fear drives worship, and certainly many will bow down before Purple Pastel Priest in a contained tremble for fear that more might be taken. Hit with enough force, and anyone who can't stand a second strike will either yield or die defeated. This is a brutal, yet effective way to rule. Thanos, however, is not some simple warmonger. He has the ability and emotional resonance to lead. We have seen him mourn and love, and we have seen him make sacrifices for what he believes is the greater good. He is akin to a good ruler, with a brutalist endgame. And yet, he does not want to rule. His style of "Strike once and be done with it" has constructed a recluse myth, and those who agree, or even question his decision will surely seek him out. His escape to what best looks like a painting from a dentist waiting room makes his thesis all the more appealing. A god who leaves his creation be will leave the creation craving more. Whether or not it was intentional, he has likely created a religion in his biblical erasure of the 50%, or at very least, a cult.
This is, of course, speculation. It is possible that the whole ordeal will be dealt with before Thanos even has time to buy that ranch in rural Oregon for his followers. The A Team will ride in, right the wrongs, reverse enough death to guarantee more Spidey movies, and we'll all leave happy. If given enough time, however, an MCU citizen's next trip to the bodega might involve seeing an image of the big guy on a prayer candle next to the canned fish. His words and his actions have had enough effect on real-world viewers; imagine what they could influence if it was all real?
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.