Cleveland has a rep. Even its suburbs, like Parma, have a rep. It’s a hardscrabble Rust Belt city, that, like Detroit, St. Louis, and Buffalo, has seen better days. It probably needs the help of a superhero, but offering charity might get your hand bitten off by the locals. They like it that way.
But that toughness, pride, and slightly parochial worldview can’t conceal existential problems like rampant joblessness and the dominoes that fall after it — drug abuse, unchecked mental illness, domestic abuse, and crime.
While Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind the Avengers movie franchise, know plenty about superheroes, they chose a different story altogether for a peculiar new movie that’s set in their hometown.
Cherry, based on the best-selling, semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of an Iraq War veteran who robbed a string of banks in Cleveland (around when this fake tourism video was released, to give you a sense of the time and place), is the first post-Avengers movie from the Russo brothers.
“If you’re not from the industrial Midwest, you don’t understand what’s happened to cities like Cleveland or Detroit,” says Anthony in our story. “Decades of economic decline have been traumatic. Economic hardship spawns other hardships. Social unrest, personal depression. That’s why the Midwest is ground zero for the opioid crisis.”
Today’s big idea — using art to shine a light on real-life problems — stems from that Russo brothers interview you can find at the bottom of this dispatch. We’ve also got some mind-boggling science to frame your day. I’m Nick Lucchesi, editor-in-chief at Inverse. Let’s get into it.
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The sounds of Mars — For the first time, space engineers have captured the sounds of lasers being fired on another planet. And no, this isn’t science fiction.
Space writer Passant Rabie reports that NASA’s Perseverance rover has beamed back two mind-blowing audio clips from Mars, revealing the howling sounds of the Martian winds, as well as the sound of laser pulses shooting against rocks on the surface of Mars.
- Our Perseverance rover news hub has all the top Mars rover stories
- Incredible images of Mars show the aftermath of a terrifying landing
- Mars 2020 rover landing: NASA images show expectations vs. reality
Here’s Emma: “It’s tempting to assume 2020 was not a great year for happiness. But despite last year’s health hardships and a spike in poor mental health, the authors of the World Happiness Report are glad to say that happiness persists, if we look for it in the right places.
“First released in 2012, the World Happiness Report aims to both quantify and analyze well-being around the world. Each year, it generates press coverage because of its ranking of the world’s happiest countries — typically Nordic countries like Finland and Denmark top the charts.”
“Everyone goes straight to the rankings,” Sharon Paculor, manager of the World Happiness Report, tells Betuel. “But there’s so much more than that.”
And go deeper here:
- Psychology explains a counterintuitive link between happiness and success
- How you measure happiness depends on where you live
- Researchers say this is the ideal salary for happiness and well-being
“In the South Atlantic, stretching from Chile to South Africa, there’s a wide span where the Earth’s magnetic field isn’t quite in line with the rest. Here, at what’s called the South Atlantic Anomaly, the field is weak. It’s so weak that it affects the satellites passing over; they’re bombarded by solar radiation and space debris that are usually held off by the field.
“And this anomaly patch is growing. Some are concerned that if the patch grows too big, it could trigger a sudden collapse of the field or even a flip of Earth’s magnetic poles.
“In a new study, paleomagnetists — researchers who study the history of Earth’s changing geomagnetic field — found evidence that a sharp directional change and intensity dip occurred around the years 1100–1300 in what is today Cambodia. This means the area may have experienced a geomagnetic ‘flip’ not unlike the South Atlantic Anomaly today.
“Are we headed for another twitch? It’s not out of the question.”
What they’re telling Inverse: “How fast can that happen? What do we expect when it happens? Before I can speculate, I need to know what it’s done in the past.” —study co-author Lisa Tauxe, a paleomagnetist.
More like this:
- A solar flareup is headed for Earth's magnetic field (2020)
- Magnetic field reversal: South Atlantic Anomaly isn't a problem yet (2018)
- Unprecedented shifts in Earth's magnetic field imperil global navigation (2019)
Cleveland rocks — Today, Joe and Anthony Russo are powerhouse directors and producers, best known for helming the genre-defining Avengers franchise. But in 1978, a year before their father, Basil Russo, unsuccessfully ran for mayor, their hometown of Cleveland became the first American city since the Great Depression to slip into default, going $30 million in debt. The impact was strong and slow. Growing up, the Russos witnessed vibrant immigrant neighborhoods around them vanish over time.
“Cleveland is a big melting pot,” Anthony Russo tells Inverse. “It was a patchwork of ethnicities who came from other countries. As the city started to decline, those neighborhoods declined, in some cases disappearing. That’s shocking to witness — the physical deterioration of a place.”
A more grounded sense of despair than you’d find in the Avengers movies fuels their latest movie, Cherry, in theaters now and on Apple TV+ March 12.
More like this:
- Interview: Cherry screenwriter reveals the surprising reason the Russos hired her
- Review: Cherry is the Russo brothers' unrelenting post-Avengers crime comedy
- Previous interview (2019): The Russo brothers talk deleted Endgame scenes, 21 Bridges, and Cherry
Happy birthday to Jodie Comer. The British actress turns 27 today. She’s best known for her role as a violent assassin and wearer of great clothes in the black comedy TV series Killing Eve. (While Inverse doesn’t much write about the world of that show, it’s certainly one I think any Inverse reader would enjoy.)
And for your next round of Star Wars trivia, you can pocket this one: Comer plays Rey’s mother in flashback scenes in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Here’s a too-long biographical video from YouTube that runs down Comer’s career, hinged on her cameo as Rey’s mother in Rise of Skywalker.
Her line to young Rey: “Be brave.” We will leave it there for today.
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated Cherry is based on a “memoir.” Cherry is based on a semi-autobiographical novel.