Grading on a Curve

I’m going to speak honestly with you for a moment about the Marvel©™® movie franchise. I won’t take too much of your time. I value you, and who you are, but I think we need to have this talk.

I’m a fan, generally speaking, of the Marvel©™® movies. I know it’s stale at this point to heap praise on the franchise. It’s also stale to point out which ones you rank in what positions. It’s tiresome, really, and goes down the rabbit hole I pondered recently about what motivates us to rate, as opposed to discuss.

Back to the point at hand, Marvel©™® gets graded on curve. People at large, at least the ones who are devoted enough to record and write their opinions to share, are viewing Marvel movies largely through the prism of other Marvel©™® movies.

This Is the Issue

To be clear, Marvel©™® has earned its positive brand reputation. They’ve produced a large amount of entertainment over a long period of time, with an eye for quality control. Like a restaurant, I know from their brand that I can rely on them to produce something that I won’t hate.

A lot of the non-professional reactions I see, and even some of the professional ones, and the ones that straddle the line just because they’re amateurs who’ve managed to make a living through clickbait, seem to be tempered through the lens of “brand endorsement” instead of critical review.

I think this is because Marvel©™® movies themselves are treated as important cultural moments, regardless of whether the movie is good or bad. It’s no longer a discussion about entertainment, it’s entertainment as avatar for things people want to discuss.

This is why people have started weaponizing their opinions to the granular level where our franchises are no longer just entertainments. This is why you can’t have an honest discussion about Marvel©™® movies anymore.

If the movie is middling, people pivot to talking about its place in the larger Marvel©™® firmament, or its societal import, or any of a number of other things. If the movie is good, then everything is fine and we can talk about its goodness…and what that means to the issues of the day.

It’s driving me nuts.

Splinter of the Fan’s Eye

I love Star Wars. If you seek evidence of my authenticity there, I offer unto you my online name (kesseljunkie) and the name of this blog, as well the fact that I’m on a weekly Star Wars-focused podcast called Aggressive Negotiations.

But regardless of anything else, I recognize that it’s only a series of movies. If I love it, or if I don’t, it only has to do with the movie itself.

For all the years I’ve been accused of having a “blind spot” with Star Wars, I marvel at…Marvel©™® fans. To address my own supposed Star Wars “fanboy” status, it should  be disproved with my reactions to The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, my previous disavowal of the Expanded Universe “canon,” and plenty of other examples, I’ve proudly been able to remain a fan while speaking to what doesn’t work.

(Yes, yes: What doesn’t work “for me.” Obviously I’m talking about what doesn’t work “for me” when I say that, but it seems you have to throw that qualifier out there at every chance.)

splinter from teenage mutant ninja turtles tmnt
Not this splinter.

I just don’t get why Marvel©™® movies get to wear this shield of protection about them, simply because they’re so important to their fans. It’s as if Marvel©™® has replaced religion for them.

Try to get the same sort of absolution for a movie in the DC movie universe. Try to get the same leeway, or understanding, for any other franchise…or its fans.

I Get It

I understand the reflexive defensiveness. I understand the desire to protect that which you value emotionally.

A lot of people have grown up with Marvel©™® movies being a constant stream of entertainment for them from adolescence through young adulthood. Disney®©™ has successfully turned Marvel©™® into an unassailable brand. It’s brilliant what they’ve managed to do, in many regards.

Additionally, since it’s structurally become TV you pay for by the episode, I understand viewing your favorite show and then rating the episodes only as they exist within that fictional arc. It makes sense.

Eventually people will get bored with the Marvel©™® franchise. It’s inevitable. McDonald’s once was dominant, only to be toppled by others. Sears & Roebuck once wandered the Earth, exacting terrible vengeance on bad consumers.

But it’s still bothersome to me that we’re grading on a curve. It’s irksome to be talking about the Marvel©™® movies without the proper context.

For me.

Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher.
Does this count as a “pilot episode”? Because The Punisher’s had a LOT of them, then. And where’s my 4K edition of this already???

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