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A Broadened Horizon

But if my estimation of Marvel’s weaknesses is the same, my estimation of its strengths has changed.
| Jul 3, 2019 | 4 comments |

Recently I started getting into Marvel movies. (Yes, I know. Next decade I’m going to discover video streaming services. You’ll want to be around then.) I had been aware of them for years, like everyone else on the planet, and I had even been induced to watch a few. They were very close to me, the people who persuaded me to try Marvel, and so they didn’t mind that I brought my laptop to the experience. It proved an excellent diversion.

The subtle drift of all this is that I am not what marketing specialists would call “the target audience.” The whole idea of superheroes, comic books, and comic book superhero movies left me cold. I thought it all a little goofy, a little too cartoonish: the costumes, the tights, the poundingly obvious names. These prejudices – and that is what they were, because they were not based on any substantive experience with the thing itself – these prejudices deadened my interest.

Nor, in truth, did my initial viewings jump-start it. The movies were not terrible, of course, but neither were they anything I felt impelled to see. The fighting scenes, with their 84,000 punches thrown, seemed interminable and the movies altogether too long (though in fairness, most movies are these days). I thought the franchise put a premium on action over character and wittiness over profundity. I think much the same now; at least, these are the weaknesses to which the franchise trends, and some movies surrender more to them than others.

But if my estimation of the franchise’s weaknesses is the same, my estimation of its strengths has changed. I will say the movies are more enjoyable once you piece things together and your brain stops going What so much. The talent invested in them is plainly enormous, much like the budget. But what I came most to appreciate – the true inspiration of my newfound interest – was the Cap and Loki. I may be cold to the appeal of comic books, and I may be bored by explosions and CGI monsters, but I love good characters. The Cap is my favorite kind of hero. Loki is my favorite kind of villain – and my favorite kind of anti-villain, and my favorite kind of anti-hero. Once invested in the characters, I want to know the story; I want to see the movies.

A happy fact to be drawn from all this: It is possible to overcome a viewer’s (or reader’s) prejudices and even, to some extent, his natural tastes through excellency. Good for creators, because they can win unlikely admirers; good for the rest of us, because we can have our horizons broadened to new enjoyment. Snobs think that superior taste is proved by its narrowness, but some things are gained by the wider view.

It’s a limited grace. Natural tastes can only be stretched so far, and defied even less. All my enjoyment of Thor: Dark World has not translated into a twitch of interest in Captain Marvel. I will never be a Marvel enthusiast, but I am showing up.

Even if it’s mostly for Loki’s beautiful face. And the Cap’s.

Shannon McDermott is the author of the fantasy novel The Valley of Decision, as well as the futuristic The Last Heir and the Sons of Tryas series. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website, ShannonMcDermott.com.

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Brennan S. McPherson
Member

That’s a good point. We miss a lot of joy by being voluntary curmudgeons. Instead, if we just tossed our prejudices aside before diving in, and just took creative work as it presented itself, not trying to expect it to be what it doesn’t say it will be, we would enjoy life a bit more. And be less rude to the creators…

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I used to kind of have a prejudice toward romance stories. I didn’t necessarily mind romantic subplots being woven into a story that was otherwise epic, but a lot of romcoms and such just seemed silly to me. As I got older I read more romance focused stories that I actually liked, though, and even though it isn’t my favorite genre, it’s still something I like. They’ve even helped me when it comes to writing humor and character interaction. So…I dunno. A lot of things we like and dislike can be due to the particular parts/stories we see, rather than the genres themselves. Many superhero comics actually delve pretty deep into character exploration and such.

That said, I’m not super into Marvel either. It’s ok, but, since I prefer DC, I’m going to say they’re better :p

Jes Drew
Member

Cap!!! He is my muse.

Tyrean Martinson
Guest

I feel much the same when someone asks me to watch a self-appointed “chick flick” or a classic drama. I always want to know – what makes it for chicks? Who appointed it a classic? Does drama mean there will be character change or does it just mean the whole story will be about human misery with no relief on the horizon? I used to really hate the assumption that I forced my husband to watch chick flicks or dramas on our date nights – definitely not! We went to see action adventure, comic book movies, and SF we didn’t think our kids were ready for on the big screen.
We all have our own prejudices and curmudgeonly habits – even those types of prejudices which most would not see as prejudices. A comic book movie snob can eschew all dramas like I often have. I don’t like watching misery for the sake of watching misery. I know the world is a tough place. I know all the bad exists. When I go to a movie, I want to see some good vanquish evil. Maybe my tastes are a little childish in some eyes, but I would rather pay movie ticket prices for good to triumph over evil than for a movie that starts and ends in misery. I’m also a fan of musicals (which I know some people think are nearly as uneducated as comic book movies), animated fare, and SF-Fantasy Adventure.
Yet, I also struggle with comic book movies that go too far on their quest for hitting all the popular themes of the day. Captain Marvel actually handled the theme of “empowered woman” with a bit more dignity than the last Avengers film (really that scene where all the male heroes hang back and the women take over was a bit ridiculous, especially with the commentary alongside it).
Comic book movies have their ups and downs, but I’m thankful for the positive moments and the complex characters making tough choices – for good or ill.
And, as for dramas, well, I do watch a few. I liked Lion (2016). I liked The Color Purple (1985). I liked The Mission (1986). I liked Passion for Christ (2004). And yeah, those are all the dramas I can think of that I like – oh, and To Kill a Mockingbird (black and white).