For the past few months, I’ve been hiding a secret.
It started in October when Netflix announced it was canceling Iron Fist and Luke Cage, two of its Marvel series. In November, Daredevil got the boot, too.
People are still complaining on Twitter. But when the news rolled in, I couldn’t help but feel relief. (Even if there’s a chance the show could get revived elsewhere.) Lately, hitting play on another season of a punishingly dark and violent superhero show has felt like studying for a test I don’t have to take.
Since 2008, Marvel’s entered the mainstream in a way like never before. To date, we’ve gotten 20 movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with at least three more on the way. Somehow, we haven’t hit our saturation point. In fact, the top two grossing movies of 2018 domestically were Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. It has been fun — in a pop cultural landscape that’s fragmented across platforms, the popularity of the MCU has been the closest thing we’ve gotten to a unifying cultural experience in a long time.
In 2015, Netflix launched Daredevil, the first of its series on Marvel heroes that occupied the same storyline as Iron Man and Captain America, even if they never crossed paths. The appetite certainly seemed like it was there. ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter were already on the air.
Marvel’s not the only big entertainment franchise testing its elasticity. Star Wars (which has for decades spawned books, animated series and who knows what else) promises more blockbusting movies unpacking backstories we didn’t know we wanted or needed, and pushing forward the main storyline, decades after the originals. DC’s been at work, too. Aquaman starring Jason Momoa came out this month following a Superman movie, a Batman movie, a movie with both, Wonder Woman, and one with all of the above.
I’m so tired.
Over the years, I’ve seen every single MCU movie, multiple times even. But somewhere around Daredevil season two, I realized I was watching the shows out of some sense of obligation. To what? No idea. And to what end? Not sure. It’s not like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Matt Murdock and the rest of the crew are going to end up in an MCU film, fulfilling some satisfying crossover event.
So many anger issues
It’s just been one airless onslaught of people with troubled pasts and anger issues, beating the hell out of other people with troubled pasts and anger issues.
Matt Murdock has been in so many fights, the real miracle of that wavering Catholic’s life is that he has any teeth. (Shout out to St. Apollonia, patron saint of dentistry.)
Before you angry-tweet at me, I’m not some sort of monster excited at the prospect of people losing their gigs. Also, losing Luke Cage cuts down the current TV/movie population of leading black superheroes by half. If Jessica Jones gets canceled too (we have no idea if it will or not), that’s also a blow for representation in a genre mostly dominated by white dudes.
It’s not to say these shows have all been a drag. While the MCU movies are sometimes criticized for relentlessly apocalyptic stakes, it’s been good to see stories about heroes just trying to keep a handful of city blocks under control. Plus, we’ve gotten some of the most twisted, complicated, and creepy villains from Netflix, like Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk, Jessica Jones’ Killgrave, and Luke Cage’s Mariah Dillard.
And as The Punisher and Jessica Jones still hang in the balance, I don’t have a death wish for them. If people like them and they do well, cool.
It’s understandable that for diehard fans, nothing is ever enough. When you feel so strongly about a property, you just want to absorb every particle possible. Fortunately with Marvel, there’s a lot to dig into. (I barely mentioned all the other Marvel shows across Hulu, ABC, Freeform, etc.)
Comics books still have me
What I’ve figured out is that if I want more Marvel in my life, it doesn’t necessarily have to be through Netflix. In the past several months, I’ve been trekking back and forth to my wonderfully stodgy-looking local library to get volumes of the comic books Ms. Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson, and Black Panther written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I’m pretty sure the librarians think I don’t actually read chapter books anymore.
In reality, the Marvel wave offers a lesson about being selective and consuming what you want. Ms. Marvel focuses on a teenager named Kamala Khan (whose life is already a bit complicated from having to navigate a bi-cultural existence), and what happens when she get powers. It’s funny and heartfelt and my speed in more ways than I can count.
Time is precious. I want to spend it reading about a young woman life hasn’t kicked the crap out of yet.
For now, at least.
Anyway, there’s no hiding from Marvel. There’s barely even keeping up with it. Disney’s Disney+ streaming service, coming in 2019, is going to have a show about Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston himself. In December, a Disney executive even said there was a possibility the canceled Netflix shows could come back on Disney+. Maybe. Marvel’s going to continue to take my lunch money every time a movie comes out.
But maybe I can finally catch a break from the tortured souls of Netflix’s corner of the MCU.
Matt Murdock’s teeth and I are finally off the hook.