A cease and desist to Marvel

Mug illustration of Arts columnist Ryan McCullough.
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The first time I heard about a Marvel movie, I was in elementary school. It was “Iron Man,” and all the kids in my class were very excited. I remember seeing it and thinking it was fine. Then, and now, I feel the same way about Marvel movies as I do quiche –– they’re fine for some people, but not me, someone with taste. 

If you rounded up all of the money spent on quiche in restaurants (and in materials preparing quiche), you wouldn’t approach the amount of money these movies are making. I spend money on dumb things too. I once spent more than $100 on a mullet haircut. It admittedly turned out to be a worthwhile investment when the arts department needed someone with a mullet to write its mullet journal, but I digress.

If taste alone cannot stop people from watching Marvel movies, what about fiscal responsibility? What do movie tickets cost these days, $12? Well, add a zero interest, federally backed loan and that’s how much your aunt bought her house for in 1986. 

Today, you could buy maybe one to two adderall for that price. (Remember to use coupon code “mullet journal” for 20% off of an adderall prescription from your local pharmacy). My point is, you could get a lot more bang for your buck than watching Samuel L. Jackson cash checks. 

I’m getting tired of the personal financial responsibility schtick. I’ve actually seen most of the Marvel movies from when they were on Netflix. As a refresher, allow me to summarize the big plot points of these movies. As a disclaimer, this may not be entirely accurate as I am doing this off memory.

In “Iron Man,” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is abducted and builds a big suit out of iron. This is the coolest looking Iron Man outfit in any of the movies. As the series progresses, Iron Man’s suits get more CGI and more features as his problems only get bigger. Typified as a raging playboy, the answer to what seems like a massive sex addiction comes in the form of Pepper Potts, played by Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow – although this is only hinted at because Marvel characters are having less sex than an EECS major in a liberal arts class. 

In “Captain America,” the United States military conducts a scientific experiment to transform a twink (skinny Chris Evans) into a bear (buff Chris Evans) to fight Nazis. Eventually, another character whose main feature is that he’s a brunette shows up. 

I have no idea what happens in the “Avengers” movies. There seem to be frequent alien invasions, and I don’t understand Thanos. Is he supposed to be scary? He’s purple – Thanos looks like what would happen if someone mixed the genetic code of André the Giant with a purple dildo. 

Moving further across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I had fun with one of the “Thor” movies, but most of them feel less planned out than Gwnyeth Paltrow’s vagina candle. I haven’t seen any of the “Spiderman” movies because I’m conceptually disinterested in Tom Holland. If you’re under 40 and named Tom, please stay a minimum of 50 feet away from me. 

Are there other Marvel movies? Maybe! I wouldn’t remember. There’s “Doctor Strange.” I think Doctor Strange should be more strange – you could find a more interesting man on Frat Row. 

My problems with Marvel unfortunately expands beyond this list. First off, Marvel is a subsidiary of Disney, and like most of the company’s content, it is intended for children. Just as Marvel is a subsidiary of Disney, the adult Marvel fan is a subsidiary of the Disney Adult. 

In 2021, Disney made up 25% of box office profits, ahead of Sony’s 16%, whose biggest hits were “Spiderman: No Way Home” and “Venom,” two films that also center on superhero IP. The world’s moviegoers are increasingly resembling petulant children who will only eat chicken fingers for dinner. Coincidentally, this is also what I see Tom Holland’s eyes telling me he eats for every meal.

I think of Marvel and Disney’s ever-growing cinematic empire almost as a form of cultural stagnation brought on by the commercialization of art. In this corporate dialect, when a story-telling formula is financially successful, it should be copied as much as possible to maximize profit.

This formulaic monotony breeds content that can be described as neither good nor bad, and fans hold such devotion that critical appraisal holds little importance. Criticizing a Marvel movie feels as artistically insignificant as reviewing individual cars of the same make and model. As consumers, it’s time to reject this sameness. 

Look, you could tell me to just let people enjoy things, but you would be wrong. You know what kind of sick, twisted things some people enjoy? Besides, I have the power of the printing press behind me and could cancel you faster than you can say intellectual property licensing.

Ryan McCullough writes the Monday A&E column on exploring the irritations of art. Contact him at [email protected].