“There are two dates at the end of every relationship, the day you should have broken up and the day you actually do.” This brilliant wisdom was offered by a lifelong friend of mine back when we were in college and Lauren was absolutely right. Everyone has known couples that should have broken up but, for whatever reason, are still ambling along…making life rough for each other and super awkward for everyone who knows them. There is no couple I can think of more in need of accepting reality, admitting their relationship is broken beyond repair and just moving on than the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Television.
I get it; I do. You’re both scared. You’ve spent four years together, since Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. first came out in 2013. And I’m sure you’ve both dreamed about being together, in one way of another, for nine years going all the way back to when Iron Man first showed the world what the MCU could do in 2008. But it didn’t stop with just Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D., no. MCU, you’ve grown to encompass seventeen films over the last nine years with another solid seven films on the way. Marvel Television, you haven’t been slacking either. You’ve had nine different series run so far under the MCU banner of Marvel Television (six of which are Netflix shows) with three more in active development. And all the while you’ve both been telling people about your plans to cross over. You’re one big universe right?? Everything’s interconnected! And everyone was excited about it! To say that it’s over, to say that it didn’t work out the way you planned can be difficult and embarrassing. You worry about what other people will think. You worry about what your life will be like without the other. But most of all and it just hurts…
If you’re honest with yourselves though, if you really look at the relationship, it isn’t working. It hasn’t worked for a long time. In some ways, even though you had some fun together (remember when Lady Sif was on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.??), it’s never really worked. Why? Who knows? Who can ever really answer these questions? But, at the end of the day, you’re just not right for each other.
Let’s look at the facts. You’re supposed to be intimately connected but you never talk about each other. EVER. How is that the grounds for a healthy relationship? Netflix, how many times are you going to vaguely refer to “the incident” when you’re talking about the Chitauri invasion from The Avengers? That’s like the cinematic universe version of, “Oh, we hang out sometimes but it’s not like it’s anything serious.” As viewers we’re supposed to believe this same universe would be saying “the incident” instead of “the Battle of New York” or “the Invasion of New York” or “the Alien Invasion” or even “the Chitauri Invasion”?? Avengers: Age Of Ultron clearly shows the Avengers hunting Hydra and Chitauri tech buuuuuuut no one ever gave the general public any knowledge whatsoever about what happened? I mean, it only took a few months after the attacks for the United States, as a culture, to settle on saying “9/11” over “September 11th.” We name things to help process them. We’d’ve named this too…if you were the same universe. If you were really together, no one would be saying “the incident.”
Or how many times did you mention Danny Rand’s wealth in Iron Fist? And in alllllllll the talk of billionaires and tech and powerful CEO’s and corporations no one ever even alludes to Tony Stark? Not once? Really?? I mean Danny Rand is a CEO with SUPER POWERS who wants to FIGHT CRIME. We’re to believe Tony Stark doesn’t come up once? Or how many times does someone say something like “the green guy” as opposed to just saying “the Hulk” or “Captain America” or whoever? The Avengers are clearly superhero celebrities in the MCU. People know them. People know their names. All across the globe they are instantly recognizable…except for in Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem I guess? How does that work? Heck, the whole defense of Frank Castile in Daredevil Season Two was built around the fact that he was a soldier who served his country and was just trying to right wrongs at home and no one even mentions Captain America?!? Sure, you’re together….
Now Marvel Television, I know that sounds harsh…but it’s true. But it’s not all your fault. MCU, you go out of your way to avoid talking about Marvel Television too. During all the heated conversations over the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War no one mentions how the idea of regulating superhero activity might be important because, “We have guys hanging people on meat hooks and leaving them to die in Hell’s Kitchen”? How about the exhaustive research Stephen Strange does to find a mystical way to fix his hands? He ends up in Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, Nepal. Okay, that’s all well and good…but he never even comes across a single reference to K’un-Lun?
What of Tony Stark’s growing anxiety ever since he almost died in the Chitauri wormhole in The Avengers? This has led him to hastily create Ultron and go to war with Steve over the Sokovia Accords. He monitors the news all over the world for tracking superhuman occurrences but he’s never mentioned any of the Defenders (let’s not even touch on how he apparently can’t find Coulson or his team…ugh)? The Defenders are right in his own backyard and he’s not even checking them out? Look how on top of Peter Parker he was in Spider-Man: Homecoming! And we’re to believe that he’s cool with people like the Defenders and the Punisher tearing up his city? They don’t even warrant a mention? Yes, he tells Peter the Avengers focus on more global concerns. But he’s also completely aware of Peter and he tags him in when he needs him to go toe-to-toe with Steve in Captain America: Civil War. These are all little things too. It would be beyond easy to drop in a line or so to reference each other here. I mean, you would if you really cared about each other or were in any semblance of a healthy relationship…
On the subject of the tag-in, let’s look at the elephant in the room – Avengers: Infinity War. How can you two even PRETEND to be together with this coming out?? The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are going up against Thanos – a being with, if it’s like the comics, the literal transcendent power of God (and that’s big “G” God we’re talking about, not a little “g” god like Thor or Odin) – and they’re not calling the Defenders?? We’re supposed to believe that the Avengers are cool with Peter Parker – a literal teenager whose safety is a clearly established major concern for Tony – fighting alongside them against a threat like this and they’re not interested in tagging in Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the Iron Fist? There is no way that makes any sense at all. Stop pretending! You two clearly don’t like each other! You don’t want to hang out. You don’t want to talk about the other. It’s time to just acknowledge that this is over and move on.
Here’s the thing too, you’ll both be happier once you break-up. Tonally, you don’t fit together at all. You never have. Marvel Television, your shows on Netflix have all been brilliant. They are these dark, layered, emotionally complex narratives that explore the darkness in human nature alongside a rich quest for hope and salvation within the darkness. Daredevil explores the nature of the vigilante and sin, questioning how justified one is in using evil means to battle evil. Jessica Jones looks at alcoholism and drug addiction while also being a powerful allegory for emotional abuse. Luke Cage considers systemic racism and the plight of many urban neighborhoods. Iron Fist, well, okay – admittedly Iron Fist was more of a fun throwback to 1980’s and 1990’s karate movies. But then The Defenders was about all these intensely isolated individuals trying to come together in the name of something larger. And The Punisher is shaping up to examine violence, PTSD, and deep emotional damage too. Kalie and I have only watched the first two episodes of The Punisher so far but can anyone who has seen this show honestly imagine Tony Stark (as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in the MCU) being in the same room as – let alone having a conversation with – Frank Castle (as portrayed by Jon Bernthal in the Netflix shows)? I sure can’t.
MCU, you’ve got your own thing going on too and it’s working for you! And there’s nothing about any of these Netflix shows that can plausibly fit in your bright, funny, snarky, whimsical world either. Really, can you even begin to picture Jessica Jones on the bridge of the Milano? Or Daredevil enduring Ant-Man’s banter? In the wild, free-wheeling world of comic books it all fits. That genre of comics encompasses all those subgenres in a way that feels organic. Since they were never really seen as “serious art” everything was fair game when they exploded onto the scene 70+ years ago. But the MCU and Netflix shows don’t work that way. Times have changed and the medium you live in has different expectations and rules.
Okay, harsh truth time…I’m just going to say it. MCU, Marvel Television….you’re trying to be your parents. I can see why! The Marvel Universe if incredible! I’ve loved it since I was four years old! But the rules that work for the relationships between all those wonderful, wacky, and diverse comics doesn’t really feel right for either of you. It’s a different time and you’re your own individuals. Be proud of that! Go out and find what works for you! It doesn’t mean you can’t savor the beauty of those old dreams and mourn what you’ve lost in each other, but a new day’s dawning for each of you.
Think of how free you’ll feel creatively, once you can say goodbye to a relationship that was only holding you back. We’ll stand with you too! It’s not like once you officially say you’ve gone your separate ways (something we’ve all seen coming for a looooong time) we’re going to pick sides. We’ll still watch both of you! And it’s not like we’re going to leave you for DC. If anything, we’d like to see the sort of creative freedom DC has inside their TV and cinematic universes shared with you too. Everyone will be better for this. You both will feel better, healthier, and more natural while we can stop having headaches over trying to merge two universes in our minds that clearly feel completely separate in every artistic and narrative way. Then we can just relax and wait to see what you do with yourselves!
It’s not just me, either. All your friends are talking about this. We all see it. In fact, when I told him I was going to be having this chat with you, Jeff wanted me to pass a message (and hopefully a helpful hint!) along to you too. He said the time’s clearly come for both of you to sit down and read Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt’s brilliant little book, It’s Called A Break-Up Because It’s Broken. He thinks it will be really good for the both of you.
Trust me. Trust us. Trust all of us! We’re your friends and we just want to see you happy. Neither of you need to be hampered with stupid continuity issues when you can be creating your own brand of exciting, superhero narratives all on your own, doing it your way. While it’s scary, soon you’ll see how much better you feel apart and then you’ll be able to begin to grow as happy, independent, creative, forces…and you’ll never look back.
6 thoughts on “Will the MCU and Marvel Television Just Break-Up Already?”
Hi Michael. Fun post, and yes an odd marriage for sure. Good job they don’t have a child. If they did they would maybe call it Stan, or Stanette. Marvel Cinema and Marvel TV could then conduct conversation and references to one another solely through their child. Imagine the conversation over the breakfast table:
Marvel TV to Stan/Stanette: please remind your mother that the green guy is coming over to watch the game with us tonight.
Marvel Cinema to Stan/Stanette: please tell your father that I haven’t forgotten, and to stop referring to Hulk as the ‘green guy’.
Stan/Stanette: you’re watching the game tonight? But I wanted to watch DC’s Batman: The Egghead Origins on Netflix! I hate you both!
Marvel Cinema and Marvel TV to Stan/Stanette: go to your room!!
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BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! What a sad/hilarious scene you’ve crafted. See?? This is all the more reason for them to break-up now before the relationship gets more emotionally complex.
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Brilliant post! I agree 99% with you (I imagine a conversation between Frank and Tony… a very short and loud conversation, but a conversation nonetheless).
I actually don’t understand why they behave like this. It feels really strange that they never say Hulk or alien invasion on the TV shows. Is there any kind of legal issue? I know the big movie characters won’t be on TV due to money problems, but mentions are free… aren’t they? It would be crazy if they had to pay for dropping a name…
A cross-over among them is even more far-fetched now that Marvel Studios doesn’t have to answer to the Marvel CEO or president or wahtever Ike is.
And if they break up… I want a Hawkeye TV show!!!
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That’s another great reason they should break-up!!!! Hawkeye (maybe with Clint AND Kate!) would be perfect on Netflix. I would love a series like that. And then they’d be free to use whatever characters in whatever medium they wanted.
And the crazy thing is they don’t have to pay to use the name! They could casually drop names/events all the time to make the universes feel more connected but – for whatever reason – they don’t.
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Now that I have watched The Punisher I’m even more convinced that the two sides need to break up. The show is just too damn good to force it to connect to any of the other Marvel stuff. Hell, even the way the show presents PTSD is leagues beyond how Iron-Man 3 presents it. Besides, if they really really wanted to tie The Punisher to the MCU they could have easily made some references to The Mandarin and the Ten Rings since Frank did a number of tours in Afghanistan. Whatever, I just don’t believe the two sides exist together any more, period. End of story.
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Those little references don’t even take any time! It could be one little throwaway line that builds a sense of connection. They don’t need to be (nor should they be) written for/around nods like that but if they want us to buy them together, they have to be there. They aren’t even trying! They don’t even want to be together! All will be happier when they split.
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