First part of our article about how Marvel Cinematic Universe is changing our social environment through the works and the passion of its fandom.

A/N: fanheart3 thanks the amazing Verdiana Rigoglioso who worked at the translation of this article from its Italian version.

Leggi questo articolo in Italiano

Scholars of “participatory culture” have identified a main feature about fandoms: they are composed of people strongly inclined towards civic involvement and social resistance.

A clear demonstration is how a great amount of politics groups and associations are contacting fans to swell their ranks and encourage people to take account.

Here we have three important examples:

  • The famous The Harry Potter Alliance, draws fans of our beloved wizard and aims to “turn fans into heroes” through activities dedicated to causes like gender and race equality, LGTB rights, climate change etc.;
fandom ethics harry potter
From the official website of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA)
  • The Organization for Transformative Works, non-profit organisation aiming to preserve and provide access to fanwork history and fan culture. It also provides legal support, as well as an essential cultural continuity to art production coming from fandoms.
  • The Gishwes, who invite Supernatural fans to join “the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen” to raise money for charity, directly involving fans in actions for civil rights and supporting people in need.

It could surprise you, regarding the latter example, how much voluntary and charity activities related to the tv-show Supernatural are increasing, day by day and, almost exponentially, season by season.

This shows how the single fan can be involved in different activities. Fans can use their passion to go beyond the characters and the stories they love and pour it on noble causes, which these characters are carriers of.

Fans and Civic involvement: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel Cinematic Universe products significantly affected not only cinema production, but also the cultural, economic and social world around it.

We all know Marvel was born as a product for fans, publishing the most popular and excellent comics and it throve over the years through the fandom. Fans watch the movies, discuss about them, and immortalize actors, even the ones in supporting roles, redesigning the stories in different ways.

marvel cinematic universe cosplayers
Cosplay moments from Lucca Comics & Games 2012 . Photo by Giada B.

Along with Star Wars and Harry Potter, Marvel Cinematic Universe is probably the production that most benefits from the support of devoted fans communities.

This kind of support not only determined the commercial success of the movies, it also became something bigger. It brings forward a topic that steps outside the boundaries of cinema and reaches important issues of everyday life.

Facing the subject becomes inevitable, after the extraordinary, and unexpected, box-office victory of Captain Marvel.

Based on this idea, we tried to identify five ethical/civil aspects in which Marvel Cinematic Universe is leaving its mark through the work of the fans. They seemed the most relevant, but we are eager to know your opinions on the matter.

Leave us a comment or write at [email protected] to let us know what you think.

Discover the first two themes: Black PantherCaptain Marvel

In the next article (coming soon on your screens): Avengers: Infinity WarCaptain America: Civil WarIron Man 3

Black Panther and the racial issue

marvel cinematic universe ethics black panther

The Oscar nominations for Black Panther are proof of this.

This film has changed something, especially in America and, although the overall quality is certainly not at Academy level, its meaning goes much further.

With an almost entirely African American cast and a great job of revaluation and enhancement of African culture, Black Panther has set itself as a reference film for more than a generation, just at the time when the controversial #BlackLivesMatter was at its peak.

This is why “Black Panther” is so important, […] ensuring that our children get to see themselves as heroes, too. The world of “Black Panther” offers a rare opportunity for black children to see characters in a fantasy world who look like them, in a story that is not only black but depicts our lineage out of Africa.

Frederick Joseph, author of #BlackPantherChallenge to raise money for black kids to see Black Panther  (Huffington Post, 2018)

It is not just about having African American protagonists, already seen in other films. It is about introducing protagonists that are not only a minority or someone characterized by social/economic problems. They are something more.

It’s the first time in a very long time that we’re seeing a film with centered black people, where we have a lot of agency, […] are rulers of a kingdom, inventors and creators of advanced technology. We’re not dealing with black pain, and black suffering, and black poverty

Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds, a pop-culture site focused on sci-fi and comic book fandoms. Quoted by Carvell Wallace on his article for New York Times.

This was a fundamental choice. The movie offers something important to young people by introducing Shuri, a modern and extremely smart princess. This gives us a role model but also new dreams and inspiration for the future. (See also this article on the subject).

marvel cinematic universe ethics black panther shuri

In short, for once we do not face the concept of “anger” nor that of “revenge”. We don’t find the usual “people think we are inferior and it’s not fair” or the “we will show you how much we are worth”.

The concept here is something people like me (Caucasian) usually take for granted: excellence is between us and even the chance of being heroes is something “normal”. A clearly positive and above all proactive perspective, which is inspiring many people.

Captain Marvel and the feminine question

marvel cinematic universe ethics captain marvel

Just look at the posts on Tumblr, or type the tag #CaptainMarvel, to understand the impact this movie is having on its audience.

In a context where the Feminine Question is now central, following the #MeToo movement, but also the increasing attention given by media to gender equality and the awareness that women themselves are doing on their rights, the film seems to be built to give strength to all these changes and leave a mark.

Carol Danvers is a superhero with common features, her superhero costume reflects the role avoiding to sexualize her body. It’s so easy to sympathize with this woman and she has something different from the usual even in characterization. Her sarcasm and determined attitude are moderated by irony and lightness that give much more credibility to her character, so different from other female characters often seen on the big screen.

Usually, women are described as unbearably strong / serious / angry from the outside, but full of feminine fragility within. Everyone loves them unconditionally from the first moment (except the average spectator, who instead is aware that in real life, if you behaved like this, the whole world would hate it). In addition, Captain Marvel was, to many, challenged by a certain part of male public (and critic), who did not believe the movie could be successful. Fans from tumblr are now celebrating the payback, because of the great box-office success.

These two first films are surely the ones that most represent the kind of reflection Marvel Cinematic Universe is carrying on, in particular through its fans, who capture certain dynamics.

In the next article, we will focus on three other movies, two of which will move the topic from a sphere of social activism to one of ethical and philosophical discussion and awareness raising. These often are the themes made clearer by fan’s works.

English translation by Verdiana Rigoglioso