What Fangirls Want: Making More of and More from Marvel's Men

Curator's Note

Some might say The Avengers’ record-breaking debut is due partially to Joss Whedon’s revitalization of the comic book film as “the first superhero chick flick.” Nevermind the comics legacy and series of movies The Avengers seeks to unite – surely what women want are men in costumes as tight as Black Widow’s.

While many women are in line as much for the action and comics lore, fan works like the video featured here, which explores the macho posturing and potential connection between Iron Man and Captain America, highlight another draw. The call to appreciate more than muscular arms may best be heard when in the film Loki asks Nick Fury: “how desperate are you that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?”

Loki pinpoints a powerful emotional appeal of the team, who individually are steeped in tragedy and dysfunction. Prior to the movie’s release, (predominantly female) fan writers, artists, and vidders have been drawing from Marvel films, comics and each other’s stories and knowledge to explore the varied possible dynamics between these lost figures, showing an understanding of what complex character-driven stories could be cultivated in a multi-film franchise and ensemble cast.

Sheenagh Pugh differentiates between fans whose works reflect a desire for “more of” or “more from” their source material, citing the Sherlock Holmes fanfic that emerged when Conan Doyle killed off the detective as an instance of wanting more of: “However many cases the great man solved…they would never have been ready for the story to end” (19). But with the fanfic that flourished in the 1970s, many female fans of Star Trek, for example, “wanted the action to slow down enough to give the characters and relationships time to evolve” (Pugh 20). Notably, fan works that slow down the action aren’t declarations of distaste; rather, they may function as indications that one ingredient of a media property excels while revealing the lack or even potential of other elements - fans asking more from their media.

What Whedon accomplishes in his finer moments is precisely what fans have been anticipating in their creations: a very human story about extraordinary people connecting through shared experiences. The question that arises with The Avengers is whether multi-film franchises ultimately offer more of or more from and, with the sequels and prequels set to emerge from this film: which one do which audiences want?

 

Comments

Drew Ayers's picture

Spin-offs and "Small" Stories

Thanks for capping the week off with a great post, Kayley, and I think your post ties into some of the things Jim discussed in Monday’s post. In particular, I’m thinking of Jim’s claim/prediction that Marvel Studios will use the films about individual characters to develop the more "personal" stories while the group films will focus more on the team dynamic. I think this is probably accurate - and it’s the way that comic books tend to work - but Joss Whedon’s recent comments about The Avengers sequel indicate that he wants to go "smaller" with the next film rather than try to outdo the spectacle of the first. This statement hints that, while Wheedon is almost certainly not going to provide the kind of "shipper" material found in the video you posted, he does have a desire to go deeper into the relationships between the characters, rather than focus solely on action sequences. Of course, he’ll be beholden to the desires of Marvel Studios, but the plans to develop more spin-off films signals that they’re interested in exploring these characters in more detail.

As a fan, my hope is that the characters continue appearing in each other’s films. I, for one, would love to see a Bruce/Tony buddy movie.

 

Kayley Thomas's picture

Intertexts

Thanks, Drew. I was really struck by Jim’s and the similar threads weaving throughout the rest of the week’s posts as well. There seems to be a sort of mix of apprehensive and impressed awareness of some of the possibilities for storytelling across movies - and other media - with the Avengers properties. While there’s no homework required to get something out of the interactions between characters in the Avengers, certainly having seen the Iron Man films and Captain America provides that extra text for the audience of Howard Stark and just how present he actually is in some of the moments between Tony and Steve without need to mention him (meet Tony Stark: daddy issues). While I chose a "shipper" video, I think it and lots of others like it are more interested in character moments than romantic moments, at least when it comes to actual screen expectations, and Whedon does sound like the guy to bring that and make it count. Certainly the genre’s focus and goals will frame the story - and should - but I’m glad to hear Whedon is interested in telling smaller, more personal stories amidst the action. What will be interesting to watch is how the subsequent films draw upon and add to each other - if they stay in any sort of conversation with each other saide from a post-credits nod to the next. If it’s Whedon doing Avengers 2, he’ll really be the one with the task of bringing the stories together in a way that’s useful and rewarding for the varying audiences, but this will also, of course, be dependent upon the material he has to work with. It’s a writing task I envy; there’s a lot of opportunity to stretch the limits of telling one movie’s story.

And I would be right there with you for the Tony and Bruce Science Bros adventure..

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