What Fangirls Want: Making More of and More from Marvel's Men
by Kayley Thomas — University of Florida
May 11, 2012 – 00:00
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?