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Retrospective On Marvel And Popular Culture

It’s early morning in mid-November 2020, and a phone pings waking its owner. The owner has forgotten to turn on the Do Not Disturb during the night, and he has just received a prompt notification from Google telling him that “Avengers: Endgame Avoided a Popular Fan Theory by Keeping 1 Marvel Hero Far Away From Thanos”. Remember this is November 2020 – a full year and a half after the movie was released.

The knowledge that Marvel is wildly popular won’t surprise anyone reading this. It continues to be the most commercially significant piece of pop culture of the 2010s and 2020s, and it doesn’t show much sign of slowing down. Nevertheless, the level of fandom remains astounding. More pertinently, it has created its own kind of eco-system, essentially employing people to make content based on knowledge, theories and trivia of the MCU. To find the motherload of that content, the best place to look is on YouTube.


YouTube Acts As The Pop Culture Hub

Today on YouTube, there is a market for almost every sphere of entertainment. Movies and video games are the most notable, but you can also see content like casino streamers playing games like live roulette, or discussions on professional chess – anything culturally relevant has a home on the platform. But Marvel is the gift that keeps on giving for YouTube content creators, and viewers can’t seem to get enough. Millions of views for 10-minute videos telling us about “things we missed”, “easter eggs”, “what we know about”, and so on. For instance, right now there is an avalanche of content forensically dissecting the Spider-Man Miles Morales video game, which was released last week and is set to be one of the first big PS5 titles. But older MCU content has stuck around too, and its popularity has not been limited to English-language videos. The two Final Avengers movies, Endgame and Infinity War, seem to provide the most fodder for content, but anything with the Marvel tag is a win for content creators.

We mentioned the phrase “eco-system” above, and it’s an apt term due to the fact that this comes from the top down. By that we mean there is a deliberate insertion of content by Marvel’s producers that lends itself to these endless discussions. Kevin Feige and the directors of Marvel movies will be well aware that hiding little signposts and nods in the movies – the so-called “easter eggs” – is a way of creating a perpetual conversation about the films. They can tease future plots and characters, or they can simply give a respectful nod to someone like Stan Lee. But fans can’t get enough, and the producers know this.


Fans Obsess Over Easter Eggs

Perhaps most notably, there is the “final Guardians of the Galaxy easter egg”. It’s a now mythical reference to something in the 2014 film, which has yet to be discovered. Obsessive fans have poured over the movie, creating theory articles and videos explaining what it might be. Director James Gunn claimed in 2019 that it had been “partially” discovered, sending fans into a spin. As of today, there has been no confirmation on whether the easter egg has been discovered.

But if we could offer a critique of all this, we would suggest that the content – at times – is mind-numbingly repetitive. That doesn’t detract from those who create content based on Marvel, as some of it is perceptive and astute, and it takes a dedication that could only be described as admirable. However, you will notice that many of the videos attempt to answer a single question, and yet stretch the content over 10 minutes (the normal YouTube add revenue threshold) when it could be answered in 30 seconds. 

Still, you have to sit back and admire the level of dedication shown by many of these content creators. They deep dive into movie, video game and comic book lore with an incredible passion. Sure, some of it might be formulaic and repetitive, but there is an insatiable audience that seems to want more and more. And, Marvel has enough ammunition to keep on hitting them with it.