This Video Essay About DC Universe Inconsistencies Will Send You Down the Rabbit Hole
Do you love digging so far into the sociopolitical implications of fictional universes that you bury yourself in red string? Then Patrick (H) Willems‘ latest video, “The Weird Problem With the DC Universe”, is for you. In this video essay, Willems examines the use of pop culture references in relation to the geopolitical implications of the DC universe.
The video begins with one key distinction between the Marvel and DC Universes, mainly that while Marvel uses existing places as their settings, DC invents a series of large cities for their stories. You have Gotham and Metropolis on the east coast, Star City, Coast City, Gateway City, and National City on the west coast, and Keystone City, Central City, Midway City, and Fawcett City in the midwest.
The point here is that those are not insignificant changes to the United States economy, demographics, political makeup, and cultural production. In fact, Willems says, these gigantic variables would actually “radically alter the fabric of American culture and history.” When characters in the DC universe reference any music, current events, or figures from the real world then, it kind of “breaks the universe.”
Which makes sense! What would the East coast vs. West coast hip hop rivalry look like in this world? Would it have even happened? If Lex Luthor owns the major TV network, why are the news anchors exactly the same as the ones in our world? Why are the presidents exactly the same?
The answer, of course, is that audiences often enjoy cultural references and these stories are usually about individual characters rather than a political thought experiment. Willems acknowledges that “of course” he’s taking things too far in his analysis and these references don’t necessarily impact the story in an extreme way. If your reaction is, well, “Nobody really cares about that,” it’s what Mary Wilems says to him at the end of the skit (with a surprise twist ending).
His ultimate point, though, is that these moments can sometimes take viewers out of the story and creators shouldn’t be afraid to “just embrace the fiction and go for it.” I, for one, would absolutely adore a series that broke down exactly how the additional millions in population changed the Electoral College system. How about you?
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