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Superhero Fatigue Syndrome: the Cooties of Film Criticism

Not really a thing, but something everyone talks about.

Cropped image of Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa on one of Marvel's "Black Panther" posters

Every summer after the latest big crop of big blockbuster movies whether they be superhero movies, the latest Fast and the Furious or Star Wars there are a bunch of think pieces about “will this be the end will we be finally done with these cape wearing S.O.B’s!”

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Being a troglodyte when it comes movie criticism, I cannot pretend that I’m overwhelmed by the huge amount of options that have come from Disney’s slow takeover of everything I know and love. I enjoy superhero movies and the ones I’m not interested in, I just don’t see. Star Wars films, even the worst ones, at least give me some momentary escapism into a fantasy world I enjoy. As far as I’m concerned the more capes and lightsabers the better.

Daniel Van Boom from CNET wrote that between the legion of ride-or-die fans and those who skip superhero/blockbusters all together there is a middle ground of people who are slowly losing interest.

“In the middle are people like me, who like comic book flicks but not enough to drop everything they’re doing to watch the ninth Spider-Man reboot the weekend it comes out. In other words, customers who are at risk of becoming former customers.

These franchises pressure you to keep up. Skip a few films and you’ve got a weekend of catch up if you want to enjoy the next big one. Movies having that “can’t miss” feeling is a plus, until there are so many they become easy to miss — which makes films like Solo, which aren’t essential to the main plot, all the more tempting to pass on.”

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself but I’ve never felt this cat on my chest pressure to go see a film in a series or risk completely being lost. Before the first Avengers movie I hadn’t seen: Thor or Iron Man 2. I was seeing the movie for Tony Stark and the Hulk and because Tom Hiddleston was cute. I didn’t feel lost. Sure there were things I didn’t know, but it was easy to pick up on and the movie largely is such an insular story.

With Infinity War I still have not seen Ant-Man or Doctor Strange and I managed to get around just fine. Sure the emotional beats hit harder because I have an emotional connection with the characters because of the years I’ve spent with them and because I love the actors. Yet, I skip movies all the time, not because of fatigue, but because movies are expensive. Before Moviepass, I could only afford to see a movie a month, maybe two if I went to some place that only has $12 tickets. After Moviepass, it’ll be my life again.

If there is a fatigue I feel it’s mostly that Disney, which now owns our pop culture entertainment from a toddler through to adulthood, is still being so slow to social change. We are still waiting for them to have LBGTQ characters in their films that aren’t just press junket lip service or same-sex dance scenes that you can barely see in a group shot. Still waiting for them to give directing opportunities to more women and women of color and men of color. Despite the glut of superhero films only one features a stand-alone superheroine and one with a stand-alone non-white lead.

I do get that, for “professional” film critics who would rather be watching more nuanced films, having to go through this revolving door of blockbusters is exhausting, but I think for those of us who love good movies, who care about film and most of all want to be entertained … if superhero movies keep being good then that’s an awesome thing. Especially when the genre is giving us movies like Black Panther and Wonder Woman … and really good looking people.

What do you think? Do you feel like your block has been busted? Are you feeling the fatigue?

(image: Marvel)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.

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