Intruders from Reality: Entertainment Turned Homework

Curator's Note

Superhero storylines have always been reflective of societal issues, with Marvel Comics addressing a wide range of topics over the years. In the MCU, this tradition has continued, with filmmakers using superhero narratives to explore social and political issues that are relevant to contemporary audiences (Kasprzak, 2018). Adapting source material for film or television is always a balancing act between honoring the original material and making changes to suit the needs of the new medium and the current cultural context.

“Woke culture” has become a defining feature of popular culture. As more people have become aware of social and political issues, they have become more vocal in their calls for change. Some argue that the term is used to shut down conversations and dismiss opposing viewpoints, rather than fostering productive dialogue and debate—as seen in various online debates.

The controversy of diversifying a superhero roster lies when the cast has blanket filters applied—such as “whitewashing” or "color-conscious casting.” The problem of diversity in superheroes cannot be changed by "color-conscious casting” because different races and ethnicities do not have the same shared experiences—each has to be written carefully and uniquely.

Conflict management theory can bridge the divide in the discourse and potentially resolve conflicts.

One approach is the collaborative or integrative approach (Deutsch, 1973). This may involve acknowledging and respecting different perspectives, seeking common ground, and finding ways to incorporate diverse viewpoints into a shared vision (Hocker & Wilmot, 2014). Where woke culture wants diversity, Marvel fans may want people to understand that they like the characters that have been created. To solve the diversity problem in superhero fiction, create real, well-written people with diverse backgrounds. Originality being adopted into a multiverse can be as simple as Into the Spider-Verse or as fire-producing as She-Hulk.

When applying conflict management theory to the discourse between the superhero fandom and woke culture, it is important to consider the online nature of discussions. The anonymity provided by the internet can lead to the escalation of conflicts and the dehumanization of opponents (Bleich, 2019). Additionally, the threat of cancel culture, where individuals are shamed or ostracized for expressing unpopular opinions, can create a climate of fear and defensiveness, further hindering productive dialogue (Bleich, 2019).

The way to address the conflict between these two, vocal groups, is to create a space that encourages respectful dialogue and discourages personal attacks or harassment.

By recognizing the value of diverse perspectives and finding ways to incorporate them into shared narratives, it may be possible to create more inclusive and socially aware superhero media. The shared narratives of groups will be different across race, ethnicity, neighborhood, and continent, which help create a unique individual that others may relate to.

There has been controversy over diversifying the superhero roster and the "woke" movement has been criticized for being overly politicized and silencing opposing viewpoints. It is important to create a space that encourages civility, while also avoiding the overshadowing of character development and storytelling. Ultimately, to solve the diversity problem in superhero fiction, real, well-written people with diverse backgrounds should be created, while acknowledging and respecting different perspectives and seeking common ground for the betterment of the beloved character.

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