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The Avengers Project

Mon Apr 9, 2012, 10:57 PM


(Re-submitting because someone helpfully told me that I had my dates wrong. You still have a chance to contribute! I'd really appreciate if you spread the word. I'm looking for 100+ responses to this and am waiting to see if some dA admins might help out.)

The Avengers by emmshin

Marvel's The Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon, is premiering this May 4. Reading the facts out like that doesn't quite encompass the enthusiasm the fan community has for this film. The Avengers is more than the latest release of a popular property: it's the convergence of six already beloved-characters and one beloved director. It's crossover fan fiction written by one of the strongest, most popular writers in contemporary science fiction. This means that it draws a lot of people. And those people create the fan fiction and fan art that many of us love.

avengers by Hallpen

This film, like most things, got me thinking about how fans relate to one another and to their favorite characters. I've come up with two questions to ask the audience. They should test the waters of fandom and media consumption exactly as those reactions are happening. One of the great things about fandom studies is how immediate and contemporary it is. This article will be active  until the release of The Avengers on May 4 . My first question is, although about an experience not all fans will share, directed at the film experience as a whole. The second question introduces a special interest in feminism. Answers to both will be tallied after the movie is released. My ultimate goal is to produce a publishable paper on the subject of fan opinions about notable subjects related to The Avengers. All participants who are quoted in the final work will be contacted and credited, unless they wish to remain anonymous.

And, because this is all about superheroes, the end goal is to have fun.

THE AVENGERS by earache-J

This afternoon I discovered that select theaters in the United States were showing "premiere marathons" of Marvel movies before The Avengers is released. They will air all the movies that show the origin stories of the Avengers characters, ending at the stroke of midnight when the new film is released. That sounds awesome. It also sounds like a great opportunity to go a little deeper into the workings of the fan experience. Because here's the question: what exactly is the appeal of a marathon of chronologically connected films? What is unique about a movie-going experience designed to familiarize or re-familiarize viewers with the history of a fictional universe?  

:star: Question 1. Do you think it makes the world and characters of the Avengers more 'real' to see the movies consecutively?


Marvel - Black Widow -  Bishoujo by Katy-Angel

A preview clip recently released for The Avengers (available here io9.com/5899008/in-the-first-s…)  featured the character Black Widow wearing a low-cut dress and tights and fighting three men while tied to a chair. Whedon is known for the variety and strength of women in his shows and movies, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to be showing off the bodies of the actresses who portray them. Black Widow is the sole female in a cast of six, and although some versions of the mythology give her cybernetic enhancements, she has no super powers. Her wrist-mounted weapons are called the "Widow's Kiss", a name which draws specific attention to her gender. Some fans love her, some ignore her, and some have difficulty seeing her as a character at all instead of the token beautiful woman of the film. There's a lot of talk about what is and is not empowering or appropriate for female characters. One viewpoint says that characters should be role models and weak ones can encourage weakness in viewers; another that characters are people before they are examples and should have flaws.

Black Widow by DarroldHansen

:star: Question 2:  With the understanding that the above clip is taken out of context, is Black Widow's portrayal empowering? Should it be?

cat avengers by katiecandraw

Thanks to everybody who participates in this fan studies project. It's sure to mutate a bit along the way, so suggestions on ways to modulate or focus the questions are also awesome.

Add a Comment:
 
:iconfoxsword:
foxsword Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2012
1. Do you think it makes the world and characters of the Avengers more 'real' to see the movies consecutively?
There is a principle known as "Double Mumbo-Jumbo" in filmmaking (if you must know, the term was coined by Blake Snyder, author of "Save the Cat"). It says that an audience can only take so much before the disbelief-suspension snaps. "The Avengers," it would seem, would be a blatant in-your-face Quintuple-and-then-some Mumbo Jumbo. For me, a Marvel outsider, throwing a Norse god, an all-American supersoldier, a techno-wiz playboy billionaire, an angry steroids-enhanced mutant green thing, and some assassins into a pile and telling them to play nice and oh you have to save the world, too…is a bit much. Maybe too much for my poor brain to handle.
For people like me, watching the other Avengers films may help to better orient us in the Marvel universe, as well as get us to accept each character for who they are, before having to deal with the jarring concept of seeing them all on the same screen at the same time. Seeing them consecutively, including the “bonus” scenes, would perhaps ease your passage into the upcoming film, allowing you a “transition stage” from regular Joe Schmoe daily life to a world of pure epic coming at your face at two hundred miles per hour. At the same time, watching so many superhero films might only serve to emphasize the contrasts among the films, making the Avengers as a whole look even more like a haphazard hodgepodge quilt of drastically different fabrics – all of which want to shrink at different rates in the wash and pull apart. I think it will depend on whether or not you can find it in you to accept Marvel’s superheroes to begin with – if you can, then try watching the films consecutively. And then, if your disbelief-suspension hasn’t blown, try imagining them all together in a film. And THEN, if your brain structure is still stable, go forth and enjoy the Avengers. I’ll be there. My brain structure is built out of kryptonite, and reinforced by a VERY active imagination. Disbelief be d***ed.

2. With the understanding that the above clip is taken out of context, is Black Widow's portrayal empowering? Should it be?
The question of what is an “empowering” female in a story has plagued writers and feminists (and feminist writers) for ages. Is it “empowering” for a woman to be as epic as, or even more epic than, the men, or is that simply a portrayal of the misconception that women need to outperform their male counterparts to even be seen? Is it “empowering” for a female character to be a stay-at-home mom, or is that simply a continuation of gender stereotypes? Is it “empowering” for anyone to be normal and good at it, or must they be some sort of hero?
The very word “empowering” begs the question – who are we trying to empower? “Empowering” is not a one-size-fits-all thing – in fact, it is a highly personal thing. Empowerment depends on the individual – whether she chooses to feel inspired by Black Widow’s skills, her calm demeanor, or even her hairstyle will rely heavily on who she is, and how she sees herself. Personally, from that clip, and from what I know of Black Widow, she is a character – someone to ooh and ahh at, but not someone realistic enough to emulate.
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2012
Thank you for this wonderful reply. :la:
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:iconfoxsword:
foxsword Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2012
You're very welcome! It was a lot of fun to write. :)
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:iconaetheriumdreams:
AetheriumDreams Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Now that I'm not slaving over essays, I can do this!

Response to le question number one: In my honest opinion, watching the prequel movies beforehand does make the Marvel world seem more real; perhaps it's not real like our world is real, but it is another world, and its realness comes from the people who live in that world, so learning about the different team members would definitely build up a viewer's knowledge of the characters and the various things that make them tick. For example, in the trailer, we get a glimpse of potential friction between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers; someone who hasn't seen Iron Man and Captain America might not fully appreciate just how different Stark and Rogers are at a basic level, how one has basically had his resources handed to him while another went from nothing to something, and has been thrust forward from one time period to another. Again, this is just my opinion, but watching the earlier movies in order does help. Especially considering how they are linked (Thor's hammer at the end of Iron Man 2, Loki viewing the tesseract at the end of Thor, Fury approaching Rogers at the end of Captain America for a "mission of worldwide ramifications").

Response to le question number two: Black Widow is a character I'm unfamiliar with outside of the movies, so I'm going to go on what I've seen so far. She may be hot sexy action girl, "The Chick" in a boy's club, but I get the feeling from her portrayal that she may be using her sexuality as a weapon along with her deadly martial arts skills and stuff. Femininity is deceptive; one wouldn't expect a supermodel to haul off and start beating up bad guys like a professional MMA fighter. I personally see her portrayal as empowering, because she can be feminine and sexy and badass and deadly at the same time. Perhaps her outfits are fanservice, but I don't think they'll compromise the character's integrity. As someone who's watched Whedon's series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I think he'll take a similar approach to Black Widow; she's not Buffy, but she's beautiful and deadly, and I think I trust Joss to make her a character instead of a token.

So, there's my two cents :3 This was fun! Can't wait for the movie!
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2012
Thanks for your input!
Reply
:iconxwinkiex:
xWiNkIeX Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2012
1) I don't think that the characters seem 'real' in the first place. Comics and movies (particularly movies based off of comics) should have characters who DON'T seem very real at all; they're a chance to live vicariously through people with abilities and situations that don't really touch base with reality. Sure, the characters have to have that little bit where you can connect, or else it defeats the purpose entirely, but other than that....

The point is, no, it doesn't. And if for some reason it does make it feel real to anyone, Marvel has failed.

2) With Black Widow....she may or may not be a love interest, but she's just there to kick ass and look pretty. Like Electra or Violet from Ultraviolet. I like both characters, but no matter how hard the creators try, the depth they try to add just doesn't stick. Tits and ass, blood and gore- perfect for the demographic they're appealing to (which is obviously guys). They may have tried to make her empowering, but that just isn't the character.


I feel like I danced around the questions a bit. :I
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2012
Thanks for your input!
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:iconxwinkiex:
xWiNkIeX Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2012
No problem!
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:iconroguishloaf:
RoguishLoaf Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
1) I think the strength of rewatching will depend on how deeply linked the films are, for example how many callbacks and character references are made that might be forgettable if you don't know the films intimately/haven't recently rewatched them. Given the amount of mythology callbacks the whole Avengers film franchise has been known for so far I can see why rewatching them all beforehand could deepen the experience, on top of the hype of experiencing the whole span of stories in a packed threatre full of equally dedicated fans.

2) Black Widow's main problem is really that she's the only female character. Because of that she is essentially representing all women, and therefore the whole burden of "empowering" falls on her. If she was part of a team of five female "Avengers" and was still the same using-her-looks-to-get-what-she-wants character, she would not attract the same criticism because she would be part of a varied set of female representation who could all provide strong role models for different types of women. Instead her character is already set apart by gender, and further gendering of her leaves her coming across as yet another super-girly-sexy smurfette posing ass to the camera amongst a sea of more varied male heroes. There is no problem with the Black Widow type "empowerment" of sexy girls kicking ass - but there is a problem when that is the only type of "empowerment" offered to women. The other problem is of course that she is one of the only ones without her own film. If she did have one she would have had the chance to demonstrate her own flaws and struggles and set herself apart from every other sexy latex spy, but she hasn't, so while the other Avengers have had their struggles and flaws and backstories laid out before us across hours of film to set them apart from every other all-American hero/billionare playboy/etc she comes across as flat because all we do know about her is "kicks ass, wears sexy clothes, that's it".
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012
Thanks for your input!
Reply
:icontsuki-spartaness:
Tsuki-Spartaness Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ohshit, I've just realised this is the film my friend has been working on for the past year ish. D'oh!
Having an Avengers marathon myself tomorrow to get myself up to speed. :)
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012
Your friend is working on The Avengers?
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:icontsuki-spartaness:
Tsuki-Spartaness Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oui. He works for Weta Digital down the road.
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2012
Very cool!
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:iconvirusq:
virusq Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2012
I'd sit through the movies just to see Tony all over again. RDJ does him so well. *_*

The movies are also all supposed to be tied together, so I'd imagine watching them back to back would make little things in The Avengers stand out a bit more. Little touches.

As far as feminism? I've never had an issue with a woman in a skimpy outfit kicking ass. If anything, I've found the skimpier the outfit, the more ass they tend to kick. I'm cool with that.
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:iconohtigerlily:
ohtigerlily Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
1.) For me, seeing the movies consecutively only serves to refresh my memory on the timeline that each event and hero appears, rather that to make it "real". However, I do think that the actors they chose for Steve Rogers and Tony Stark brought a lot of realism to their respective characters in particular. Especially with Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark. Not only does he resemble the way his comic counterpart is drawn/depicted, but he's relatable on other personal life levels (Both he and Stark have a former drug/alcohol addiction). To me he's the real life Tony Stark, so if I take away anything real from the films, it's him.

2.) The Black Widow issue, for me at least, boils down to the actress portraying her, and I don't really care for Scarlett Johansson. She never really convinces me in her films, and I'm trying to go into The Avengers with an open mind, but it's hard when I'm still reeling from her perfunctory performance in Iron Man 2.

The character herself was written to use her looks to get what she wants, in that she's a spy and does things to get information by any means necessary. Characters like that always walk a fine line between "character flaw" and "pandering" (is this trait something they're aware of and they struggle with, or was this written this way purely for sexual exploitation), and it's up to the writer to share with the audience how they want the character to be portrayed. Sex appeal is fine as long as it's used with purpose, and it's something Hollywood struggles with.

I rather like that she has no super powers; to me that sort of makes her stronger because she's a normal person who can do these amazing things, and I don't mind the theme of her weapons and name because it ties in with her spy persona, but if she's not portrayed with strength then she won't be perceived that way, no matter how many stunts she does in the film.

Personally, I think women should always be empowering in film, no matter what they're doing.

Okay, long winded rant over.
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012
Thanks for your input!
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:iconxephinetsa:
Xephinetsa Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Also, it's released on April 25 here in Australia... hmph. :c
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
May 25? My friend pointed out that I had the month wrong. ^^;
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:iconxephinetsa:
Xephinetsa Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I heard it was April 25 in Australia, but I don't know if that's accurate. :shrug:
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:iconladyofavalon153:
LadyOfAvalon153 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Yay Avengers stuff! Even though I'm actually not as much of a comic book geek as I used to, you know I'm a Marvel girl at heart! (And I'm so glad Joss Whedon is, too) And I wasn't going to say anything, but seeing as how you repeat it and really expecting people to read and answer you, the opening date is May 4, not April (otherwise this would be old news and hopefully we'd all be talking about how amazing the experience of watching this movie is). So you may want to change that.
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Oh man, good catch. I'll change that right now.
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:iconladyofavalon153:
LadyOfAvalon153 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
BTW, I don't know if you heard about this, but Joss Whedon was answering fans' questions on Reddit today and one was about women and comics. You might find Whedon's answer interesting. [link]
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Awesome, thanks.
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:iconsurfersquid:
surfersquid Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Best of luck with this project!
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Thanks!
Reply
:iconsteelsapien:
SteelSapien Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Wow, that sounds like a really interesting to do a paper on! All the best!I know that even if you like the subject, putting it together's still no picnic! :D

As for the first question, I'm not sure if it'll make the characters and world seem more real. Comparing films like Nolan's Bat-franchise to something like Fantastic Four, that's what writing is for, so your mileage may vary. Rather, I think the unified view of the movie's world will help people accept/suspend their disbelief that there's going to be a hero team up. Seeing it consecutively could give a different effect from separately, much like watching a TV series or such. When you go in thinking of it as a serial instead of an open-shut case, it might change your perception a bit.

As for the second, it's hard to say; there's evidence for whether it's empowering (breaking bonds! Kicking ass! Priorities!) or not (cleavage! Token action scene! Cleavage! Answering to men! Cleavage!). In which case, I've opted for stream of consciousness:
1. Huh, hot chick tied to a chair speaking on the phone. Eye candy, but she's not the least bit worried.
2. Girl's got spunk, seems she's fully in control of this interroga- THE FACE.
3. ...Wait. I just realised. She could have escaped at any time she chose.
Will depend on how she's written for the rest of the movie (stong female entering a normally male/super powered field, or some chick in a skintight suit?), but I'd say it works out as empowering so far. Just that small bit, that she's ready for action at any moment and does things on her own time, is already more than what Iron Man 2 let us know about her, in my opinion. XD
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Thanks for the input! Can you clarify "Eye candy, but she's not the least bit worried"?
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:iconsteelsapien:
SteelSapien Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
Well, by that I meant something along the lines of yes, you can't deny she's easy on the eyes. At the same time, though, she's not a damsel in distress at all. Quite the opposite, really, she's rather businesslike and almost unimpressed with her captors. She's not thinking about trivial matters, her thoughts seem entirely on whatever her mission is.
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:iconxephinetsa:
Xephinetsa Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I can't wait for the Avengers! We've been anticipating this movie for a looong time! Good luck with your study, Nem! c:
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:iconnemonus:
Nemonus Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
^_^
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