In addition to playing, writing, and reporting about games, my other hobby is closely tracking the film rights to comic book franchises and how it impacts the ability for media conglomerates to cross-pollinate characters in a shared cinematic universe. You can imagine my excitement at today’s news that Disney, who bought Marvel in 2009, has purchased 21st Century Fox, who secured exclusive film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four in the 90s. Fox has shown no interest in sharing the characters.
The $52.4 billion deal, once it's finalized, would allow Wolverine, the Silver Surfer, and others to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, presumably in phase four, which would take place after the currently untitled, Thanos-centric Avengers movie in 2019.
When everything became official this morning, I tweeted the following:
This snark is more true than you know. The nerd in me can’t help but picture a post-credits stinger in 2019’s Avengers film that slowly pans through the distant corners of the galaxy, passing through the wreckage of Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet-fueled tantrum, before coming to a stop in front of seemingly nothing. Slowly, though, a massive something is revealed, his eyes darting to life because it’s become clear the galaxy can no longer police itself. Galactus! What if? What if? WHAT IF?
It’s possible to hold two thoughts at once: excitement at what it means for Marvel to have creative control over their characters, concern over a singular corporate entity using the financial rewards of one massive piece of cultural entertainment to purchase another massive piece of cultural entertainment, centralizing in a disturbing way.
(Remember, Disney also owns frickin' Star Wars.)
There wasn’t a world where we—me, you, anyone—could have stopped this deal. The election of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump probably wouldn’t have, either; like many centrist Democrats, Clinton's beholden to corporate interests in a way that prevents them from stepping on their toes, unless it’s truly egregious and the public anger (aka polling) suggests it's the correct political move, rather than truly "right."
Right now, the public isn’t. My reaction, even when I know better, is illustrative of that, and I can’t help but think about actor/writer Simon Pegg’s essay on geek consumerism:
“In the 18 years since we wrote Spaced, this extended adolescence has been cannily co-opted by market forces, who have identified this relatively new demographic as an incredibly lucrative wellspring of consumerist potential. Suddenly, here was an entire generation crying out for an evolved version of the things they were consuming as children. This demographic is now well and truly serviced in all facets of entertainment and the first and second childhoods have merged into a mainstream phenomenon.”
We don’t view an entertainment monopoly as a monopoly because it’s #content that pleases us. Who doesn’t want a good X-Men movie? (Granted, Fox seemed to be finding a path, between Logan, Deadpool, and The New Mutants...!) But this quietly snuffs what should be societal concern over the messages from corporate entities, and how that societal concern should be elevated when there’s unending consolidation.
But what if Thanos’ unleashes the mind stone, thus creating mutants???