Generational Theory, As Exemplified by The Avengers (MCU)
April 23, 2019 4:21 PM   Subscribe

"Steve also comes out of the ice as a 27 year old. In 2012. Steve’s also an emotional Millennial, with similar experience of economic collapse & attack and disaster." Author CZ Edwards provides a deep dive into generational theory (and callouts of its bullshit) through insightful character analysis supported with plenty of historical details.
posted by scaryblackdeath (33 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeeeeeeessssss. This is the content I’m here for.
posted by greermahoney at 4:32 PM on April 23 [4 favorites]


I was right. I loved that.

One thing that’s hard is that the MCU rewrote some backstories. Like in MCU, Natasha is a millennial, but in Marvel, she had to have been born in the 40’s, I would think, to be Black Widowing in the 60’s. That would make her Silent Generation. And while the MCU, I’m sure, made up a lot of her movie character whole cloth, certainly some of her personality was taken from the original. So how does that change the generational theory of her character? I would have liked to have seen those types of issues addressed.
posted by greermahoney at 5:18 PM on April 23


Gen Xer here. While there are certainly techbros among my cohort, we also lived through a crippling, brutal recession in the 1990s. In Canada, the recession lasted for most of the 90s. There were no jobs. Starbucks didn't really exist, so we couldn't get jobs there. Walmart wasn't an economic juggernaut. Not even low-paid jobs there. There was no consumer Internet, and no Internet jobs.

While people who are smarter than me and worked harder than me eventually did okay, those lean years have really affected me.

In contrast, the Millenials are enjoying the greatest transfer of intergenerational wealth in human history, from their parents (and virtual cultural dopplegangers) the Boomers.
posted by JamesBay at 5:19 PM on April 23 [13 favorites]


Gen Xer here. While there are certainly techbros among my cohort, we also lived through a crippling, brutal recession in the 1990s. In Canada, the recession lasted for most of the 90s. There were no jobs.

It is a good article but yeah, it missed some things. Geographical differences in how populations experienced the past few generations is one of those.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:22 PM on April 23 [4 favorites]


Why the author neglected to include Thor, I just can’t fathom.
posted by greermahoney at 5:25 PM on April 23 [9 favorites]


Geographical differences in how populations experienced the past few generations is one of those.

Not to mention class and race in the United States. If there is anyone here who thinks I am exaggerating how utterly brutal economic conditions in the 90s were, try to track down Bill Moyers' documentary Two American Families.
posted by JamesBay at 5:33 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]


From the article: James Rhodes, Bruce Banner & Clint Barton are the not-rich GenX representatives. And hey, they don’t suck! It’s like being wealthy makes jerks!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:35 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Why the author neglected to include Thor

He's in the Elder Futhark generation, a time of relative peace after the Völkerwanderung and prior to the Viking era expansion. Growing up in an anarchic region/era might make him suspicious of any sort of central government on the scale of a nation-state.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:14 PM on April 23 [37 favorites]


I mean

I did an entire thing about how the labor struggles of 2019 are closer to 1919 then anything in the midcentury and I was told I think and invest like someone who grew up in the Great Depression and like at least half my friends are some flavor of socialist so?

I guess?
posted by The Whelk at 6:29 PM on April 23 [13 favorites]


Additional Very Important MCU Content: Why Captain America Is (probably) a Virgin.*

*Only applies based on the assumption he's heterosexual, because otherwise lol you think he didn't bang Bucky and/or Sam? nah.
posted by yasaman at 6:33 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


I didn’t read hundred of thousands of words of exhaustively researched fanfic into Brooklyn of the 1920s and 30s for people to think Rogers is heterosexual and/or not a working class agitator

Read When Brooklyn Was Queer people
posted by The Whelk at 6:35 PM on April 23 [17 favorites]


How is Scott Lang a millenial?
posted by snofoam at 6:37 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]


Steve loved Peggy for who she was, and he liked Sharon because...well, because someone wrote that,

Yeah, that.
posted by greermahoney at 6:43 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


I prefer to believe the kiss was just confirming “yep, zero attraction here, this isn’t from disaster hiring ir anything whew, bullet dodged.”
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


How is Scott Lang a millenial?

Well he’s written as like being like roughly in his mid 30s and awful things keep happening to him
posted by The Whelk at 7:07 PM on April 23 [14 favorites]


Who know who is literally a millennial? Decker from Bladerunner.
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 PM on April 23 [18 favorites]


Generational Theory and Comic Book Superheroes That Get Retconned Frequently (in the books and the movies) are two things that have nothing to do with each other. EVER.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:19 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Okay so ..SPIDER MAN LIFE STORY which is ongoing now, does the opposite of the endlessly rebooted and eternal superhero thing. It places Peter Parker as someone in college in the 60s and follows him across every decade of his life as everything else changes and the alternate history timeline grows (Steve Rogers And Tony Stark fall out ...in 1964, over the Vietnam war ..which leads to Steve ...as a guerrilla leader against the Us Govt.)

It’s a wild ass series which if you like AU historical fiction takes on characters, is a must read.Reed Richards is the MOST divorced man.

(If you want another AU where Steve becomes a popular NYS politician who continues the new deal I mean whatever)
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 PM on April 23 [7 favorites]


This article is a little weird, in that it appears to be detailed but is in some ways rather superficial. Note absence of awareness of effect of 70s inflation on Stevesicle's book savings, also that Steve's foundational experiences would have been the great collective (and effectively socialism-killing) endeavors of the New Deal and universal mobilization, which millennials could hardly be further from.

I always think of Nat as very young Gen X. I guess the actress is right on the line and there aren't a lot of cues in the story for the character's age.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: Are you familiar with the fanfic "Steve Rogers PR Disaster"?
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 10:27 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]


It places Peter Parker as someone in college in the 60s and follows him across every decade of his life

That seems to imply Peter was born in the early 1950s, which would put him somewhere around 65 now (and Reed Richards at least a decade older). How's the series handling that?

Your post made me think of the brief Grant Morrison set himself when he took over writing Batman in 2006. Here's tor.com's summary of the idea:

"As part of his mission statement coming onto the Batman franchise, Morrison attempted to find a way to reconcile every story since 1939 into a single continuity; in a diegetic sense, every Batman story that’s ever been written actually happened to a single person in the course of his lifetime. Of course, this ambitious goal required Morrison to make even the most ridiculous Batman stories somehow relevant – even stories as absurd as “Batman: The Superman of Planet X” and “Batman Meets Bat-Mite,” both from the late ‘50s. What’s more impressive is the fact that Morrison was able to find clever ways make these colorful, seemingly corny pulp tales somehow mesh with the established grim, gritty, Frank Miller-inspired Batman of today."
posted by Paul Slade at 3:07 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


I feel like the author really missed an opportunity to talk about the economic impact of the combined forces of the patriarchy (two women earn less than a man and a woman) as well as criminalized homosexuality and the McCarty era on Peggy Carter and her life partner Angie Martinelli
posted by edbles at 3:36 AM on April 24 [7 favorites]


It is a good article but yeah, it missed some things. Geographical differences in how populations experienced the past few generations is one of those.

....Didn't I see them address that at the beginning, with comments about how women and people of color were affected differently and had additional impacts upon their lives on top of just the era?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:11 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


I don't know about the comics, but wasn't MCU Steve's mom a nurse? It's like his first line.
posted by goblin-bee at 6:15 AM on April 24 [1 favorite]


Yasaman - Steve is definitely not a virgin, and definitely not straight. #StonyForever :D
posted by twilightlost at 7:41 AM on April 24


The Whelk: SPIDER MAN LIFE STORY...places Peter Parker as someone in college in the 60s and follows him across every decade of his life...

You mean, like a sort of "Web-Sligning Forrest Gump"? Jesus, that sounds terrible. Wait, who is the Lieutenant Dan in this -- Captain George Stacy?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:54 AM on April 24


"The first time that social homogeneity was even possible was in the 1920s, after mass publishing, syndicated radio and a film industry were developed enough to be attainable by the majority of the population."
I'm going to quibble here and observe that mass publishing, mass advertising, and even mass entertainment in the form of weeklies, yellow-backs, staged theatre, etc., was characteristic of the European metropolises by the second half of the 19th century and that our cultural schematizations of that era rely on groups who thought of themselves as distinct "generations." (The future, unevenly distributed, etc., etc.) Tho it's true that the mass culture of the 20th century is different in scale, if not in kind.

That said, I dig this piece, if only because the author's description of the "Silent" cohort absolutely nails my dad.

Gen Xer here. While there are certainly techbros among my cohort, we also lived through a crippling, brutal recession in the 1990s

This is true, and yet at the same time we allegedly came to adulthood at the end of history, that triumphant moment that promised to merge the liberatory dreams of the '60s with the liberatory products of the '80s. I dunno. I feel like a characteristic of the Anglo GenX experience—if there are any—is a doubled, divided relationship to history and our lives—one which is both extremely pessimistic, sometimes to the point of nihilism, and at the same time extremely optimistic, sometimes to the point of triumphalism—at the same time.

In that respect, Tony Stark seems like an Xer, definitely.

(Also not noted at all is AIDS, which, as a shadow of the Anglo GenX experience, seems hard to overstate.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:15 AM on April 24 [12 favorites]


I didn’t read hundred of thousands of words of exhaustively researched fanfic into Brooklyn of the 1920s and 30s for people to think Rogers is heterosexual and/or not a working class agitator

oh, the HARDEST of sames.
posted by nonasuch at 8:45 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


Steve is definitely not a virgin, and definitely not straight.

Preach!

#StonyForever :D

Oh, them’s fightin’ words. #teamstucky
posted by greermahoney at 8:53 AM on April 24 [4 favorites]


In the comics, Marvel characters live in Marvel Time, which was close to real time in the 1960s but has now slowed down considerably.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:10 AM on April 24


This is true, and yet at the same time we allegedly came to adulthood at the end of history, that triumphant moment that promised to merge the liberatory dreams of the '60s with the liberatory products of the '80s. I dunno. I feel like a characteristic of the Anglo GenX experience—if there are any—is a doubled, divided relationship to history and our lives—one which is both extremely pessimistic, sometimes to the point of nihilism, and at the same time extremely optimistic, sometimes to the point of triumphalism—at the same time.

I think we can see this in the techno-optimism of the Gen-X representatives of the MCU. Even Bruce Banner, apparently from the lower end of the MCU socio-economic structure, still believes science can save the day. In the conflict between Tony & Steve in Civil War you can see how Stark just can't resist the technical allure--and underlying coolness--of the networked surveillance apparatus and technologically-driven techniques that Steve finds so horrifyingly intrusive. Even after Tony creates basically a serial-killer AI, he doesn't consider that maybe trying to create sentient virtual slaves is inherently a bad idea. Gen X still seems to believe technology is ideologically-neutral.

I think it was also a mistake to sideline Carol Danvers in any Gen X discussion, because like so many women of Gen X, she seemed to have strong intentions toward empowerment and egalitarianism that are co-opted by socially conservative forces (the military, and allegorically, technology in the form of Mar-Vell and the Cree) and made to serve unjust ends. Think of all the Gen X women who were "pioneers" in becoming CEOs, ultimately serving a system that undervalues women's labor to the tune of about $.30 on the dollar. This was the time when feminism was tamed down into Girl Power and used to sell us new kinds of shampoo. Carol's journey from "go-girl" cog in the military-industrial machine (both the U.S.'s and the Cree's) to space-bound insurgent fighter has resonance with the ways Gen X women received messages of empowerment, and yet were offered avenues for power that channeled into existing structures serving pretty misogynistic ends. And like Tony and Bruce, she seems to trust in technology to an unwarranted degree. She seems genuinely shocked that anyone would try to weaponize Mar-Vell's work which is strangely naive for a member of the military who aspires to be a fighter pilot. (Like, what does she think they'd be doing in those jets? Just racing for pink slips?)
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:18 AM on April 24 [7 favorites]


As a representative of the non-rich, non CEO, non super-powered cadre of Gen Xers that still take notes in longhand, I like how this article's positioning of my generation made me feel like a total slackass underacheiver. Which I'm pretty sure checks all boxes generationally speaking.
posted by thivaia at 12:12 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]


The Gen X examination I'd like to see more on? MCU Clint Barton. He's just about the age where he'd have been fresh in the military in Operation Desert Storm & been boots-on-the-ground to see how the military handled and/or fucked over the region. Is that how/when he got on Nick Fury's radar?

I think the article made a nice point about Coulson as deep state manager, where he's cynical about government but he's seen the alternatives -- how does this play out for a military veteran? I have always suspected Clint was not surprised by the HYDRA infiltration. It's too bad that scheduling issues meant the actor wasn't in Captain America: Winter Soldier b/c there was allegedly a scene planned where he's still ostensibly SHIELD but helping Steve out. I feel like that scene would have added texture to the MCU.

The MCU hasn't done much to give us any clues in re: the character but it would have been nice to see the essay address what a military vet who was in the U.S.'s first post-Vietnam war brings to this mix.
posted by sobell at 4:47 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


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