Sorry Marvel, I'm Not Watching Two Entire TV Shows To Understand Doctor Strange 2
I'm tired of having to figure out how to balance my checkbook just so I can keep and/or acquire Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, CBS All Access, Apple TV, and, most recently, Disney+. When it was announced that WandaVision, Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and several other new Marvel shows are on the way soon, it's hard not to let out an exasperated sigh. Especially when it was announced that we need to watch them to understand upcoming blockbusters like Doctor Strange 2.
As everyone and their corporate-friendly brother is looking to get into the streaming game, we're veering dangerously close into content overload. The number of streaming services providing original content right now — or promising to release original content on their forthcoming streaming services — is staggeringly high. There is no way to keep up with everything out there, and I'm tired.
As Marvel Studios Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige noted in an interview earlier this month, people will need to keep up with at least a couple of the Marvel shows on Disney+ in order to follow the timeline set forth in MCU Phase 4. Specifically, Feige noted that the events in WandaVision and Loki, for instance, will play a hand in upcoming blockbusters, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
For some fans, there will be no objections. It's more Marvel content, they'll say, and the more the merrier, in their view. More power to them. If they want to keep up with everything and anything that's set to be released by this media conglomerate, that's totally fine. I'm not here to step on anyone's toes or tell them not to watch these brand new shows.
I'm not against the new Disney+ Marvel shows. I'm very excited to see She-Hulk, for instance, and I'm wildly curious to find out how they'll translate Moon Knight to the screen. But in my view, by making viewers see these shows are pre-requisites for what will happen in the cinematic universe, Marvel is basically expecting viewers to do homework just so they can go to the movies without feeling lost. In addition to keeping up with the 20-plus movies in their extended cinematic universe, the producers also want viewers to watch even more hours of content just to stay privy to the world inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The mere thought of it is exhausting. Sometimes, you feel the need to put down your foot and simply say, "No."
In life, you have to pick your battles. This is one battle I must fight. Maybe I'll change my mind later down the road. Maybe the trailers for Loki and WandaVision will convince me to check them out. But for now, I must say, I don't want to watch a bunch of shows just so I can understand the plot for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. I have a life to live, believe it or not. I don't want it to be filled almost exclusively with Marvel content.
The Desire To Make Marvel's Disney+ Shows A Necessity Is Taxing
Ultimately, it's possible that Kevin Feige's words were misconstrued. It's possible that the head producer of Marvel meant that, in order for fans to have a full understanding of the movies ahead, they'll need to know what's happening with Loki or Scarlet Witch in the streaming shows. That would suggest that, for instance, there might be one or two scenes where you turn to your buddy and ask them what the hell that meant, but otherwise, you can follow the plot well enough. That's what I'm hoping for, at least. But if it really requires everyone to get a Disney+ subscription and watch hours upon hours of streaming TV just so they can know the intricacies of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness ... I'm sorry, but that's a tall order.
Movies aren't meant to be equations. You shouldn't need many separate variables in order to follow the plot. The joy of going to the movies is that you can put the world in your rearview mirror for a few hours and get caught up in a bold, dynamic vision or swept into a world outside of our own. Well, unless you're watching a documentary, of course. Nevertheless, if you make it a mandate for viewers to keep up with every new Marvel shows that's available on Disney+, the producers will drastically limit whatever consistent engagement viewers can have with their newest blockbusters. As I said before, there will obviously be folks who'll gobble up anything Marvel puts out without any hesitation. But that should be the exception, not the norm.
I never watched a single episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter, and that didn't prevent me from understanding the plot of Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame. Just because the cinematic universe is now making a leap into the world of streaming content doesn't meant that viewers must automatically be glued into all the promised shows just to stay on top of everything that's happening on the big screen. It feels very taxing to me.
This Decision Feels Like A Ploy To Get People To Buy Disney+
Listen, Disney is a giant corporation. This is not a secret and it shouldn't be a revelation. Making money is the bottom line for this conglomerate, plain and simple. They will do whatever it takes to get people's money streamlined into the pockets. Whether it's endless merchandise, an extended history of releasing direct-to-DVD sequels, countless promotional efforts for their products, not to mention shameless efforts to play into people's nostalgia, or what-have-you, Disney wants to have your money in their hands. That's the way it has always been; Disney+ is simply a new coat of paint in this ongoing process. Remember the Disney Vault? Disney+ is the next evolution of the Disney Vault, in many respects. This should come to no surprise.
With that said, Kevin Feige telling people that watching the Marvel shows on Disney+ is practically a requirement for their upcoming movies feels like a dirty ploy to get people to buy into their streaming service. Why settle for your boring ole' Netflix subscription when you can get Disney+ and keep up with Marvel's latest stream of new shows. It contains all the details you NEED to know for the next Marvel movie. Take out your credit card or sign on the bottom line. It feels nakedly transparent. And, again, that's nothing new for Disney. But it doesn't make the whole effort feel any less cynical either.
That's not to say that the streaming shows were designed solely to sell merchandise or get people to buy a giant corporation's streaming service. But it's hard not to feel like these billionaires want people to throw as much of their hard-earned cash their way as they're willing to give in order to keep their money bath flowing. This quote from Kevin Feige suggest that the lucrative company wants Marvel to remain profitable through extra expenses. Maybe my commitment to the brand isn't strong enough? Maybe I'm not a big enough Marvel head to appreciate the bountiful gift given to us? But it is hard for me to see Kevin Feige's words as anything other than a ploy to get people to subscribe to yet another streaming service to keep profits up.
It Feels Like Marvel Is Trying To Dictate My Viewing Habits
In our age of constant content, it's hard to pick through the weeds and figure out what to watch. But one of the beautiful things about our digital day-and-age is that you have a bountiful stream of movies and shows available to you at the touch of a button. You should be forgiven if you haven't had the time to watch The Americans, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, or Fleabag since there is so much good stuff out there, how can you possibly pick and choose what you watch? (But seriously, you should watch Fleabag. It's great. Just sayin'.) Everyone has their own choice of shows to watch. Nobody should be forced to watch any one show because, honestly, how can you be expected to keep up with everything available out there? It's impossible.
Nevertheless, Marvel is trying its damnedest to make its content the nomenclature of the 21st century. Perhaps it already is? But in any case, the desire to force viewers to watch its streaming shows if they want to have a proper understanding of the upcoming MCU movies makes it feel like Marvel is assigning the world homework. Turn in your TV report by the end of the week. That's not to say that the new shows won't be entertaining or enjoyable in their own right. But it's hard to muster up genuine enthusiasm for new shows that feels like a requirement rather than good, leisurely entertainment.
Again, I'm genuinely looking forward to watching She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and What If? whenever I get a chance to check them out. I'm not outright opposed to WandaVision, Loki, or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on principal either. But when you have a producer telling people that they must watch something to understand something else, that strikes me as a commercial attempt to sell their streaming service rather than a convincing desire to get people to check out their streaming shows. I prefer the option of choosing to watch these TV series without making them feel like requirements.
These are just a few of the reasons why I'm not particularly jazzed about Marvel's forthcoming run of streaming shows on Disney+. Once again, I don't have anything against the shows themselves. I want to watch a few of them, and I'm willing to be persuaded to check out the other ones. But if Disney is going to make it seem like it is force-feeding its content down our throats, I've got the inclination to spit it back out. So no, I have no desire to watch these new streaming shows out of corporate demand. If that means I'm gonna be lost when it comes time to watch Doctor Strange 2, so be it.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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