Superhero films have been a popular form of film entertainment for decades; however, there is a fear that current snobbery means that they, and the artists involved, are being undervalued and even mocked.
Various news sources have been talking to Avengers cast members about this. Zoe Saldana spoke to ‘Net-a-Porter’ about ‘elitists’ who claim that the cast of Marvell Movies ‘sell out’ by taking roles in the films; Josh Brolin has additionally claimed that many actors themselves look down on superhero roles. This suggests that the snobbery around superhero films may be generated within the industry – stemming from actors and directors rather than the obviously quite large audience pool.
The concern has never been, however, that superhero films lack a ready and willing audience; it is rather that they may be pure money-making entertainment without artistic value, creating poor value content that is immediately gratifying to its watchers, but has nothing to add to the world: no inspiration, no innovation, no ‘meaning’.
There are, however, new superhero films which defy this: Black Panther, for example, a superhero film with a black cast, innovating representation in cinema. This film shows that having ‘entertaining’ content doesn’t necessarily negate the possibility of having something to say. Black Panther may not be presenting a straight-forward ‘message’, but it raises the issue of representation and so makes us reflect on our society.
English Literature and History of Art students might consider how and why we attribute value to art. They might think about whether commercial value is automatically linked – fairly or unfairly – to a lack of artistic value, and why. English students in particular could reflect on how genre makes us assume attributes across mediums without addressing a text/piece on work in isolation, and whether this is useful and/or leads to unfair critique.
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