In 2019, superhero movies dominated pop culture. At movie theaters, raking in billions at box offices across the globe. On television, straightforward superhero adventures like The Flash and Supergirl aired alongside genre deconstructions like Watchmen and The Boys.
Despite how most of the stories are simplistic power fantasies engineered for adolescent sensibilities, adults spent a lot of time arguing about superhero movies. Some of the controversies dissipated almost immediately while others dragged on for far longer than they deserved.
Here’s a look back at the silliest conversations our culture had about comic book movies in 2019.
Before Joker was released, it was already talked about with interest and alarm. When it premiered at The Venice Film Festival, it won the Gold Lion, the festival’s highest honor. But the plaudits were quickly drowned out by panic. In the run-up to the movie’s release, commenters, including a parent of the Aurora, CO movie theater shooting, blasted the filmmakers for making a film that’s sympathetic to a radicalized angry white man driven to mass murder and worried it would provoke violence among angry and volatile incel men.
Why the Joker movie is problematic. Rachel Miller nails it. pic.twitter.com/vTHlVOBHCY
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 5, 2019
— IndieWire (@IndieWire) August 31, 2019
Early showings of the Joker had heavy police presence but no violent incidents were reported. As left-leaning podcasts Chapo Trap House and Struggle Session noted, the actual plot of Joker was geared much more towards leftists than incels.
Captain Marvel, was the first Marvel film starring a female superhero. After Wonder Woman was a rare hit for DC, the demographic algorithm analysts at Disney decided girl-power marketing could convince women to buy tickets for superhero movies even when their boyfriends aren’t nagging them to go. Reactionary trolls predictably threw an online hissy fit, the details of which aren’t worth listing other than that led to changes to Rotten Tomatoes rating system. Captain Marvel star Brie Larson’s strident but puzzling call for minority and female representation in film criticism fueled the fire. Captain Marvel went on to gross over $1 billion so sorry, trolls and congratulations, ladies.
There wasn’t any modern controversy over Shazam but a couple of nerds bored their families explaining how the character was originally called Captain Marvel so there’s technically two movies about Captain Marvels this year.
Avengers: Endgame inspired the oddest superhero movie battle of the year by accidentally pitting the creators of Iron Man against the creators of The Irishman. When an interviewer asked famed movie director Martin Scorsese if he’d seen Endgame, he said he hadn’t and that Marvel movies seemed to him more like theme park rides than cinema.
Scorsese wasn’t the first A-list director to disparage superhero movies. Steven Spielberg dismissed them as a passing fad and Francis Ford Coppola called them “despicable.”
But while the Jaws and Godfather directors skirted controversy, Scorsese’s comments drew so much attention he was compelled to respond in a New York Times opinion piece ” I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.” The Goodfellas director carefully outlined his position, that he’s concerned about “the gradual but steady elimination of risk” has led to a preponderance of films made as “perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. His argument was plainly correct and he was more generous to Marvel movies than needed, people are still debating this point on social media and elsewhere.