Sady Doyle in In These Times:
I am proud to call myself a relentless and inflexible critic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For some time now, the unstoppable torrent of Marvel content—at least 23 movies between 2008 and 2019, plus at least seven TV shows (Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on traditional broadcast, plus four separate Netflix shows for Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil, plus The Defenders, their inevitable team-up)—has been catastrophic not only for genre movies, but for entertainment as a whole.
Consider the effect Marvel has already had. Everything has to be a blockbuster, just to compete. Every blockbuster has to take place in “a universe” (which is to say, an endlessly prolonged and over-elaborated franchise) to command the largest possible share of consumer loyalty and income. Most of it, apparently, has to belong to Disney, one of the larger and more overtly evil media corporations in the world, which has now purchased Star Wars, Marvel, and (experts estimate) approximately 34 percent of your personal sense of childhood wonder.
It’s not just that we can’t get away from Marvel, or Disney: It’s that there are still genuinely great, beautiful, stand-alone sci-fi and horror and fantasy and action films being made, and Marvel is hurting their chances. This year, for example, we had Crimson Peak, Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road. All of them were unique, thought-provoking, and progressive, particularly in their treatment of gender. And the first two struggled at the box office. Meanwhile, the relentlessly dull, surprisingly sexist, and borderline-nonsensical Marvel punchfest Age of Ultron made over $495 million (far outdoing Mad Max’s $300 million) despite the fact that I didn’t know a single person who walked out of the theater fully satisfied with the film.
So, yes: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is having the same effect on good genre fiction that Starbucks had on independent coffee shops. Not only are they brewing a worse product than the competition, they’re making it harder for anyone else to make a living by serving a decent cup. I have deep aesthetic and, dare I say, political objections to the entire enterprise. It would take a miracle, or a masterpiece, for me to ever unequivocally praise one of their products.
And Jessica Jones is either a miracle or a masterpiece, because I’ll be damned if it’s not a pretty good TV show.