This month we have witnessed the premiere of two final instalments of extremely popular IPs, namely The Avengers: End Game and the last season of Game of Thrones. The former has so far already grossed more than 2 billion dollars worldwide and the latter had more than 17.8 million viewers in the US alone. With such a vast global audience both find themselves under the enormous pressure of meeting expectations. Besides concluding the long-running overarching story in an engaging way and paying attention to fan service these movies also have to deal with social delicate issues. Despite their attempts in addressing these issues, both still have received considerable criticism in how they cover gender, race, sexual orientation, even receiving accusations of fat shaming.
What does this mean?
As written before, contemporary popular content can no longer circumvent social issues, as society is becoming more moralizing. As such The Avengers: End Game and Game of Thrones also actively try to address topics like gender equality and race. Regardless of how successful they are in their pursuit of a balanced portrayal, these immensely popular tentpole instalments can consequently be perceived as global social platforms for the negotiation of social values. In contrast with ‘high-brow’ content, which has been covering these social issues already for quite some time, these mainstream forms of content tend to involve target audiences who are usually left-out in these negotiations. A more cynical reading is that the accompanying controversy also serves commercial purposes as the online and offline discussions will stimulate word-of-mouth marketing.
By becoming a forum for discussion, these types of content are not only a timely reflection of changing values in society, but in turn also shape them. Hence, with these forms of content seemingly becoming more abundant, we could expect an acceleration in the way these more progressive values are normalized in society. Movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Get Out and Us seem to be good examples of what we can expect in the future, as they broke stereotypes while at the same time being commercially successful.