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The Portrayal of PhDs in the MCU

In Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Bruce Banner declares he has seven PhD degrees. In episode 7 of What If…? (2021), Jane Foster says she is “an astrophysicist with multiple PhDs.” With such statements, both characters try to assert their worth as scientists in contrast to superheroes with superpowers. However, holding multiple PhDs would be more of an educational disorder rather than a sign of academic achievement. PhD degrees are not medals or trophies that can be accumulated to show high intellect (the logic of “the more you have, the smarter you are” does not apply here). In a way, these films portray main characters whose value resides either in their intellectual capacity or their physical strength –climatically, in Avengers: Endgame (2019), we can see how Dr. Banner is able “to put the brains and brawn together.” Clearly, the MCU does not understand how academia and higher education work because imagining a scientist with seven PhDs is a more ridiculous idea than a super soldier or a man who can fly. What does this tell us about the concept of heroism that the MCU tries to sell? Is intelligence, in the form of a PhD degree, really another gimmick (like a suit of armor or a magic hammer) that can give proof of one’s value in the realm of superhero films? Why, in summation, are PhD holders so badly represented in superhero movies?

  • A good point. I remember that statement about seven PhDs. How? That would take an incredible amount of time. When I heard that I assumed less-than-credible programs considering the amount of effort that goes into a PhD--particularly the dissertation. I was thinking of the seventeen courses for my MA and PhD, then two foreign languages (I used Statistics for one), followed by written and oral comprehensive exams, then a dissertation just under 500 pages, followed by an oral defense of it. Sure, superheroes can do it all. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
  • Interesting topic. We may have to be a little bit prudent when writing this issue... I mean not to go to another extreme denying every positive indication about the person who has many Ph.D.s. For instance, this may inform us a lot of things about him: About the knowledge that that person can deal with - About the potential that he has; every Ph.D. takes a lot of effort and time - About his state of mind; he may be someone who adores learning new things and not to learn things only passively but rather with an active contribution because a Ph.D. is not just about learning what is already there but contributing somehow in revealing new things in the domain - about his ability to change and adapt and that his status was never for him the end of the story - let's consider that we are more and more in an age that needs multidisciplinary talents, in terms of problem-solving, creativity, etc... – Samer Darwich 2 years ago

Progression of Marvel Female Characters in TV and Film

The art of female characters in film and TV shows and how they have progressed. Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Peggy Carter.

We first see Peggy Carter in Captain America and now she has her own show Agent Carter, you can focus on the progression of that character from Captain America to who she is now and how she is perceived as well. Black Widow is first seen around in Iron Man, and how she has progressed from Avengers and etc., how they have used the character in their favor and have progressed her towards an awesome or not so awesome female character in the MCU. She may have started off as a character that potentially had growth, but with the recent plots she has had in Age of Ultron, does she have that same potential. Then last but not least, Scarlet Witch. She was first seen in Age of Ultron, which means this character is going to show up next in Civil War. That means she has had the least potential shown in a film in the MCU, this one can be based off what you know as a character — this could possibly derive from the comics as well. I added this one because it would be interesting to see how they have shown her progression just in this one film. Have they showed some potential in her character that can be positive?

  • Seems like Peggy Carter has developed the most as a crossover from movies to TV. I do believe she is the first Marvel female character to successfully crossover with the same actress. Given the success of Agent Carter hopefully the trend will continue. – Munjeera 8 years ago
  • I find a lot of people thought Natasha's arc in AOU was stopping her storyline and taking from her being "badass" but I personally thought it made her more complex and realistic. There is nothing wrong with a super agent who has been deprived of life to wish she could have kids, etc. I think it'd be also cool to discuss how people expect certain things from female characters to define them as strong (no feelings, no boyfriends, etc) and how that often makes them just another form of 2D. – noursaleh 8 years ago
  • I think the only reasons Natasha's arc was so hated in AoU is because some women are so sick and tired of the same old story arcs. Like Noursaleh said, it's not completely unreasonable and it isn't strictly misogynistic. That being said, some of the controversy comes from who wrote it. Might you want to include a section of this paper that addresses "Death of the Author"? Either a critique of it or a defense of it? Should things stand on their own, away from the author; Should folks take the creator into account when looking at a text? Would reaction to Romanoff's character been different had it been written by a woman? woman of color? etc.? – sniederhouse 8 years ago
  • This article would now make for a timely read. Analyse the characters of Valkyrie, Captain Marvel, Shuri and Pepper Potts too. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 4 years ago