What’s the point of canon in 2022 anyway?
Updated: Nov 13, 2022
Well, the finale for the divisive Disney+ show She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has hit the streaming service and it certainly was something wasn’t it?
After weeks of “fan feedback” giving yet another reminder that the internet was the greatest mistake in human history since Neville Chamberlain circa 1939 and whoever decided Beanie Babies were the most valuable commodity of the 1990s, we got a meta-joke that outlined everything wrong with Marvel finales while still adhering religiously to that same template.
Now, you might say that you just wasted hours of your life by watching the series that you’ll never get back. You might say that, but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t because I never got around to watching the show. I would be lying if I said the whole Twitter discourse regarding the series didn’t contribute to me not watching but I also just have no interest in the show.
I never read any of the comics with the character as it’s a bit before my time, so I didn’t have the same interest in it as I did for Sam Raimi’s Spiderman series. I’ve also fallen out of love a little bit with the whole comic cinematic universe ever since Avengers: Endgame. Once you’ve saved the universe from a purple Josh Brolin it’s a little hard to care about a modern-day Robin Hood, old Egyptian gods, and whatever the hell WandaVision was about.
However, my interest was piqued scrolling through my Facebook feed showing an announcement that Charlie Cox would be returning as Daredevil during the first season of She-Hulk. I love the first season and first half of season two of Netflix’s Daredevil series (everything else I can take or leave) and was excited to see how the grittier, nuanced character of Matt Murdoch would gel with the more upbeat tone of the Disney+ shows (Ethan Hawke’s Moon Knight character never beat someone to death with a hammer).
This interest was shattered after further announcements clarified that the character would not be continuing from where the Netflix series left off. It felt like Disney was jealous that someone other than them had produced a superhero show that people enjoyed and decided they were going to make their own version of that character but so much better than that lame edgy version you guys.
It raised one big question in my head – why should we care so much about a show’s canon if someone else can just wipe it from existence essentially and substitute in their own canon?
Daredevil’s appearance in She-Hulk makes it clear that this isn’t the Matt Murdoch fans have grown to enjoy watching on the small screen. He’s got a new suit, a new attitude and even a new version of the stunning hallway fight scene (more a cheap photocopy than a true reimaging). Yet it all just reeks of copying off the Netflix show.
If you asked the Disney higher-ups, I imagine they’d say that they were reinventing the character to fit in with the rest of the Disney+ Marvel shows’ heroes. I’d counter that point with a simple question – why would you want this great character to become more like the rest of the Disney+ stable?
One of the more prominent complaints about Marvel and the Phase 4 shows, in general, is that most of the heroes are cookie-cutter and feel like they are operating off the same formula. I always thought you wanted some variation with your characters but that just shows how old-fashioned my thinking is.
This isn’t the only time an intellectual property’s existing canon has been trashed in order for new owners to pump their preferred version of canon into the expansive void. She-Hulk isn’t even the first Marvel show to do this. The earlier Disney+ show Hawkeye brought back another star from Netflix’s Daredevil with Vincent D’onofrio’s Kingpin appearing out of nowhere with nothing even resembling an explanation regarding how he escaped his predicament at the end of the third season of Daredevil. Much like with Matt Murdoch, this reappearance seems more than a little hollow as it feels like he was written into the show to get some interest from the audience and damn anything that came before it.
There are other examples of this, most recently Hugh Jackman announcing he’s returning as Wolverine for the future untitled Deadpool 3 after 2017’s Logan drew a very thorough line under the future of the character, however, the most egregious example has to be the tragic demise of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Ever since the Expanded Universe’s creation in 1992, this continual work in progress incorporated every published and occasionally unpublished story licensed by Lucasfilm in the Star Wars Universe with it being broken down into different eras.
The purpose of the timeline and Expanded Universe, in general, is to build on the original six Star Wars films and add more depth to the multitude of worlds and characters of the universe. Well, to be more accurate, it was the purpose of the Expanded Universe before it was scrapped in 2012 after Disney acquired Lucasfilm from the creative husk that is George Lucas.
What did we get in place of this vibrant and celebrated intellectual property? Well, there was the new sequel trilogy which was a mixed bag to say the least (Force Awakens is enjoyable but forgettable, The Last Jedi had some fun moments and Rise of the Skywalker just hurts to rewatch). On the smaller screen, we’ve gotten The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, The Bad Batch, the animated Clone Wars series and more shows that range the gambit from incredible to achingly mediocre.
The thing is, we got so much more with the old, expanded universe and sure a bunch of them weren’t great but you’ve got so much to choose from you’ll definitely find something you like. The new Disney+ shows might have some higher-quality production values but if you don’t enjoy what they have, there’s nothing else for you to dive into aside from the shady halls of fanfiction.
Now, the pop culture landscape is more focused on new shiny attractive intellectual property that corporations can wave in audiences’ faces instead of investing in long-term IP that fans can look back on and immerse themselves in for as long as they want. By trashing preexisting canon and implementing their own version of the canon, the constant chopping and changing leaves audiences not really caring what happens and leaving them asking what’s the point of caring if it’s just going to be rebooted or recast in the next couple of years.
What are your thoughts on the Star Wars Expanded Universe? What about She-Hulk and the use of Matt Murdoch? Let me know down below.
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