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Marvel Completism as a Function of Podcast Addiction

What am I nattering on about with this title?

I’m glad you asked.

It’s how I’m categorizing my viewing of Marvel’s latest addition to its TV show extensions of its cinematic universe. I’m speaking, of course, about Hawkeye, the six-episode miniseries chronicling the post-End Game activities of the least interesting Avenger, Clint Barton.

The series is halfway over now, with the third episode dropping on Disney+. I found myself enjoying the episode, and that’s only noteworthy as a contrast to how much I disliked the first two episodes.

I found the writing lacking, the acting mediocre, and with no prior attachment to the comics run from which it draws so much inspiration, I was left just kind of disappointed. Not because I expected the moon, but just because it failed to captivate my attention.

That’s the background, so now, on to the title of this post.

I’ve watched all the MCU’s entries thus far, and I’ve watched all of its television shows. But I don’t watch from any sense of deep-seated fandom. I never really read comic books growing up. The thing that keeps me watching, aside from a general interest in the overarching plot being strung together by Marvel’s massive undertaking, is rooted in my love of conversational podcasts discussing movies and TV.

The mass appeal of podcasts is, among other reasons, due to the intimacy of the medium of audio. It’s remarkable how many people say the same thing about podcasts: “It feels just like some of my friends sitting around talking at a happy hour; I feel like I’m a participant.”

I feel that way. Always have. And a lot of podcasts, particularly on The Ringer’s podcast network, have dedicated themselves to discussions of all things Marvel. That’s a shrewd business move by Bill Simmons and company; there’s no denying that there is a massive audience for more and more content on these properties.

There’s nothing forcing me to watch the movies or shows. There’s nothing forcing me to listen to the podcasts. I could easily skip the movies and/or the shows, and then skip past the podcasts that only deal with those topics. Plenty of people likely do that very thing, and it’s imminently reasonable.

But I don’t want to miss out on the podcast discussions. Because of the degree to which I’ve imagined an ongoing friendship with the hosts who can hear me agreeing or disagreeing with them in real-time, I’ve chosen to be (or remain when I might not otherwise) a Marvel completist.

Here’s the added layer of complexity (read: craziness) of the whole thing: When I tuned into those various podcasts after the first two episodes of Hawkeye dropped, I felt like I was out on an island, Hater Island, because I wasn’t as sold on Hawkeye as the hosts were. I’d been so desperate to be a part of the conversation, but the weird degree to which Marvel has cultivated a presumption of greatness with each new project left me beginning to question my own taste. Everyone was raving about the show, and here I was, not connecting to it at all. What was wrong with me? Spoiler: nothing. But it was a weird to feel these opposing forces inside me: desperate to be a part of the conversation but then disliking what was being said because I didn’t know if I wanted to stick with the show. It’s a good practice, I believe, to engage with thoughts different from my own. And it’s especially important now, if I’m going to remain above the very thing I’m critical of so many Marvel fans of: simply loving something because your team put it out.

If, sadly, Marvel movies are where culture must converge and I want to remain relevant in that conversation, it’s important to hold firm and say when something doesn’t work.

There are many better reasons out there to consume any cultural artifact. I do not dispute this. But when I think about discussions around podcasts and whether they’re anything special, I can’t help but think about Marvel and my FOMO toward the prevailing cultural talking points. There’s no lasting power to these conversations. It’s always on to the next one. And yet I still don’t want to miss it, just like I don’t want to miss my friends’ conversation at happy hour. I want to be included, to contribute, whatever the conversation might be.

So i’ll muddle through this growing experiment with Marvel’s (and the wider world’s) pivot to and elevation of streaming services. I probably won’t always be thrilled about it, but I’ll be a part of the conversation at the very least.