“Nothing’s been the same since New York” : the Marvel Cinematic Universe's engagement with 9/11 and the War on Terror



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This thesis explores how the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has engaged with 9/11 and the War on Terror since its inception in 2008. This thesis examines industrial and cultural factors affecting the way these post-9/11 superhero films engage with contemporary sociopolitical concerns and argues that the Marvel Studios films both attempt to engage with said concerns and also sanitize and rework references to terrorism, war, torture, and destruction in order to remain palatable for the widest possible audience (including a family audience and a growing international market). In contrast to other superhero franchises, several of which intentionally play on post-9/11 feelings of vulnerability and terror, the MCU films and television series use a combination of humor, a brightly colored comic book aesthetic, and impressive visual spectacles in order to ensure that the primary focus is on entertainment. This thesis provides a detailed analysis of the characters, ideological content, and visual elements of the MCU as they relate to 9/11 and the War on Terror.