The Darker Side of the MCU: The Defenders

The Darker Side of the MCU: The Defenders

The recent "The Defenders" miniseries acts as an anti-Avengers series, presenting a very different part of the MCU.

As I've said before, when we're in the midst of major political turmoil, escapism is not a bad thing. And there is only so much that can be said about these events, many of which are still unfolding, making an opinion hard to come up with. For my escapism over the last few weeks, it just so happened that the new Marvel/Netflix miniseries, The Defenders premired recently, and well, I'm a nerd. But there is something different about The Defenders when compared to The Avengers or even the individual shows. The collection of characters from four very different shows coming together in their own team-up series is not unheard of in the modern era, but it does create dynamics and highlights the individual strengths of each lead character.

When Daredevil premiered in 2015, it was an unexpected hit, as the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck was a failure. The show hit the audience with the tone within the first few episodes, showcasing the homemade black suited Daredevil, while also making sure to develop his alter ego, Matt Murdock. This makes Daredevil the only MCU show on Netflix to have a main character who must keep their identity a secret, whereas in Iron Fist, Danny Rand tells pretty much anybody that he is the immortal Iron Fist. A highlight of the series is the focus on Matt's personal life, ranging from his disability (blindness), to romance, to faith. As in the comics, Daredevil is a Catholic, and it's not just mentioned once or twice – the church and the priest appear several times throughout both seasons and The Defenders. Season 2 introduced us to the Punisher, who is likely the darkest character in the MCU as of now. He was used in a way to show Matt's struggle with both lives, one where he is the lawyer for Punisher by day, but at night, he was in a constant fight with him over their differing views on fighting crime. Even back in season one, Daredevil showed a side of the universe we didn't really hear about, setting the course for more personal stories like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage not long after.

Jessica Jones, which introduced Luke Cage to the MCU, also was an anti-MCU series, dealing with topics such as PTSD, psychological trauma, sexual assault, and child abuse. This was a drastic tone shift from Daredevil, which was still obviously a few blocks away from Stark Tower. Jessica Jones herself doesn't run around saving people from burning buildings or lifting cars overhead, rather, she runs a one-woman private investigation office. She drinks, she doesn't sleep much. Really not the best role model for young girls. But unlike Daredevil, the show was the first one to be truly a series for adults. While it was dark and oftentimes graphic, Daredevil kept things relatively safe, whereas Jessica Jones features a villain who make people do whatever he wants – even staying with him in an abusive relationship. It is a turning point in the MCU's television projects, as we began to see what the tone would be for this side of the universe, as well as give us a very human and very raw performance of a powered person who didn't want to be a “superhero” like Iron Man or Captain America.

One of the more notable Marvel Cinematic Universe projects was Luke Cage, as it was, at least for the first seven episodes, less of a superhero show and more of a story about a guy with powers, not unlike Jessica Jones. The titular character, portrayed by Mike Colter, is also the first African-American starring role in the MCU (Nick Fury, while a major player, is a side characters to the main hero), and the show itself presents a very un-Marvel view of Harlem. Street gangs, violence, corrupt government officials, all of which are not something you think of when you think of a franchise that includes Iron Man and Ant-Man. The series is also notable for using harsher language, including racial slurs. Of course, it wouldn't be Luke Cage without exploring race – and it came at just the right time, as Luke spends much of the show wearing a hoodie ridden with bullet holes, thus making a statement about being the bulletproof man.

Iron Fist, which holds the record for lowest approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes for a Marvel Cinematic Universe project, finds itself too Marvel. The show dealt less with the street-level issues of the previous three, but that made it stand out from the grim and gritty world. Iron Fist took place just as much in a corporate office as it did in the streets, and Danny Rand fought two battles against the Hand organization – one physically, one through his company, not unlike Jessica Jones taking down Kilgrave using her office and abilities to do so. The series is also controversial due to the casting of a white actor in the lead role, a hero who uses martial arts and chi as his abilities, when many wanted an Asian lead. I previously wrote about this when the show was released, but it is worth repeating that Luke Cage dealt with race because the character himself is based in racial commentary, and Iron Fist was about an outsider being trained by ancient monks, not being a master because he is Asian.

The Marvel/Netflix projects are important to the survival of the superhero genre in media, as well as important for showing the capabilities of television. With a two-pronged approach not unlike TSR and Dungeons and Dragons/Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Marvel has opened themselves and others up to be able to produce quality content for a variety of audiences. The issues the shows deal with, like disability, PTSD, racism, and corruption, aren't often seen in superhero movies or TV shows. However, Marvel had teams who knew their source material and near-faithfully adapted the tone. As with any genre, and as I've said many times, this is a genre that is bound to crash and burn one day. But with the MCU using Netflix to try new stories and new ways of showing off relatively unknown superheroes, it might just be able to last a little longer. Darker is not always better, but being able to have several tones allows for several different audiences, just like the comics the shows are based off of.

Cover Image Credit: Empire/Marvel/Netflix

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9 Reasons Crocs Are The Only Shoes You Need

Crocs have holes so your swag can breathe.

Do you have fond childhood objects that make you nostalgic just thinking about your favorite Barbie or sequenced purse? Well for me, its my navy Crocs. Those shoes put me through elementary school. I eventually wore them out so much that I had to say goodbye. I tried Airwalks and sandals, but nothing compared. Then on my senior trip in New York City, a four story Crocs store gleamed at me from across the street and I bought another pair of Navy Blue Crocs. The rest is history. I wear them every morning to the lake for practice and then throughout the day to help air out my soaking feet. I love my Crocs so much, that I was in shock when it became apparent to me that people don't feel the same. Here are nine reasons why you should just throw out all of your other shoes and settle on Crocs.

1. They are waterproof.

These bad boys can take on the wettest of water. Nobody is sure what they are made of, though. The debate is still out there on foam vs. rubber. You can wear these bad boys any place water may or may not be: to the lake for practice or to the club where all the thirsty boys are. But honestly who cares because they're buoyant and water proof. Raise the roof.

2. Your most reliable support system

There is a reason nurses and swimming instructors alike swear by Crocs. Comfort. Croc's clogs will make you feel like your are walking on a cloud of Laffy Taffy. They are wide enough that your toes are not squished, and the rubbery material forms perfectly around your foot. Added bonus: The holes let in a nice breeze while riding around on your Razor Scooter.

3. Insane durability

Have you ever been so angry you could throw a Croc 'cause same? Have you ever had a Croc bitten while wrestling a great white shark? Me too. Have you ever had your entire foot rolled like a fruit roll up but had your Crocs still intact? Also me. All I know is that Seal Team 6 may or may not have worn these shoes to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. Just sayin'.

4. Bling, bling, bling

Jibbitz, am I right?! These are basically they're own money in the industry of comfortable footwear. From Spongebob to Christmas to your favorite fossil, Jibbitz has it all. There's nothing more swag-tastic than pimped out crocs. Lady. Killer.

5. So many options

From the classic clog to fashionable sneakers, Crocs offer so many options that are just too good to pass up on. They have fur lined boots, wedges, sandals, loafers, Maryjane's, glow in the dark, Minion themed, and best of all, CAMO! Where did your feet go?!

6. Affordable

Crocs: $30

Feeling like a boss: Priceless

7. Two words: Adventure Straps

Because you know that when you move the strap from casual mode chillin' in the front to behind the heal, it's like using a shell on Mario Cart.

8. Crocs cares

Okay, but for real, Crocs is a great company because they have donated over 3 million pairs of crocs to people in need around the world. Move over Toms, the Croc is in the house.

9. Stylish AF

The boys will be coming for you like Steve Irwin.

Who cares what the haters say, right? Wear with pride, and go forth in style.

Cover Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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