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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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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