Over-teasing fan-favourite characters to increase production viewership is a slippery slope
And yes, I am talking about 'She-Hulk' and other show's following similar strategies.
Not too long ago I wrote a review of She-Hulk, where I commented that Tatiana Maslany was great as Jennifer Walters and her green alter-image. I don’t regret those comments whatsoever, and I am excited to see how Maslany takes her character into the larger MCU.
The series has taken a different approach to MCU storytelling, and sure, there are some hits and misses, but it is trying to create a new experience for viewers. I think all the shows (with the exception of one or two) are trying to do things differently, and that’s cool. We aren’t going to like everything that is done, but its the collective experience that matters.
However, as She-Hulk progresses, there is one aspect of the show that doesn’t sit right with me: teasing Daredevil’s appearance from the get go, and not even showcasing him once in 7 out of 9 episodes (no, the helmet in a box doesn’t count).
Not all characters have to play an important part in a production’s narrative, but Daredevil specifically is such a vital character to the MCU’s television future, teasing this character as “important” in a light and breezy show and then not showcasing him once (in whatever form) until the very end seems a bad move.
Daredevil has done for MCU television what Iron Man did for MCU films. It kickstarted this formula for how new characters can be quickly introduced into the MCU, create branches for great interconnected storylines, all while also creating a solid business model to get audiences to engage with streaming services. Marvel had the right idea with its original Netflix partnership, which I think they saw as a cash-cow and then brought it all over into Disney+.
While we have already seen Charlie Cox as Matt Murdoch in Spider-Man: No Way Home, She-Hulk will be the first time we see Daredevil in his full, new MCU costume and this has been teased well before the series’ launched. We are now seven episodes in, and we still haven’t had his appearance, not even as Matt Murdoch, and that seems to be frustrating fans quite a bit.
You’d expect a series about a lawyer to at least show the other lawyer that is being teased right?
The shows reliance on cameo’s and MCU debut’s means that it is becoming less about She-Hulk and more about the other characters, and the advertising and marketing is not helping. As not all narratives are going to be appreciated by all audiences, and those who have been sucked in by the advertising are now waiting for those lteased characters like Daredevil. By pushing his appearance further and further down the rabbit hole, these frustrations are adding to overall negative sentiment towards the production as a whole.
It is a dangerous strategy to tease fan-favourite characters to prop-up viewership for a production. First, you are doing your production a disservice. She-Hulk is a very important character for the MCU, more than people think and realize. The show maybe a fun, easy watch, but the character is super vital for the growth of the MCU and I wish the production would focus more on her development. I find the introduction of so many characters actually now a little distracting from the main cast of the show.
Second, by teasing a fan-favourite OG character like Daredevil and then just playing on people’s emotions episode after episode while still not giving the shows actual character a chance to shine, you are going to piss people off. I for one am excited for Tatiana Maslany bringing her talents to the screen, but each week’s feedback by audiences seems to be a diss on the show and not really talking about how she’s developing her character. People are spending their time watching the show after all, and I think more focus on the main character would give them a better experience.
Lastly, teasing a fan-favourite character and then not delivering is going to ruin the shows reputation permanently. I hope this doesn’t happen! If they mess-up fan expectations of Daredevil in his debut episode, I can foresee backlash unlike any other, which mares the show as a whole. I personally think that is not fair to judge Maslany’s character. To completely diss a character because of the creative decisions an entire production makes is just not right. However, if you are going to promise the stars and then give dust, you are going to get some backlash for it. The mid-season sneak peek seems to keep the essence of the Daredevil and Matt Murdoch characters most audiences are aware of and appreciate, so fingers crossed on this one.
Personally, shows that have stayed true to their subject have faired really well in the MCU storyline. WandaVision and Loki are great examples of really celebrating the title character, while creating great story branches to explore in future seasons and in new shows/films entirely. We even thought Ms. Marvel was a successful introduction for a character. This is precisely what Daredevil did in his original show.
To those who will reference Wilson Fisk being introduced at the end of Hawkeye; this isn’t the same. Hawkeye introduced so many other characters before Fisk, because those were important in making the connection to Fisk. With Daredevil, it is still quite difficult to see what the connection is other than “showing up”. I’ve written in my review about the importance of street-level superheros that will pave the way for more grounded (literally) characters and teams, really making up a part of the future MCU. However, not using She-Hulk to really interweave those narratives especially after so many teasers is just a shame and a missed opportunity.
I personally think that not teasing him and introducing him as a surprise would have reduced the expectations created by fans on the show and allowed Jennifer Walters to shine, and then his introduction would have taken the show up a notch dramatically for really creating fantastic connections. Misleading advertising that sets the wrong expectations can actually hurt than do good.
The recent news of Wolverine being introduced in Deadpool 3 got me thinking about all of this. I love Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine, and while the fan in me is excited, I am limiting my expectations to an appearance rather than a full-blown introduction for a good chunk of the movie or future films. I am also scared about how the character will be introduced, given the reputation of Deadpool films in the past.
I am sad that the narrative around this is still politics and sexism, like all the twitter reactions and like THIS article commentary, and not about character development, media marketing and self-created audience expectations. If we are to truly look at films and movies as works of art, then criticism and feedback are part and parcel of that experience as everyone experiences art differently. I don’t agree with blatant bashing and sexist remarks, but critical feedback on what shows are doing to gain viewership should be addressed.
I feel Ms. Marvel didn’t get the love that it deserved because it didn’t tease such a crazy character introductions. Would She-Hulk have been successful if it didn’t tease such a big character introduction? Honestly, I’d like to think that a character can stand on its own, but given the audiences Marvel programming is catering to, I highly doubt it.
At some point, fan-favourite characters need to be observed as critical ingredients that need to be handled with care. If we don’t, it just creates negative audience sentiment and a gradual alienation of those audiences. It is critical that studios (whoever it may be), take a step back and really appreciate these characters and what they mean for audiences, and bring them to the screen in a respectful, organized way. They will win audiences for years to come, and get engagement that is vital in a time of increased media consumption.
I like She-Hulk and Maslany’s portrayal of her. I hope fans focus on her development a little bit more, and give the production a pass on how they’ve over teased Daredevil.
What do you think about how characters are being introduced into the MCU? Let us know in the comments below.