Economies of transmedia violence in The Avengers films and the constraints of auteurship

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Joss Whedon’s work is characterized by serialized storytelling that enables an examination of the economies of violence that form a constitutive part of the genres he writes for. When violence is used to facilitate narrative action and necessitate collaboration between characters against a common enemy, an economy is established where violence organizes the meaning-making processes of textual engagement. In The Avengers films (specifically The Avengers [2012] and Avengers: Age of Ultron [2015]), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) requires the maintenance of violence and its repercussions as an industrial and narrative exigency of sustaining stories and character conflict across media texts. This article examines Whedon’s contribution to the economies of violence in The Avengers and suggests that conventions associated with his work—such as scepticism of characters who assume leadership roles, irrevocable character deaths, and the generic and gender subversion of action hero tropes—are constrained by the production model of the MCU. Situating The Avengers films within the broader seriality of Whedon’s oeuvre, this article also analyses the construction of Whedon as an auteur figure capable of cohering the disparate transmedia texts associated with his creative input. Drawing on theories of intermedia, the article suggests that emphasizing the relationality engendered by texts associated with his name rather than the seriality associated with transmedia is helpful for both understanding the medial specificity of these texts and the stakes of a post-Whedon Studies engagement with this work.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Pages (from-to)89–119
Number of pages32
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

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