Media is created with a specific audience and usage in mind. Advertisements for the media do not deviate from these intended uses and are very carefully constructed so as to target the specific audience. However, sometimes media can be used in a way different from its original intent, or may be used by an audience different from its original target, and in these cases, the media artifact can be seen as being transformed into something different than its original form. “Avengers Assemble” is an example of such a media artifact.
“Avengers Assemble” is an animated television program about the Marvel Comics superhero team, The Avengers. The T.V show was created to capitalize on the success of the 2012 Marvel Studios film Marvel’s The Avengers. This show took over from a previous animated show about the Avengers called “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, starting
fresh to create storylines similar to that of the film. The show centers on the characters from the 2012 film: Captain American, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and The Hulk with the sole new addition of Falcon (Lee & Kirby, 2013). The personalities of the characters are very similar, albeit a simplified version, to those of the film: Captain America is wholesome and a strict leader, Iron Man is cocky and tech-savvy, and Thor does not understand anything of Earth’s technologies or customs. The storylines are basic and easily resolved, with a lot of banter between the teammates (most commonly between Captain American and Iron Man or between The Hulk and Hawkeye).
Children’s programs are usually very easily identified as such: there is very usually a very heavily implied moral lesson to each episode, the characters are usually simple and easily understood, and most of the programs are animated (Lemish, 2011, p. 357). Most people are content to define children’s shows solely in that way, and the animators and advertisers of “Avengers Assemble” are more than happy to promote their show as a show for children. “Avengers Assemble” is shown on Disney 😄 in America and Australia and Teletoon in Canada, before the “adult” cartoons like “Family Guy” and “Futurama” air (Teletoon, 2013). The show has also created uncomplicated storylines, a departure from the show’s predecessor, “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” which also was an animated show for children, but had multiple-episode, sometimes multiple-season, story arcs (Lee & Kirby, 2010). One reason “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” was cancelled and replaced was rumoured to be that the storylines were too complicated for children to understand. Thus, the less complicated and more child-friendly “Avengers Assemble” took to television screens instead.
However, since the show revolves around characters that appear in Marvel Comics, which are read by children and adults alike (MacDonald, 2013), it inevitably attracts adult readers of comics involving the characters of Captain America, Iron Man, and so on. These adult watchers are intrigued by the familiar characters, and so are also intrigued by the new storylines in which they get to witness those characters interact. These adult audiences bring an intricate knowledge of the characters to the scene when they watch these shows, and they are intrigued to keep watching them because, unlike what mainstream media seems to say about children’s shows, they are not always unsophisticated and may actually be well, if simply, constructed (Nussbaum, 2012, n.p). The medium of “Avengers Assemble” has thus been commandeered by an adult audience who want to see more stories about their favourite superheroes.
Much of society believes that shows for children should be unsophisticated, because children themselves are unsophisticated. However, “Avengers Assemble” is one example of the idea that children’s shows are not solely unsophisticated and simple, but sometimes may be more complex and interesting than mainstream media would have us believe (Montgomery, 2011, p. 420). Adults are using this medium that is intended for children for their own purposes. They are using them as an extension of the stories they read every month about these characters, and as such are using them in a sophisticated way that the producers did not intend, not as a stand-alone source of entertainment, but a part of a much more intricate source of information and entertainment to supplement further entertainment on their part.
In their comics, the characters are not always the child-friendly people they are on “Avengers Assemble”, and so the adults watching the show more than likely bring these darker characterizations to the show, and see different motivations behind the behaviours they see in “Avengers Assemble”. One example is in the episode “Molecule Kid” when Black Widow and Hawkeye banter in a playful manner (Lee & Kirby, 2013). Adults versed in the characters’ background will see this banter in a different way, as these two
characters were once romantically involved, and the relationship did not end well ( Liber, 1959,n.p). This “banter” would be seen as slightly forced, or perhaps even aggressive. This is something that children watching the show would not pick up.
“Avengers Assemble” may have originally started out specifically as a television program for children, but it has since been taken over by adult fans of Marvel Comics to further their relationship with their favourite characters in between releases of new issues of comic books featuring them.
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MacDonald, H. (2013, September 18). Facebook stats: 40% of comics fans are women [Blog post]. Retrieved from The Beat: The News Blog of Comics website: http://comicsbeat.com/facebook-stats-40-of-comics-fans-are-women/
Montgomery, K. C. (2011). Born to be Wired. In G. Dines & J. M. Humez (Authors), Gender, Race and Class in Media (3rd ed., pp. 419-426). Sage.
Nussbaum, E. (2012, February 13). It’s Good Enough for Me: A renaissance in children’s programming. The New Yorker.
Teletoon. (2013). Schedule. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from Teletoon website: http://www.teletoon.com/en/schedule/