We’ve had some good times together in the last two years. You helped us grow into more than we ever thought we could be. But little by little, you’ve changed into something we just don’t love like we used to.
So even though it hurts, it’s time to go our separate ways. We hope we can still be friends.
Kris & Amy
The Marvelous Madames
P.S. Just to be clear, it’s not us. It’s you.
The End of an Era
It’s official. The Marvelous Madames are no more. We’ve recharged, rebranded, and reclaimed our power. From now on, we are simply “The Madames.”
And we’re hitting the ground running.
Starting in August, we’re expanding into the wide world of all film while maintaining our own quirky framework.
Why the pivot? Two reasons.
First and foremost, splitting with Marvel is necessary for us as content creators & entrepreneurs. If you want to hear more about this as a business decision, check out the episode on our feed.
The second reason is inherently tied to the first…
Marvel is an empire starting to crumble, and we can’t bear to watch it fall. Now, we present our case.
The Hamster Wheel of Marvel Content
Fandom is like a romantic relationship; it takes time for a connection to grow. Early on, Marvel understood this. Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe consisted of six movies over a span of four years. That moderate pace gave us time to process plots, bond with characters, and build anticipation for the next movie.
Fast-forward to now. Over just 2-3 years, Marvel has 11 films & 14 shows slated for Phase 4.
That’s more properties than the whole Infinity Saga. Soon, fans will need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the new characters.
On top of pumping out too much content too quickly, so far Marvel is failing to connect most of it. That’s a problem when the overarching theme is the multiverse.
It’s also a problem when the Marvel marketing machine tells us one story & the movie or series gives us another. Misdirection reached its peak with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was promoted as three things:
-A Doctor Strange movie
-An epic blockbuster
-A connective property
In reality, it was none of those. So even though I enjoyed the movie, I still felt like I got orange juice when I’d reached for milk.
Marvel’s journey is like that of far too many modern companies. When the studio was founded in 1993, it was akin to a local Mom & Pop store. After the success of Iron Man, the studio became more like a thriving small business that found its niche & formula for success.
So what happened in these last couple of years?
Disney turned that indy store into Walmart.
For the record, we know that Disney bought Marvel back in 2010. And we know our metaphor isn’t perfect, as Marvel was a huge conglomerate once the merger took hold. The sea change we refer to is recent and coincides with similar problems in the Star Wars franchise.
But before we dive into the homogenization of Marvel content, we need to discuss the promotion that goes hand-in-hand. Once upon a time, you could count on Marvel for dynamic & organic marketing.
Remember how Iron Man was touted as Robert Downey Jr.’s heartfelt comeback? Or when Loki crashed SDCC & several thousand people spontaneously kneeled? How about Mark Ruffalo posting hilarious photos of his sleeping colleagues on social media?
And with the genuine camaraderie of a smaller group of people & properties, the press tours used to be as enjoyable as the movies. Karl Urban failing miserably at a rock-paper-scissors tournament during the Thor: Ragnarok tour still cracks me up.
But that fun is in the past. Marvel’s marketing is now as stale as day-old toast, relying almost exclusively on trailers & clips to promote upcoming releases. And those clips are revealing far too much, sapping the punch out of cameos like Charles Xavier & Captain Carter in Multiverse of Madness.
The press tours are just as generic & bland, and Marvel can’t blame COVID for that. Plenty of businesses developed innovative marketing strategies during the pandemic.
The underlying problem is clear: the executives have pushed out the creatives, and the price is Marvel’s heart.
As a reformed people-pleaser, I’m offering Marvel execs a piece of advice:
When you try to please everyone, you please no one.
A prime example of this axiom at work is Eternals, which was cinematic clickbait if we’ve ever seen it. While we appreciate Marvel’s commitment to diversity, the film’s casting felt more like generational box-checking designed to lure in as many demographics as possible.
What other reason could there be for subjecting audiences to Harry Styles?
The hiring of bona fide stars like Charlize Theron, John Krasinski, and half of the Eternals cast is, in itself, a marketing ploy. Rather than focusing on the movies themselves, executives are relying more & more on the power of celebrity to hype Marvel content.
We’re not saying those aren’t talented actors, but this is a major departure from the early days of the Infinity Saga. Back then, Marvel had the guts to bet all their chips on an uninsurable ex-con, an Australian teen soap star, a British stage actor who didn’t even have a visa, and a guy who’d already crashed & burned in a Marvel project.
Those four gentlemen had something in common: they had something to prove.
This is true of others, too. Chris Pratt wanted to be more than the funny fat guy. Elizabeth Olsen had to climb out of her sisters’ shadows for good. Sebastian Stan needed to overcome Gossip Girl.
Even the casting of Paul Rudd, who actually was a major star, was risky. Rudd’s own son didn’t think his comedian dad could play a superhero.
Walking on Eggshells
Casting isn’t the only area where the powers-that-be have lost their nerve & gotten lazy. Marvel content is suffering the same fate.
The first three Disney+ shows were, overall, pretty solid. The writers tackled real issues in thoughtful ways.
WandaVision dealt with mental health & grief.
The Falcon & the Winter Soldier confronted racism, inequality, & PTSD.
Loki took on fascism & free will.
But the release of Black Widow in July 2021 marked a change & began a pattern. The cold open of that film was exceptional. It laid the groundwork for a gritty story of two extraordinary women reclaiming their lives and power after suffering horrific abuse.
Somebody got cold feet though because the rest of the movie didn’t even resemble those first 15 minutes. Instead, we got a film devoid of depth, nuance, and common sense. If not for the magnetic Florence Pugh, the movie would’ve been a total loss.
This pattern of dipping a toe into the deep end of the pool only to pull back has continued on Disney+. Hawkeye had a promising start, with its first two episodes dealing with Clint’s struggle to resume a “normal” life, both emotionally and, we’ll say, career-wise. Then the show devolved into a farce rife with cartoonish buffoonery, silly tropes, and a rushed finale that ruined the character of Wilson Fisk.
The same can be said of Moon Knight, which also started strong in its depiction of mental illness. But just like Hawkeye, the writers lost the thread & couldn’t find it again. And pacing problems there, too, gave us a finale full of low-quality CGI monster fights, but little else.
As for Shang-Chi and Eternals, the writers didn’t even go near the pool. They stayed in the front yard running around in the sprinkler.
A New Era
As fans, we will always cherish the Infinity Saga & the characters we love. As business owners, we will always be grateful to Marvel for helping us get our foot in the podcasting door, and for bringing so many wonderful people into our lives, from listeners to collaborators.
But we’ve reached the end of the line. So we’re stepping off, boarding a new train, and taking the wheel.
Well, trains don’t have wheels, but you get the point.
Each week on The Madames Podcast, we’ll be discussing a film that fits into a theme for the month. And these won’t be broad, cliched themes like Horror Month or Action Movie Month.
We’ll be bringing you such gems as Disaster Movies that are Disasters, Fuck Nazis, and Stupid Straight Month.
So join us on the usual feed Monday, August 1 for our relaunch extravaganza episode. We’ll be in Gotham City for a discussion of The Batman.
How do you feel about the path Marvel is on? What are your thoughts on our transition? Let us know.