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“If You’re Good at Something, Never Do it For Free”: Cinematic Supervillains, Narrative Effectiveness and Brand-Building

Journal Article


Abstract


  • This paper sets out to address a crucial gap in the current research of the superhero genre, by analysing how cinematic supervillains can be constructed to engage audiences and thereby contribute toward building brand awareness of their respective superhero franchises. Though recent superhero films such as Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Black Panther (2018) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) have presented audiences with dynamic, nuanced antagonists through Adrian Toomes/The Vulture, Killmonger and Thanos, respectively, the supervillains of many films in the 2000s and 2010s have been lambasted as ineffective at engaging audiences, largely through being unmemorable, not being seen as equal to the hero, or otherwise presenting a weak screen presence. With this in mind, the paper’s analysis comprises two parts: the first part is a quantitative screen-time analysis of several superhero films, comparing the on-screen presence of each film’s heroes and villains as a partial measure of the effectiveness and memorability of each character with audiences. The second part entails a qualitative study of the supervillains’ wider cultural and commercial impact, linking culture jamming, celebrity casting, paratextual presence, and brand-building. The paper argues that supervillains occupy a crucial position in the genre, and deserve more development within their respective franchises, and recognition as being equally as important – narratively and commercially – as the superheroes they battle.

Publication Date


  • 2019

Citation


  • Comerford, C. & Bainbridge, J. "“If You’re Good at Something, Never Do it For Free”: Cinematic Supervillains, Narrative Effectiveness and Brand-Building." Refractory: a journal of entertainment media 32 (2019): 1.

Start Page


  • 1

Volume


  • 32

Place Of Publication


  • Melbourne, Australia

Abstract


  • This paper sets out to address a crucial gap in the current research of the superhero genre, by analysing how cinematic supervillains can be constructed to engage audiences and thereby contribute toward building brand awareness of their respective superhero franchises. Though recent superhero films such as Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Black Panther (2018) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) have presented audiences with dynamic, nuanced antagonists through Adrian Toomes/The Vulture, Killmonger and Thanos, respectively, the supervillains of many films in the 2000s and 2010s have been lambasted as ineffective at engaging audiences, largely through being unmemorable, not being seen as equal to the hero, or otherwise presenting a weak screen presence. With this in mind, the paper’s analysis comprises two parts: the first part is a quantitative screen-time analysis of several superhero films, comparing the on-screen presence of each film’s heroes and villains as a partial measure of the effectiveness and memorability of each character with audiences. The second part entails a qualitative study of the supervillains’ wider cultural and commercial impact, linking culture jamming, celebrity casting, paratextual presence, and brand-building. The paper argues that supervillains occupy a crucial position in the genre, and deserve more development within their respective franchises, and recognition as being equally as important – narratively and commercially – as the superheroes they battle.

Publication Date


  • 2019

Citation


  • Comerford, C. & Bainbridge, J. "“If You’re Good at Something, Never Do it For Free”: Cinematic Supervillains, Narrative Effectiveness and Brand-Building." Refractory: a journal of entertainment media 32 (2019): 1.

Start Page


  • 1

Volume


  • 32

Place Of Publication


  • Melbourne, Australia