What does this say about streaming? More importantly, about Disney+?
I’ve been dreading this day for a few years now. When Disney first canceled all six Marvel Netflix series to pave the way for their own streaming service. Granted the Netflix shows varied in quality, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed them. And now in a few short days, all of them will finally be removed from Netflix. There’s a real finality to the whole thing, especially since it’s very much an open question if any of the series or characters will be used in any future capacity.
Sure, we recently got to see a Daredevil cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Kingpin in Hawkeye, but that’s not the same as them having their own show. And given Disney’s focus on avoiding truly mature content in their streaming service, I’m a bit worried. Because all of the Marvel Netflix series are known for being edgy, dark, and mature. Hell, the only way I could see Jessica Jones on Disney+ would be if every other word out of her mouth was bleeped, and her flasks of alcohol were replaced with a supply of energy drinks.
Let me roll things back a moment. Part of the reason this is so frustrating is because of the promise of Disney+. They always push it as your one-stop shop for all the shows you want to stream, with exclusives aplenty. And I admit they’ve had some really creative and well-written content, from WandaVision to Loki. But while the production values have obviously been fantastic (Disney has no lack of money, after all), I recently came to a realization. Though the Disney+ shows have been large in scope and had amazing visual effects, I’m not sure I enjoy them any more than the Marvel Netflix shows. And that’s kind of the whole point. If you’re going to take away my ability to watch anything Marvel except on Disney+ or in theaters, you’d better make damned sure you’re adequately filling that void.
Here’s another point of contention. While Marvel has been winning the movie war against DC properties long before the House of Mouse took over, there’s one area DC thrives: their roster of television shows. Courtesy of the CW, there’s been a revitalization of DC comic book fandom, starting with Arrow and still expanding with recent entries such as Batwoman and Stargirl. There’s a vast repository of shows you can watch weekly, and they range from edgy to comical and everything in between. They’ve even done exciting crossover events, and more are planned in the future. But what they do best is serve as a hub for fans of the comics. You can watch CW shows free on devices, or on your TV. But either way, you never have to worry about a show magically disappearing or being canceled for no good reason. Sadly I can’t say the same for Marvel shows.
Now, while I’m normally the last person to talk about censorship in any capacity, it’s actually relevant here. I recently heard a radio piece about Disney and their big move to bring their movies to China. Sounds like a reasonable idea, at least on the surface. After all, an awful lot of people live there, and I’m sure Disney could visualize all those potential dollar signs. But the Chinese government is incredibly restrictive in what they allow people to experience, and frankly more than a bit touchy. If anyone of Chinese descent is portrayed in a less than favorable light, the movie isn’t gonna make it there. Worse, they have some very backwards policies regarding gender equality, and actively remove any scenes involving homosexuality. And sure, I understand that sort of content isn’t for everyone and may be seen as offensive to some. But I also feel the decision on what content to include in a movie is up to the developer/publisher, not anybody else.
The reason I bring up the censorship angle is it flavors my fears about mature content existing on Disney+. All I have to do is look at Madame Gao in Daredevil, or even Danny Rand as the Iron Fist, and I instantly question if the Netflix shows can make it to Disney+. After all, Disney probably wants shows they can stream anywhere. And as I just established, getting access to Chinese markets is more than a bit difficult, featuring ridiculous hurdles to jump over.
Worse yet, Disney owns Hulu. And there are already some of what we might consider more mature shows there, such as Runaways, M.O.D.O.K. and Helstrom. Since Disney owns Hulu, you would think they’d bring those shows to Disney+, have all of Marvel under one banner. But that hasn’t happened yet. And if they want to play in various markets, they might just keep those shows there instead. Which honestly kind of defeats the purpose of painting yourself as a one-stop shop for all things Marvel.
For years, I’ve been hearing about how DVDs are outdated and streaming is the way of the future. But if that future involves never owning content and having my favorite shows disappear at the whim of a platform, I’m not sure we’re actually moving forward. And honestly, while I understand comics need to be written for a diversity of audiences and ages, I worry Disney doesn’t understand that concept.
Now that comic book characters are mainstream, we should be able to rejoice in all sorts of stories. But instead, I fear that any voices that are too dark or “mature” will be erased or ignored. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, and Disney will soon announce that all the Marvel Netflix shows will be coming in some capacity to Disney+. I hope that’s the case. But until then, I’ll have to live in worry that my favorite shows and characters will get sidelined, as the others are secured in a pay-to-play gilded cage.