The MCU’s Lack Of Body Horror Is An Underlying Problem

The MCU is a franchise that thrives on the superhuman – from giant green monsters to artificially enhanced super soldiers to bodies that rely on technology to function, bodily changes recur in various forms throughout the series. This level of body modification provides opportunities to venture into the horror subgenre of body horror.


Virtually since its inception, the MCU has combined multiple genres in its films, a formula that has stood the test of time. Captain AmericaThe genre is part superhero and part war story, while a more modern addition to the MCU, Spider Man, combines superheroes with teen comedy. In this way, the MCU can reach many more viewers due to the varied genre tastes of the audience. Those who tend to watch more spy movies than anything else might not want to witness the Shakespearean epic that is the Thor series, but they will be delighted to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldierwhether or not superhero movies are their cup of tea.

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What the MCU lacks: horror

One genre that’s oddly missing from the MCU’s roster is horror. While many (if not all) MCU movies and TV shows have horror qualities and moments and can be scary in the right context, the focus isn’t really on horror as the greatest part of the genre combinations of their films. It’s an odd oddity for the franchise, given its propensity for body modification. Changes to the human body, sometimes in heartbreaking ways, give the MCU ample opportunity to introduce body horror into its franchise.

Several moments of body horror are already sprinkled throughout the films. Consider the Hulk’s introduction and development throughout The Avengers. Bruce Banner (Marc Ruffalo) must always be on guard, otherwise he might unleash a monster within himself; this story, especially in The Avengershas extremely dark undertones (such as lines like “the other guy spits it out”) that could have been expanded upon had horror – and the Hulk – been higher on the MCU’s priority list. Thor: The Dark World used visually captivating moments of horror to show the dangers of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) exposure to the Ether showing its invasion of his body and consciousness; however, this sub-plot is light compared to the larger in-game plots. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) himself suffered brainwashing and mental and physical torture, but his gruesome experience is often drowned out by the action portions of his own film.

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron introduces a character with great horror potential due to his mind powers. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), aka Scarlet Witch, uses both surreal and twisted visions, each of which leaves an Avenger traumatized by what he sees. But Wanda’s turn on the hero side took her powers out of the realm of horror for a while. And while his visions were terrifying to the Avengers, nothing happened to their physical bodies. For a time during the early phases, the MCU steered clear of imagery that strayed too far from the franchise’s light-hearted quality.

The family friendliness of the MCU

The family friendliness of the MCU is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for the lack of body horror (and horror in general) in the franchise. For all the positives that come from the MCU’s creative genre combinations, their goal of reaching a wide audience comes with downsides. To win over as many viewers as possible, being family-friendly is an important aspect of storytelling, and one that the MCU has clearly taken into consideration. Especially now that the MCU’s brand of light-hearted superhero fun has been firmly established for over a decade (with the franchise becoming more joke-laden and wackier than ever), too many scary aspects of a movie or a TV show could risk alienating the youngest. viewers, and therefore families.

Interestingly enough, the 2022 TV series She-Hulk: Lawyer on Disney+ officially renamed Bruce Banner not as the tragic figure of the early phases, but as a much calmer figure (cementing his transition to Smart Hulk). She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) herself exists in an MCU world very different from the original Hulk, in that She-Hulk: Lawyer is primarily a comedy and tones down the scary factor of the Hulk in favor of a lighter take on the monster.

She-Hulk seems to be the culmination of the Hulk’s change to soft, not necessarily the reason, as the monster gradually began to behave through the phases. Had the MCU been willing to explore the darkness of the character, sharing a body with a monster would have been an incredible addition to the body horror element.

Sometimes the MCU gets scary

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of scary (and sometimes shocking) moments in the MCU – and those opportunities aren’t being missed. Lately, the MCU has taken more risks in its change of tone for the franchise: shows like Wanda Vision at peak load, while Marvel: what if? strays further than ever into the realm of the surreal; they even had an entire zombie episode.

One of the most visually unnerving MCU movies, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, made great strides in incorporating horror elements into the MCU franchise. As the lineup’s first truly horror-infused film, Multiverse of Madness uses a combination of creepy jumps, scary imagery, and more graphic violence than the typical MCU film. Looking into these elements is one aspect of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that brings out its plots.

With characters like Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch (especially together) thriving on unnerving visuals, the MCU is blessed with an overabundance of opportunity for unnerving visuals. And yet, it’s taken the franchise a long time to explore the darker elements of its stories – and even if the MCU tries its hand at a pseudo-horror movie, the PG-13 rating and friendly tone family retain the film. to fully dive into the genre.

As for television performances, the Disney+ series Moon Knight is well known for being one of the most brutal MCU stories. The show engages in the body horror opportunities the MCU has missed over the years, with the newfound freedom to explore darker tones without as many of the limitations of theatrical releases. Nevertheless, Moon KnightBody horror and gore are toned down, with cutaways that soften the horror’s impact. Thanks to Moon Knight’s (Oscar Isaac) ability to heal from serious injuries, however, the show’s brutality stands out as a positive addition to the MCU’s horror-centric storylines. Considering the existence of assassins like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose film is far from violent, the story of Moon Knight as a mercenary receives a much darker treatment than previous episodes.

While bigger and bigger risks are being taken in terms of story and tone, the MCU remains at the same level of mixing genres. This lack of commitment to horror elements perpetuates the MCU’s mark as a family franchise, but it also shows an unwillingness to take risks in terms of the genre. They’ve already committed to mixing genres, but haven’t yet fully committed to horror, even in the scariest of times. While shows like Wanda Vision and movies like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Think outside the box, the MCU as a whole is still struggling with the same clean, family-friendly versions of the genre blending together in this modern phase.

Hopefully, the future of the MCU will fully delve into their various genre elements. Considering the pre-existence of body horror opportunities already baked into the franchise, a total commitment to horror would certainly be a bold start.

About Michael Sauers

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