COOL STUFF

University of Baltimore Has a Class Focusing on the Movies of Marvel

by
September 24, 2014
Source: ScreenCrush

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Though there have been more than a handful of college classes using Harry Potter as inspiration for university education, the wizarding franchise is on hiatus until the spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives in 2016. Right now Marvel Studios is all the rage, and their movies are crushing the box office, so it only makes sense that the comic book film franchise would be a source of inspiration for a new college course. ScreenCrush has learned of a new class at the University of Baltimore called "Media Genres: Media Marvels" that "will scrutinize the intricately plotted world of Marvel films." More below!

The course begins in the spring of 2015 and will cover the Marvel cinematic universe from the beginning of the sensation in 2008's Iron Man to Guardians of the Galaxy from this year. It sounds like the course will mostly look at how this kind of franchise has impacted the film world and wowed audiences, exceeding expectations, especially with this year's hit sci-fi adventure. The course's instructor, Arnold T. Blumberg, adjunct faculty member in UB’s Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, says:

"One thing we’ll do is dive into the impact of the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ film, which proved two things: Mainstream movie audiences are not remotely tired of superhero movies; and Marvel Studios can now release a sci-fi adventure that actually features talking trees and raccoons. It’s not that they’re getting away with it—they’ve created a universe in which fans completely accept these developments, and they’re ready for even more."

But beyond the impact on the motion picture industry, there's more to explore from Marvel too:

"This series not only provides action-packed entertainment but also profound statements about the nature of heroism, the great responsibilities that come with wielding great power, our willingness to trade freedom for security, and much more. Every issue facing our world today is encapsulated in deceptively simple morality tales featuring four-color comic book heroes whose histories stretch back to 1939."

And if you think a class on Marvel is just a waste of time, Blumberg explains

"Every generation has a modern media mythology that serves as a framework for entertaining as well as educating about ethics, morality, issues of race, gender, class, and so on. For the past several years, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have served in that role for tens of millions. When I was younger, it was the first Star Wars series, which I saw in the theater. For me, that saga—along with many other science fiction stories—provided that essential exploration of the hero journey, the struggle of good vs. evil, in a mainstream pop culture context."

Sounds like this could be a really fun and educational class for those with more than a passing interest in both storytelling and the film industry. The comic books that inspire the films themselves would have even more to say about the evolution of society over decades, especially with regards to historical events like World War II and more. In times of tragedy, we look to superheroes for hope, and comic books have long been a part of pop culture, giving people something to strive for. And maybe if DC Comics' efforts to expand their cinematic universe with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and eventually Justice League, they'll get their own class sometime down the road. Thoughts?

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  • OfficialJab
    America. Do they get real school credits for this?
    • Xerxexx
      Its like going to college for ancient latin poetry...useless.
      • OfficialJab
        At least that's ancient, latin and poetry. These are glitzy corporate moneyboats.
        • Xerxexx
          Got me there.
  • Xerxexx
    Of course they do.
  • harrizonn
    Didn't it start with Incredible Hulk?
    • Iron Man was release in May of 2008, Incredible Hulk didn't come out until June. Remember the credits scene at the end of Iron Man that hinted at the assembling of The Avengers? That one was first. If you're thinking of Hulk from Ang Lee in 2003, technically, that's not part of Marvel's cinematic universe.
      • harrizonn
        So why was Ed Norton in Mexico and on the run? Wasn't the earlier Ang Lee film referenced all over the place?
        • Yeah, in a way it's kinda linked because they just kept the same origin story basically, but the film probably wouldn't be considered canon. It was just an easy way for Marvel to continue the story without doing the origin all over again.
          • harrizonn
            Yep. I actually went back and watch the movie last night with commentary and they talked about this a little (it is as you say). Funny that as I thought about the 2003 Hulk I was reminded that Talbot gets Absorbing Man-like powers and the real Absorbing Man is considered MCU canon via SHIELD now.
  • JBrotsis
    Who has two thumbs and is extremely jealous this course wasn't offered at his university? This guy!
  • DAVIDPD
    Still not worth living going to Baltimore.
  • Arnold T. Blumberg
    All of these courses are about using familiar pop culture constructs to teach students how to think critically about media, analyze the messages we share with each other via entertainment, and discuss aspects of race, gender, class, ethics, morality, and much more in a way that doesn't bore them but reaches them where they live. Where once classes often focused (and many still do) on a dusty canon of literature on the shelf that may have far less relevance to present-day students and thus less chance of offering relatable sources for those kinds of discussions, these classes utilize what everyone is enjoying here and now to find out what all of it says about us as individuals, a nation, and a culture.

 We exist in a world *inundated* by media messages. They can change how you think, change who you vote for, change your choices. If you are aware of those messages and understand how to decode media and entertainment, you have the tools you need to make it through this media-saturated environment with care and knowledge. Education isn’t all about teaching you how to build something or training you to get a job; it’s about preparing you for a lifetime in a world filled with agendas, ideas, and people motivated to make up your mind for you. 

 This is why I teach media and critical thinking. It’s not just a job; it’s a responsibility. And as all Marvel fans know, with great power…you’re ahead of me, aren’t you?
    • Ricardo_PT
      With great power what? WHAT?! The curiosity is killing me! Even though my work field as nothing to do with this area, I really appreciate innovative courses like this. And if teacher well and seriously, sure, there's a lot to learn from Marvel and the cinematic (and literary) universe they built. And also, you job sounds a lot of fun 😉
      • Arnold T. Blumberg
        Thanks, and sorry I left you on a cliffhanger there. :)

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