Generational Theory, As Exemplified by The Avengers (MCU)

This was originally a Twitter thread, posted on 22 APR 02019.

Changes from the Twitter version: Lightly edited or re-expanded from the original text, linked to sources, and notes.

To an extent, Generational Theory is bullshit. There are no dividing lines between people born in, say, 1944 versus 1946.

Their experiences, if they are of the same race, nationality, gender, class, and socioeconomic status, are likely to be far more similar than different.

But that similarity is primarily the effect of all of the other axes.

Growing up in abject rural poverty versus extremely affluent, urban Old Money Knickerbocker society is a bigger divide, even if both people were born on the exact same day.

Generational Theory exists primarily as a marketing tool, and as media frame, because it’s easier to market goods & services to generally similar groups of people.

Generational Theory is also the result of homogeneity in media markets that evolved in the mid 20th century.

BUT… a guy from Pittsburgh and a guy from Detroit, born on the same day as, say, Billy Joel, all born into suburban families in newly built subdivisions, had remarkably similar experiences for three children separated by 500 miles. They consumed similar media.

Manufacturing, infrastructural, financial, educational, media & social frameworks were built to create similar economic supports, educational programs and opportunities. This happens when you’re born into a world that had experienced 3 decimations in 30 years: World War I, influenza, World War II.

  • I note that World War I and influenza were sequential for Europe and North America, but much of the global South and East Asia didn’t have either the trench warfare meat grinder of the European fronts, or a meat grinder like the Pacific theater in World War II. (It’s not that they didn’t have battles; they did.) By the time influenza became epidemics in Europe and North America, World War I was winding down. And influenza killed a much wider swath of the population. Influenza wasn’t just a sequelae or footnote to World War I; it was a global disaster of its own.

The first time that social homogeneity was even possible was in the 1920s, after mass publishing, syndicated radio and a film industry were developed enough to be attainable by the majority of the population.

But the 50s are when it went wide-scale.

However, those three boys’ sisters did not experience exactly what their brothers experienced. If they were white, those boys grew up on the easy setting. Their white sisters had a harder time. Their black and brown peers, regardless of gender, even if their parents made the same salary, had a harder time yet.

Generational theory comes with much unpacking left to be done. It focuses way too much on the white, male, cis, hetero, middle income, upper-working-class to lower-upper-class experience.

But given that every power structure catered to that population, it’s not surprising.

In a tautology worthy of Fight Club, Generational Theory exists because people believe Generational Theory exists. That makes it somewhat useful as a frame for discussing large population trends, and for groups of people trying to understand elders, bosses, emeriti.

If only because shared historical context does make a difference in how a group experiences the world.

For example: most Boomers born between 1944-1950 have visceral memories of polio, because the outbreaks in 1950-1955 got progressively worse.

Mass vaccination, starting in 1955, changed everything, and later Boomers didn’t have the same existential dread of polio. We can see an experience curve of sorts: as people were born into a world with fewer epidemics thanks to vaccines and fast public health responses, it becomes easier for more people to deny the efficacy and utility of vaccination, because they have less direct and secondhand experience of the horrors of epidemics and pandemics.

Wealth and access to healthcare, at least in developed economies, also insulates here: there’s a fairly strong correlation between private access structures (schools, country clubs, gated communities) and prevalence of antivax. It’s more likely to show up in populations where one income can support the family, including an adult caregiver, because that family doesn’t think about sick time the same way that a two income family does.

Now, the MCU and its parent company, Marvel Comics, span the large scale experience of all currently living generations. Marvel, as Timely Comics, launched in 1939, and their primary first market was people born 1918 to 1930, ages 9 to 21.

Welcome, Steve Rogers, the premature anti-fascist, likely Red Diaper baby, born in Brooklyn to poor Irish immigrants. His father didn’t survive World War I; his mother was a garment worker in the age of both the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and textile COPD/Byssinosis, then sometimes called white lung, or mistaken for tuberculosis or asthma. (Neither of which had effective treatments then.)

And Steve is a premature anti-fascist: Joe Simon started writing him in 1940, specifically as a counter to Hitler. Joe’s partnership with Jack Kirby – a commercial artist, like Steve, also from the Lower East Side, also a fairly frail & small man – ran through the war.

Both of Steve’s artists knew the world of immigrant labor, of interwar socialism, and poverty ameliorated by work and the Progressive Era’s safety nets. They both lived through the Depression, as young men starting their careers. They saw breadlines, and homeless encampments in the city parks.

They were also both Jewish, and while neither experienced pogrom directly, they knew antisemitism intimately.

They saw, before many others in the United States, how horrifying the Nazis were.

And they created a character, out of their own experiences, to defeat Hitler.

Steve Rogers is what Generational Theory calls Greatest Generation, the population who ended the Depression, defeated the Nazis, rebuilt the manufacturing capacity of the planet after destroying most of it. Born 1918, Steve came of age in the early days of World War II.

Steve and Sarah Rogers would have lived, after his father’s dead, on a World War I era survivors’ pension of $35 per month (about $500 in 2019 dollars) until his 18th birthday in 1936, and on Sarah’s earnings as a textile worker. Sarah likely earned at least $12.50 a week, perhaps as much as $25 a week, if she could work full time.

Their rent, for Lower East Side or Brooklyn, probably ran $20-50/month. If Sarah had to reduce her hours due to tuberculosis or other respiratory illness when Steve was a child, they would have had a very slender living. They were financially precarious, even when she was earning her maximum.

  • Also, there’s a good chance Steve spoke at least some Yiddish or Italian. The Irish only enclaves were the 19th century, not the 20th. By the time Steve was born, Brooklyn was becoming cosmopolitan; a textile worker would have Jewish coworkers, and somebody babysat baby Steve.

Generationally, Steve does represent the tropes of his coming of age: idealistic, resolutely fair, determined, accustomed to difficult circumstances but convinced that hard work and the social safety net can provide for everyone.

Steve’s political awareness comes of age with Franklin Roosevelt. Steve would have visceral memories of the breadlines and mass unemployment of 1929-1931.

He would have seen, and experienced, devastating poverty, and seen the free market not just stumble, but fall apart.

Now, Steve went into the ice in his prime, in 1945, when (MCU) he was 27 years old. He was, for the first time in his life, financially stable, physically healthy, and had a plan for post-war security.

As an officer, he would have been required to write a will, but…

Steve’s family was Bucky & Bucky’s family.

If Steve left his assets to Bucky, and Bucky was assumed to have predeceased Steve, and since Steve couldn’t be ascertained to be dead… The OSS/ the Army/ SHIELD may have kept all of his assets (mostly bank account) in trust for an MIA.

Steve, as a Captain, was making $200 a month during his service. Meals, housing & transport were provided. Steve is portrayed as thrifty, reticent, and not much of a drinker, but also unaccustomed to having money, so generous. Let’s assume he saved $100 per month from 1942-1945.

  • Given war rationing, and the Depression, the idea of a consumer driven culture wasn’t really how people approached money yet. Access to credit, even for simple mortgages, was still in the early stages. It was not uncommon for New York City housing to require a year of rent, in advance, and for leases to run from May 1 to May 1. The past is a different country. Saving was essential, and only saving half of his salary would actually be frivolous for the poor kid Steve was, but when poor children grow up and do get money, feeling rich can be overwhelming. See the link above about rent in NYC.

Steve went into the ice with around $4000 in savings. Probably mostly in war bonds, which matured in 10 years with a 2.9% return. A $25 bond sold for $18.75 in 1941, could be redeemed in 1951 for $25, so by the end of 1955, Steve has about $5500, a good down payment on a reasonable house. Brownstones were then running around $25,000 for a large one.

BUT!! Since Steve was Missing In Action, not Killed In Action, he kept getting paid. In 1946, with 4 years of service, he made $210/month, with no expenses. The Army would not have issued a check, but they had to keep his pay on the books, and he earned interest on it.

  • This has been the procedure for prisoners of war and those missing in action who do not have direct dependents Reddit thread

By 1955 when all of his bonds reached maturity, Steve had been earning between $2500 and $3100 a year. In 1955, he should have ~$20K (including bonds). Compound interest starts mounting up. At passbook rates, which were often 4-5% in mid-century.

Which means, when Steve came out of the ice, 55 years later, he should have 55 years of accumulated salary, plus around $100-150K from his savings. Even if the army never promoted him (and they should have), and he just earned a captain’s salary until he maxed out his years at grade.

This means Steve is like his age peers, the other Greatest Generation, in that he has the financial security of a long life with high returns for saving money.

Unlike us, where our interest rates (1% APR, national average, April, 2019) are well below the inflation rate, (averaging 2% per year) which means our money loses value in a basic savings account.

Steve should be able to afford 21st century Brooklyn. (Maybe barely, but that’s Brooklyn’s fault.)

BUT… Steve also comes out of the ice as a 27 year old. In 2012. Steve’s also an emotional Millennial, with similar experience of economic collapse (Depression versus the 2001-2002 & 2008) & attack (Pearl Harbor vs 9/11) and disaster (Dust Bowl, 1926 Miami Hurricane vs Katrina). It’s why he gets along with Nat.

The other Greatest Generation members of the MCU are Howard Stark, Jarvis, Peggy Carter, Bucky Barnes, and the Howling Commandos. They have variations, depending on where they were born, and their family’s relative affluence.

But their generational patterns are there, and they primarily track to their specific conditions.

The next generation, per Generational Theory, are the Silent Generation: the ones born in 1926-1944(ish). They were too young to go to World War II, but they experienced it as children. They also experienced economic privation, in the Depression & war rationing.

AND… just as they were becoming adults, in the late 40s & early 50s, they were often squeezed out of jobs, education, housing & opportunity by the returned Greatest Gen GIs, who had a lot of pent up savings from the lean war years, and needed to make up time.

Just like in reality, the Silent Generation got squeezed out and mostly overlooked in the MCU. Thaddeus Ross (Winter Soldier) and Hank Pym and Bill Foster and Obediah Stane and Senator Stern are all probably Silent, rather than Baby Boomers.

  • I note that HYDRA seemed to get their hooks deeply into Silent. Which also makes sense. HYDRA goes underground after WWII, starts re-emerging in the late 50s, when the Silents are establishing their careers. HYDRA in the John Birch Society is a perfect fit.

Silents were out of step with, and overshadowed by, the dominant culture. They were always too young, or too late.

To switch ‘verses for a moment? Back to the Future‘s Marty McFly’s parents are Silents. So is Peggy Sue, of Peggy Sue Got Married. Mad Men’s Peggy Olson & Pete Campbell are Silents. 1950s teen culture was Silent, not Baby Boomer.

But the Boomers were on the way, in reality and the MCU.

Nick Fury is the major MCU Baby Boomer.

  • This analysis only applies to the MCU. The comics version of Nick has a long, epic history, and Nick Fury is eternal. He teethed on velociraptor bones, and he’ll observe the heat death of the universe.
  • This specific progression is why this article exists, because I was trying to reconcile Nick’s MCU history.

If SHIELD uses a similar career progression to FBI/CIA, MCU Nick had to join SHIELD before he turned 37, because the FBI requires retirement at age 57; they must have 20 years to receive a full pension. Nick also had to have a bachelor’s degree, and 2 years relevant career experience.

In Captain Marvel, Nick tells Vers/Carol that he joined the army out of high school & left a Colonel. That’s 22 years of service per current requirements. It might have been as low as 18 years during Vietnam, but not afterwards. That makes Nick Fury too old to join a CIA or SHIELD that plays by US civil service rules.

However, he could have retired as a lieutenant colonel, with 15 years of service, and just abbreviated his rank to a stranger that he’s challenging.

There’s still a problem though: straight out of high school means starting out enlisted, and then navigating the jump to officer, very well and quickly. It also means he did all of that in the late 70s & early 80s, during the post-Vietnam drawdown. Promotions got a lot more difficult between 1974 and 1984.

It works better if by joined Nick means he joined the National Guard or ROTC, and went to college first.

He also tells her he’s from Huntsville, Alabama, which means he graduated from a segregated high school.

  • Which does not mean inferior, just underfunded. Black teachers were equally well educated, if not better than their white peers. And it is the great lost opportunity of integration that we didn’t integrate those teachers either at the same time, or first.

It was not uncommon for mid-century college-bound students to graduate at 17. Nick joins ROTC/National Guard, got his bach first, goes in as O2/ 1st Lieutenant, puts in 15, retires as a 36 year old Lt Colonel, goes to the CIA, then SHIELD, and is 5-7 years into his agency career when he meets Carol in 1991.

  • EDIT: 1995; I have been corrected. (Early Captain Marvel press was 1991, but it changed over the course of a week.) 1995 doesn’t change much, except that the later we go, the more likely Nick had to serve more years to leave as a Lt Col or Col.

That means he’s born around 1948-1950, perhaps as early as 1946. EDIT: and possibly as late as 1954. He’s still a Boomer.

It also means Nick was determined enough to know he had to grind grades in 1965-1970 (college years) to keep his deferment, and had someone influential enough to get him into an ROTC/Guard unit at all. EDIT: If Nick was born a couple years later, he still needed to grind, up to 1973. And yes, he still went to a segregated high school. That didn’t happen until 1971 in Alabama.

Because otherwise? Nick would have been drafted and would not be Nick Fury of SHIELD in 1991 or 2008 or now. He was a black man from Alabama in the 60s. His hometown draft board did not care that he was incredibly clever and talented. They would have yanked his deferment for the slightest infraction.

Also, I’d put money on Nick attending an HBCU, if he’s in college starting in 1965. And he’s been at least adjacent to civil rights work since he was… ooh, a wee sprat.

BUT he was also adjacent to Operation Paperclip, if he grew up in Huntsville. (The Nazi scientists)

Huntsville was a rocket & missile development arsenal, starting in 1948. There’s a good chance that Nick’s mom was a computer. Redstone/Huntsville developed the Project Oribiter & the PGM-Jupiter in the mid 50s. Explorer 1, the 1st US satellite, was Huntsville.

Thus: if Nick grew up in Huntsville, there were a lot of (somewhat) reformed Nazis in town. Anyone working on anything critical had some level of security clearance & didn’t talk about work. Math & science would have been in the oxygen he breathed, and even his segregated high school would have access to advanced mathematics teaching.

And if Nick’s father was a World War II vet, the GI Bill was a … complicated issue for the Furies.

Black soldiers were 100% eligible for GI education & VA housing loans, but because of institutional discrimination, and because the HCBUs were overwhelmed and underfunded in the immediate post-war era, and because of redlining and financial discrimination, getting a mortgage was difficult at the best of times, and impossible in most of the country. And yet, the GI Bill almost quadrupled college enrollment for black people by 1950, and continued to grow over the next two decades. By 1960, the black veterans of WWII & their access, or struggle with, the GI Bill become clearly precipitating events that enabled the Civil Rights movement.)

  • Personally, I always pegged Nick as coming from Los Angeles or Oakland (both of which integrated either before Brown, or immediately upon the order) in this same time frame. I saw him as a Panther and a 2nd Amendment activist as a young man, who decided to go military for the benefits, and is actually a literal Social Justice Warrior.

The other major Boomer in the Avengers cohort is Erik Selvig, and he’s probably a late boomer, on the cusp of Jones. Also, being Norwegian/Swedish, he would have grown up much closer to the shadow of the Nazis and World War II, and up close for the early Cold War.

Erik would would have seen more defections and refugees, and should have been either a physics undergrad or in grad school for Chernobyl. USSR didn’t want to admit the criticality, but were forced to when Sweden detected the radiation and went public.

But ultimately, we just don’t have enough of Erik’s backstory to make good assumptions.

The Strauss-Howe definitions of Boomers starts at 1946 and ends in 1965, but that’s actually too long for a cohort, since the difference in modern culture between a nineteen year old and a toddler is pretty clear. But there is a good dividing line for the next cohort in 1955-56, when the post-war recession hit the United States. For the first time, the post-war prosperity faltered.

That’s where the cohort called Generation Jones starts out. They get the name from “keeping up with the Joneses”, and they’re often either the later children of Greatest & younger siblings of Boomers, or the eldest children of Silent Generation.

They started out as tag-a-longs, always trying to play with the bigger kids. They ended up with a lot of hand-me-downs. They’re every little brother & sister in mid-century entertainment. They tend to be competitive, even cocky. (And I’m not sure there’s anyone in this cohort in the MCU.)

Jones ends in approximately November of 1963.

The Kennedy Assassination was, for most of the children born after 1946, a watershed moment, and it changed their perception of continuity and reality, but my reason starts in 1960.

Diaphragms became increasingly popular in the 1950s, but The Pill passed approval in 1960.

It took about three years for mass market penetration, (and a lot of activism, including a Supreme Court case) but by the end of 1963, we start seeing a demographic shift. While there are more women of childbearing age in the US than ever before, they start demonstrably producing fewer children in 1963.

That’s The Pill. The Jones cohort ends, and Generation X begins, with voluntary motherhood. This, alone, may be the most revolutionary event in all of human history. Never before had getting pregnant had even the potential to be a reliably intentional, affirmative act. And Generation X, because it is the first generation of voluntary motherhood, is a significantly smaller cohort than most, and was the first cohort to be smaller than the one before.

The first Xer, then, is Phil Coulson, canonically born in July 8, 1964, in Wisconsin, and would have graduated high school in 1982. (Phil’s canon is all MCU.)

He studied history, and appears to have been recruited into SHIELD as the equivalent of a CIA analyst: college graduate, probably a master’s, mostly wanted for his critical thinking skills to anticipate needs, rather than to enforce any national or international policies. Phil’s route differs from Nick’s FBI/CIA counter-intelligence & law enforcement route. Which fits: in 1991 1995, Phil is about 3 7 years into his career; he is the junior partner in the Fury & Coulson partnership. EDIT: Captain Marvel is 1995, so Phil would be about 7 years into a career, but Fury could be 7-10.

  • And I’ll still love a buddy cop series of the two of them.

Like most early Xers, Phil can fanboy over tech like nobody’s business — he’s only a couple years older than War Games’ David Lightman. Phil watched the moon landing as a wee boy. Space was a thing humans *did* for all of his life; he has always lived in the future.

Phil also grew up with the environmental movement. Love Canal‘s toxic waste was revealed and Three Mile Island went critical while he was in high school. Chernobyl happened just before he got his bachelor’s. Phil was 19 when Union Carbide killed 2500 people in Bhopal, India.

“Better living through chemistry” was always a sarcastic comment for Phil. Frequently a bitter one.

Phil also would have come to political consciousness with Watergate. He was 10 when Nixon resigned, and the nightly news was a midwestern household ritual. He was 15 when the Iranian hostages were taken, 16 when Reagan was elected.

If you don’t think Phil Coulson has a deeply rooted distrust of the government that employs him, you haven’t been paying attention to him. Both he and Nick are The Deep State: they will keep the machinery of government rolling because they know anarchy is worse. But they don’t have many illusions about the benevolence of elected officials. And they also know how easily both elected and technocratic government can be corrupted. Because they’ve both seen it all their lives, openly and covertly.

Phil – and Melinda May – are our middle class, early Gen Xers.

  • Carol Danvers is probably between Nick & Phil in age, overall: a Captain in 1986 means she’d been in for about 5 years, plus college, means she could have been born between 1953 and 1962. But she’s out of time, so…

MCU Tony Stark is the dead center Xer. Born in 1970, born into the gigantic wealth that the post-war peace dividend produced. Hey, when the world destroys half of its industrial capacity, those given the contract to replace it do tend to get fabulously wealthy. Eisenhower called them the military-industrial complex but it’s the result of rebuilding, too, and should include textile manufacturing, steel forges, construction companies, and communications/media.

Tony was born into an advanced technology world: even when Howard was busy/distant (these are the same to a 5 year old) Tony had an affectionate mother and Jarvis and other people who encouraged and enabled him. His parents used their resources to encourage his cleverness and aptitude’s.

Tony also comes to political awareness during the Reagan-Bush years, as the child of a defense contractor. Tony’s first experience of government as primarily as entities that spend money.

He has never had much of a reason to think of any government as anything but a customer.

His wealth means he’s never needed to care about getting a good interest rate on a student loan, nor needed food or heating aid, nor had to delay healthcare because of cost. Tony can be kind, and generous, but his wealth insulates him, and enables him to be selfish.

In this, he’s really not different from a lot of middle to upper class white guys from Gen X. A lot of us don’t like to admit it, but Paul Ryan is a GenX douchebro. So is Bret Kavanaugh. So is Elon Musk.

The 70s and 80s were fertile soil for growing dickheads.

Why? Well, we know that wealth actually reduces compassion in measurable, consistent ways, and that power causes physical damage like a TBI. And the 80s were the era of Greed Is Good and a massive transfer of power to corporations.

How Wealth Reduces Compassion – Scientific American

Power Causes Brain Damage – The Atlantic

Tony becomes a hero not *because* of his wealth, but in spite of it.

  • And do recall, he was originally written as a complete waste of space & hair. That he’s improved enough to become decent is pretty impressive. And is entirely due to Robert Downey Junior’s ability as an actor.

We can apply all of this, just at a slightly lower wealth rating, to Stephen Strange, who is Tony’s peer. Also, Danny “Cultural Appropriation” Fist, who is a very late Xer, or Millennial.

James Rhodes, Bruce Banner & Clint Barton are the not-rich GenX representatives. And hey, they don’t suck! It’s like being wealthy makes jerks!

  • I will say that being female seems to be protective, even with wealth. Hope (Pym) Van Dyne is not putting up with Scott’s shit, but he did commit crimes against her & her property, so healthy boundary, not privilege.

And then there are the Millennial characters, and that starts with Natasha Romanoff, born 1984 per Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

In Russia. In Stalingrad (now Volgograd.)

Which means: she was 5 years old when the Berlin Wall fell.

And 7 years old when the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Was she in the Red Room as a second grader? I don’t know. Maybe, if the old KGB treated it like the Romanians treated their Olympic gymnastics program. But that assumes Gorbachev considered the training of future super-spies worth the USSR’s very limited resources

But a fraction of zero is still zero, and the Soviet budget before, during and after the collapse was effectively zero. What we do know is that the Red Room wasn’t under the authority of, and she likely wasn’t being trained by, Vladimir Putin, who quit the KGB in 1991 to do St Petersburg politics, and incidentally, figure out where all of the shock therapy generated illicit money was going. And how to use it.

  • By the way: these last few links are a great primer for understanding just how Russia got this corrupt. The year of collapse was the origin of the #MoneyLaundry.

Volgograd/Stalingrad may be important for Nat’s environment, because it’s a small city (only 1M population) and it was so horribly besieged that anyone old enough to be teaching likely had 1st degree contact with the battle. It’s in the city’s skin & bones. BUT… the city is also far from Moscow.

In the old Soviet System, not attracting the boss’ notice was a survival skill. And Stalingrad, being down in southern Russia, cuddled up to Kazakhstan, got good at not attracting attention, and learned how to ask forgiveness rather than permission.

The only thing we really know about the Red Room from Nat’s memory is that it was based in pre-(1917) Revolutionary building. That’s realistically every large city in Russia. There’s no reason it needs to be in Moscow, or St Petersburg or Stalingrad. There are good, counter-intelligence reasons to put it in a small, obscure city. It looks like a dance academy.

We don’t even really know how the Red Room acquires its students; they might take them from their mothers, or they take orphans, or they make orphans. Or it’s a big privilege and the girls get to go home for holidays. (Make a secret fun and a group of school kids will keep it. Children enjoy knowing things adults don’t.)

But the problem is not location or how the Red Room operated, so much as the lack of time for Nat to have become a spy, and certainly not under the Soviet mantle.

We know where she is by 2005: working for Fury, having already had the meeting in “Budapest” that Clint recalls differently.

She’s 21 in 2005, and well into building the Natalie Rushman deep cover that she will use on Tony in Iron Man 2. She on SHIELD’s radar before then.

She says she had a skillset she was willing to use for whoever was willing to pay. That really does fit with someone raised during the 90s in the former USSR. Even someone as privileged as the valuable asset the Red Room produced probably didn’t get enough heat, or enough food, and copper thieves were stealing electrical lines all the time, so electricity and medicine were scarce.

She doesn’t have much nationalist loyalty because she knows that states don’t endure. In a lot of ways, she and Steve actually share most of their ethical underpinnings: born into deeply unequal societies, working class, experiences of financial collapse and war.

Their commitment is to the notion that humans deserve to survive, and to egalitarian ideals, not to the people or the specific structures. That’s fairly advanced social thinking, and it says that whatever the Red Room taught between 1991 and 2004, it wasn’t Soviet.

And given that Nat appears to have GTFO’d the Russian fail-state as soon as she could, that decision could have been influenced specifically by the rise of the oligarchs & the mafiya state. By the early 2000s, working for the Russian gov’t meant being contract labor for mobsters.

Whatever else Nat is, she’s not a crook. She’s done things she is not proud of, but she got out as soon as she could.

  • Skipping the Whedon fail. I note here that he has a pattern of punishing women who dare to become pregnant in his vicinity. Note that Marti Noxon is the only person who didn’t cross over to Angel or Firefly after BTVS ended, and she did not work on Dollhouse. Charisma Carpenter’s Cordelia was destroyed as a character and she was written off for becoming a 30 year old, planned parent. And same for ScarJo.

Our other Millennial Avengers: Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, Scott Lang, Hope (Pym) Van Dyne, Sam Wilson, T’Challa, Okoye.

The Wakandans are more or less exempt from this version of generational theory. They have a different social structure, different technological, mythological and social accesses, and different expectations.

Sam, however, is proof that the MCU is the wishiest of wish fulfillment: no job, no student loans, no mortgage keeping him from going on adventures with Steve & the gang.

(Sure, putting Steve in charge of the Avengers HQ ensures everyone gets a living wage — because he’s a Depression kid — but which congressional committee appropriated their funding? It’s not UN, cuz the UN ain’t got money. If it’s private funding, please let’s hope it’s SpaceX rather than Thiel’s libertarian iron fisted sea colony.)

Peter Parker, Shuri, and Wanda & Pietro are the post-millennials (Gen Z, or the Digital Natives.) They’re just hitting adulthood, they’ve lived almost all of their lives with massive access to technology, and under various war conditions. (Vision also belongs in this category.)

Wanda and Nat should have significant affinity, actually, and they do seem to understand each other, when they’re allowed to talk. (I blame their male directors, and the studio, for cramming in too much story.) They’re both immigrants who survived fallen governments. That matters far more than age.

Since all the young’uns are dust in the wind, and they haven’t had a lot of screen time, and their cultural tropes are still being established… they’re harder to talk about. But I do note that online access enabled the Maximoffs, and gave Shuri & Peter a common language, despite being thousands of miles apart. Which will just continue.

I expect these frameworks to continue to influence these specific characters.

Tony and Steve don’t get along because their frames are entirely opposed: Tony came of age under Bush pere’s pursuit of a capital gains tax cut, while Steve was a teenager when the 90% tax on income above $1 million USD began.

They may never address money at all (it would be an irrelevant conversation) but it influences how they navigate their moral universes.

Steve and Tony are the extreme examples, yet…

They’re media fictions who neatly fit into a framework of Generational Theory, which is used to sell their story.

What came first? The egg, or the small, tasty dinosaur?

Generational Theory reflects the experiences of people in the frame, but both the media, and the theory itself, are created by the people in the frame.

  • Noting that Strauss-Howe really do love Baby Boomers. Both Generations and The Fourth Turning devote significantly more pages to the Boomers. I note they are Boomers. I also note they despise Generation X and don’t hide it.

Good literature addresses the moral arcs of the audiences, without slamming it too hard. To have broad appeal, a $250 million production must appeal to the largest market segments possible, and the production intentionally builds stories to resonate within those groups.

It works because it’s well done.

2 thoughts on “Generational Theory, As Exemplified by The Avengers (MCU)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s