Hello and welcome back to another episode of dissecting what’s wrong with Marvel Studio’s Phase 4. Just kidding – no shade Marvel, I love you. So anyway, if you’re wondering what this post is about, let me tell you, this isn’t about discussing the content of any of Marvel’s Disney+ series. Nope, as I’ve already shared my complaints about Marvel overproducing content and their current failure in connecting the universal dots, this is going to be about something a little different. It’s about the exclusivity of Disney+ and why it can be problematic that these Marvel shows are canon and connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let’s dive into it shall we?

Doctor strange gif opening a portal

How about we start from the very beginning. When Disney first announced that they were creating Disney+ as a streaming platform where all their content would be available, I was extremely excited. By that, I mean I bought a membership the first day it was released. As a huge Disney fan, it seems like a dream come true that all of my favourite movies (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars) would be stored in one easy to access location. And for the low low price of $7.99 CAD a month! (Okay, they’ve upped their prices since then but that’s a different issue entirely). Upon hearing this news, I remember immediately thinking, “sign me up!”

When Marvel later announced that they would be developing and releasing exclusive shows on the platform, it made me all the more excited. New content that would explore unfamiliar characters and different stories? Awesome. And when Kevin Feige explained that these new Marvel shows would also be connected to the overall universe, I didn’t think much of it at the time. If anything, it made sense to me. Why wouldn’t they make content that was connected to their whole universe? That’s kind of their whole appeal and selling point. But it wasn’t until I watched Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) that I first started seeing the potential problems. What might that problem be, you ask? Well, making these shows canon means they’re necessary to watch in order to understand the movies and the direction of Marvel as a whole. 

For hardcore Marvel fans like myself, this isn’t really an issue because let’s be honest, we’re going to watch whatever they release regardless. We pay for movie tickets to watch the movies, so of course we’re going to pay for Disney+ to watch the shows. But for casual Marvel fans or just casual movie-goers in general, it’s a little problematic for them if they have to watch an entire Marvel series just so they can understand the movie. In a way, some of these shows act as prequels to the movies now. 

Let’s look at Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for example. Last year, Elizabeth Olsen got her own show, WandaVision (2021), where her character Wanda Maximoff experienced a complete 180 transformation. By throwing Wanda into the Doctor Strange movie (which takes place after the show), it’s as if it’s expected that you know everything that’s happened to her since then (heck, she has kids now!). While you may argue that the movie somewhat explains what happened in Westview, I personally don’t think it’s enough. For someone who never watched WandaVision, I can see her drastic change being incredibly confusing – wasn’t she an Avenger? Why is she evil now? Where did these kids even come from? There’s a deep complexity to her character that simply can’t be explained with a short and vague thirty second explanation – you need to have watched the show. 

My biggest concern is the situation will eventually turn into fans having to watch every single release in order to understand what’s going on in the MCU. I mean, Kang was first revealed in Loki (2021), and that seems like a pretty significant character to have his introduction shown in a TV show. I’m sure many fans simply don’t have the time or don’t want to watch everything; they only want to view the shows that they’re interested in, which is completely fair. With every show being canon, that kind of doesn’t work so well. Here’s another example: at the end of Ms. Marvel (2022), we see Kamala switching places with the actual Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. While this is based off of unconfirmed information, I’ve heard The Marvels (2023), the next Captain Marvel movie, will begin right where that ended. This means people who did not watch the show will have no idea what’s going on.

But honestly, the deeper issue here with these exclusive shows is accessibility. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to afford a monthly subscription to Disney+, but I’m aware that it may not be the case for everyone. For people who aren’t able to access Disney+ (there could be a variety of reasons), they won’t have access to the Marvel series which in turn means they are now missing a big piece of the MCU. That’s a really big problem with exclusive content – it’s not for everyone. And with Marvel being such a massive force in the entertainment industry, reaching all corners of the world, it’s kind of unfair don’t you think? And what about countries that don’t even have Disney+ available? What will they do?

Whew, I’ve just thrown a lot of my thoughts at you so let’s take a breather. This was quite a long read so I appreciate you sticking it out and reading till the end. 

Look, I’m a massive Marvel fan, and while I definitely enjoy the content they produce, I couldn’t help but ponder over this issue. What do you guys think – have you considered this aspect of the exclusivity of Disney+? Can you think of any possible solutions? Do you even see this as an issue? Don’t worry this is an open space where you are welcome to share your perspectives so I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic in the comments below. What do you think about these Marvel TV shows being exclusive to Disney+?