Open Access

Marvel, Star Wars and the Risk of Being a Hero: Social Responsibilities for Transmedia Storytellers in the Age of Collective Journey

   | Jan 19, 2021


In 2018, James Gunn and Chuck Wendig both lost lucrative jobs as storytellers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars, respectively, as a result of their aggressively political social media communications. This paper argues that these events can be understood in part by Gunn and Wendig’s social media profiles being blurred with their role as custodians for their respective franchises, and their interactions being out of sync with the aspirational themes associated with the MCU and Star Wars storyworlds. Compounding this issue is the significant structural evolution that modern, popular and commercial stories are undergoing, towards a collective journey model. Collective journey stories are an evolved version of traditional hero’s journey tales, and showcase the importance of listening and negotiating to drive systemic, collective action. Such stories have increased capacity to improve the civic imagination and provide symbols that individuals can draw from to manifest meaningful change. The appearance of these stories in popular commercial entertainment is a reflection of our increasingly digital lives and heightened connectivity, as well as a by-product of our increasing tendency to transmedially tell stories. The professional troubles Gunn and Wendig encountered are a result of them contrasting this storytelling modality, and can be understood in the context of a semiotic cultural shift, as we collectively come to better understand the impact of the Internet and our participatory digital culture.