The Politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 19, 2021 - August 18, 20217/19 - 8/184 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineMarie Schenk

Course Description

Comic books have always reflected the politics of the day. Currently, one of the most popular iterations of comic book stories is the series of movies and television shows known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). By examining the politics of these movies, we can better understand our own politics. The course will use a combination of MCU films and political science readings to explore topics including American exceptionalism, regulation, and representation, and will conclude with an independent research project.

We will cover three main themes of political science that are present in the MCU. The first is the way formal institutions, like the real-word United Nations or the imaginary S.H.E.I.L.D. function. We will consider America’s role in the global (and, at times, intergalactic) order. The second is the politics of government regulation, and the way the government tries to assert control over the super-powered bodies of the series’ main characters. Finally, students will learn about various theories of representation, including descriptive representation, symbolic representation, and substantive representation. This course will include popular media as well as texts that are commonly found in a foundational political science course. Readings will incorporate theorists that students are likely to encounter in future political science courses on topics such as international relations, gender and politics, allowing them to better understand the field and potentially decide which aspects of the discipline to pursue later. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to work closely with the instructor to construct a research question and then complete their own independent research project on the topic of their choice. The culmination of the course will be a presentation of everyone's findings.

At the conclusion of this course, students will have learned how to identify sources of power both within formal government structures and outside of them, gained a better understanding of how political structures impact their daily lives, and will understand the possibilities and limits of government power. They will also be able to evaluate how ideas about politics and power are presented in the media. In addition, students will learn to navigate the assignments and interactions critical to success in college, while talking about a subject that everyone loves!

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: This course is open to all grade levels and does not assume previous knowledge about politics or superheroes.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0994

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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