This week, after a federal court greenlit AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner and effectively signaled a shift toward a more merger-friendly environment in the US legal system, Comcast made good on weeks of hints by making an all-cash bid to buy 21st Century Fox for a whopping $65 billion. It‘s a conspicuous challenge to Disney’s stock-based, months-in-the-making offer of $52.4 billion, and while it’s unclear how the debacle will shake out in the end — following Comcast‘s bid, Disney stock actually went up; it‘s also possible that the two giants might split Fox‘s assets — one thing is certain: a horde of Marvel fans are now actively rallying against Comcast’s bid for attempting to keep the Fox-owned X-Men from joining their fellow superheroes in Disney’s MCU.
MCU fans going unreasonably hard in the name of their beloved franchise is nothing particularly new; as with many fandoms over the past decade, that self-powered enthusiasm has grown into a formidable marketing arm of its own. Fans have also been anticipating the potential arrival of the Fox-owned Marvel Comics properties like X-Men and the Fantastic Four to Disney‘s MCU stable for a while; Fox has owned the screen rights to these Marvel Comics properties since the late 1990s, a decade before Disney collected the rest of them with its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2009. The deal Disney made with Sony last year to successfully wrangle the Sony-owned Spider-Man into the Avengers franchise. And yes, it would certainly be fun to see Jean Grey and Storm roll up on one of the Avengers’ existential melees to handily save the day.
What’s new here is the perspective: now we have fans jumping into the economic fray to root for their preferred corporation. Many have literally suggested crowdsourcing for one of the richest companies on earth in order to obtain the version of their beloved franchise that they wish to see in the world.
Though perhaps that’s not all too far from where we were before these entertainment titans began duking it out over intellectual property. In a world where corporations are people and fan loyalty is of utmost value to Hollywood franchises, many fans — who often turn to these movies looking to forget about the social and economic grind that plagues their every other waking hour — are happy to ignore (or worse, celebrate) the dwindling of competition in the entertainment world in favor of a structure where their favorite fandoms can interact with one another however they please.
Never mind that Disney routinely bullies local governments into bending to its will; antitrust concerns are beyond irrelevant to fans delighted to be gifted with a Star Wars Land (which will no doubt cost them hundreds to visit) and countless more Avengers films. For MCU fans actively invested in this battle, Disney is exclusively a purveyor of their joy, and Comcast —which is, admittedly, one of the most hated companies in America — is just like any other corporate machine, working to undermine their well-being in the name of profit.
It’s not that fans are ignorant about any of this, either; it’s just that most of them just don’t care. As long as Wolverine and Tony Stark will trade quips on the big screen in the near future, it’s not absurd to want your favorite corporation to acquire another corporation to become an even bigger mega-corporation so badly that you’d be willing to give them even more money up front to make it happen. It’s not absurd to see Disney as an underdog that lacks resources to make their multi-billion-dollar dreams come true, rather than a near-omnipotent conglomeration just opting not to spend $65 billion in cash on new properties. It’s your duty as a fan.
Disclosure: Comcast Ventures and NBCUniversal are investors in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.