A few of us in the TDi office contributed to the Avengers: Endgame’s astonishing $1.7b opening week at the box office. For one of our Consultants, Erin, however, it turned out to be far more meaningful than expected, leaving her with pearls of wisdom relevant to much of the work we do, and the philosophies we follow at TDi. Her analysis is below.
For me, I took away two key messages from Avengers: Endgame:
1. vulnerability, and
2. new types leadership
Now for two key warnings:
1. spoilers below
2. I’m about to go full film nerd
Let’s start with vulnerability. This was key to Thor’s storyline of “accepting who he was, not who he ‘needs’ to be” – straight from the works of Brené Brown.
It also came up in Thanos’ “inevitability” storyline in that the Avengers couldn’t accept what happened and were trying to change the course of things… and yet they ‘inevitably’ still landed in battle with Thanos over the infinity gauntlet. Again, this aligns with Brené’s work: stop hiding behind perfectionism, trying to “fix” things or make things “right”.
At a macro level, I think Marvel as a brand were also being vulnerable by firmly ending the Avengers series. This is generally a big deal for film companies! They will try and milk a cash cow until it’s insulting to audiences (cough – Fast and the Furious – cough) but Marvel were brave and chose to end the legacy. Let it be what it is, rather than trying to make it more. And the risk has paid off, the finality of the film has taken the record for highest grossing opening week, and on course to highest grossing film of all time.
The message around new types leadership is potentially more subtle, right at the end of the film when all the white, male, superheroes ‘retire’ as leaders, handing over responsibility to minority groups represented in film:
- Celebrating the strength of Captain Marvel and Black Panther
- Thor handing over the ‘ruling’ of Asgard to Valkyrie
- But perhaps most poignantly Captain America handing the shield to Falcon. Cap asks “what does it feel like?” to which Falcon replies “someone else’s” to which Cap replies “it’s not” … !!!!!!!!!!!!
I believe this was an intentional metaphor to say, it’s time to see other versions of leaderships in the spotlight… It also highlighted that in exchange, both Thor and Captain America received happiness and love respectively in exchange for leadership – giving them equally as fulfilling lives.
Again, at a macro level, this reinforced for me the importance of good storytelling. These films are a powerful vehicle hitting nearly 2 billion eyeballs globally. Like, what if the starting point for this film was messages of vulnerability and recognising new age leadership?
I know most cinema-goers don’t go full cinephile taking away such deep messages, and rather walk away saying “that was awesome!” But if behavioural economics has taught me anything, it’s that these things don’t have to register front of mind, to stay with you and affect you. And if the value proposition canvas of a Do Good Make Money business has taught me anything, it’s that you give people something they want, and then educate them on your social purpose.