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It’s been almost four months since a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie debuted in theaters, and it’ll be just over six months until the next one (Black Widow) enters. But it isn’t enough for Marvel to dominate box offices and become the center of attention while their movies are in theaters – they’re dominating the cultural conversation on their off time, too.

A recent wave of backlash against superhero films has been raging for weeks, and now Bob Iger, the CEO of Marvel owner The Walt Disney Company, is now putting on his Avengers swim trunks and wading into the conversation to defend his studio’s movies against the comments of old-guard Hollywood icons like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Read Iger’s quotes below.

While at the Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Live conference, Iger was asked if he was bothered when this older generation of filmmakers dismiss superhero movies as not being “cinema.” Coppola even went as far as to call them “despicable,” which Iger was not pleased about:

“It doesn’t bother me, except I’m bothered on behalf of the people who work on those movies…Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese are two people I hold in the highest regard in terms of the films that they’ve made, the films I’ve liked, the films we’ve all watched. But when Francis uses the word ‘despicable?’ I reserve the word ‘despicable’ for someone who committed mass murder. These are movies! To whom is he talking? Is he talking to Kevin Feige, who runs Marvel? Or Taika Waititi who directs, or Ryan Coogler, who directs for us? Or Scarlett Johansson or Chad Boseman? I could name a number of people – Robert Downey Jr.?”

While part of me sees where Scorsese and Coppola are coming from, I agree that the word “despicable” seems especially out of place in this conversation. Iger went on, seemingly a bit embarrassed that he got so caught up in the moment:

“I think I’ve sounded a little more defensive than I wanted to be, because I don’t really feel the need to defend what we’re doing. We are in the business of – first of all, we’re in the business of making money, we’re a profitable business. At the same time at Disney, we try to balance that with telling great stories to the world and infusing them with great values and supporting a employee based of well over 200,000 people around the world with great care, and frankly, respect. So I just don’t – I’m puzzled by it. If they want to bitch about movies, it’s certainly their right.”

But he wasn’t done yet. Iger then went on to talk about how disrespectful those comments are to all of the people who work on superhero movies, pointing out they’re working just as hard and “are putting their creative souls on the line” just like the people who work with Coppola and Scorsese. But here’s where Iger really went for it:

“You’re telling me Ryan Coogler making Black Panther is doing something that is somehow or another less than what Marty Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola have ever done on any one of their movies? Like, come on. Yeah, I said it.”

By ending with “yeah, I said it,” Iger seems to acknowledge that his statement is going to be inflammatory. And I don’t imagine that equating Black Panther with some of the greatest American films ever made – The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, etc. – is going to go over very well in the hardcore cinephile community. There’s certainly a conversation to be had about things like cultural impact and representation on screen, but – and I don’t know, maybe I’m completely talking out of my ass here – but maybe it’s a bit early to be confidently referring to Black Panther as one of the greatest films ever made?

Anyway, Iger’s comments are relevant because he’s the head of one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, but personally, I’m just so glad this whole “are Marvel movies art?” thing will never, ever end! I hope that, like me, you’re all really looking forward to logging another ten or twelve weeks in this ongoing discourse as every single director over the age of 60 is asked to provide their detailed thoughts on the current state of superhero films. See you then!

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