Popular American YouTuber Matthew Patrick, popularly known as ‘MatPat’ has come up with an interesting MCU film theory on his YouTube channel, The Film Theorists.
The theory explores who the actual ‘Gods’ are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In a 14-minute-long video, MatPat goes through all the god-like figures we’ve seen in the MCU over the years to figure out who is the real God in the universe. The answer will surprise as well as intrigue you as it makes uncanny sense.
1. The Mythological Figures in the MCU
MatPat argues that the MCU has a number of God-like figures, including mythological figures such as Thor, Odin, Loki, Khonsu, and Moon Knight. There are also the Celestials, who are God-like because of their ability to create. However, none of them actually qualifies to be real Gods.
All of them can either be overpowered, defeated, or even killed. For instance, in Thor: Ragnarok, Odin mentions that they can be killed like normal human beings and are not Gods. This does not go with the conventional image of God, proving that the Asgardians are not Gods, despite Loki’s constant claims.
“We are not Gods. We born, we live, we die.”Odin
Moreover, none of the God-like characters are actual creators. If they are, they are villains with a God complex, such as High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.
Gods are known to have created the universe and its beings. High Evolutionary wanted to create his own ‘perfect’ version of the universe and considered himself to be the real God.
It is also mentioned that many parts of the universe consider High Evolutionary as their God, especially those he created, such as The Sovereign from Guardians 2. He, too, eventually wanted to reach that position, which means you aren’t born a God. You become one.
“There is no God, so I had to step in.” – High Evolutionary, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
None of the other Gods (as in those whom the MCU calls Gods) are creators like High Evolutionary. This applies to the Norse Gods such as Thor, Loki and Odin, as well as the Eternals, such as Icarus and Thena. As per the MCU, many of the myths and legends of the Earth were based on their lives.
For example, the legendary warrior Thena is known as the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena from Greek mythology and the story of Icarus from the Eternals became the well-known Greek myth about Daedalus and Icarus.
“Humanity once believed we were Gods.”The Eternals
However, all of these characters too are inconsistent in terms of their Godliness. At one point, they are no different from human beings with flesh and blood and can feel pain. At another time, they have powers way beyond human capabilities.
In the end, in 9 out of the 10 cases, these characters are simply mistaken as Gods because of their larger-than-life persona and superpowers. MatPat uses a quote by Jane Foster in Thor 1, to sum up this phenomenon –
Magic is just science that we don’t understand yet.Jane Foster
So, while they are classified as Gods in the MCU, the Norse, Greek or Egyptian Gods are not actual Gods, even if they keep calling themselves the same.
2. The Celestials
Does that mean the creators are the actual Gods in the MCU? The answer is no. The closest we come to actual creators in the MCU are the Celestials.
It is true that the Celestials such as Ego wanted to transform every planet, they visited into a version of themselves. They are like giant alien robots who can use Infinity stones like they’re nothing.
The video also mentions Dormammu, the ruler of the Dark Dimension from the first Doctor Strange film. He eats realities to combine them with himself. The Guardians live on this planet called Knowhere, which is also the head of a dead Celestial.
But in the end, all of them can be killed and succumb to some sort of human quality such as pain and pleasure. So, they do not fit the conventional narrative of Godliness.
3. The Struggle for Power: Who is the real God?
MatPat’s theory wonderfully demonstrates how none of these figures are actual Gods. The idea of God in the MCU at its core is a struggle for power.
It is the saga of some awfully powerful human beings fighting to prove themselves something more than mortal humans. But unfortunately, even immortality does not guarantee becoming a God.
Think about it: almost all superhero sagas in its core are about this God complex. Powerful characters fight for more power, while some good souls swoop in to save the universe. It is predictable but nevertheless enjoyable to watch as inferior human beings.
4. The Merging of Reality and Fiction
But who actually is the God in the MCU then? To answer this question, it’s important to know the concept of meta-fiction – the awareness of a literary or artistic piece of its own fictional status.
In a work of metafiction, the characters in the story are aware of the fact that they are part of an alternate, fictional version of reality and keep referring to it.
The MCU has used this literary device in various cases. For instance, in a recent MCU series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, She-Hulk constantly breaks the wall between reality and fiction and interacts with the audience and shares her thoughts. This is just one example of the use of metafiction.
You must be wondering how our previous discussion regarding the God figure in the MCU relates to this. Coming to that, let’s talk about the She-Hulk finale, which introduces a character called K.E.V.I.N. Frustrated by her character’s plot in She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters decides to visit Marvel Studios to figure out what is going on.
When she reaches there and speaks to a team of writers (metafiction at its peak), she realizes things are going the way ‘K.E.V.I.N.’ wants. Most of you must have figured out that this is a witty joke and reference to the current head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige.
It is true. In the series, K.E.V.I.N. turns out to be an A.I.-like robot that writes stories and makes decisions regarding various plots in the MCU. I must say, the MCU was a visionary in this regard. A.I websites like ChatGPT are not too far from making important writing decisions in the world of entertainment.
In She-Hulk, it is established that the writers (in this case, an A.I. robot named K.E.V.I.N.) are actually behind what happens in the MCU. According to MatPat’s theory, the MCU suggests that the writers and the creators of the MCU characters are the only Gods in the universe.
With the use of metafiction, the comics and films have been able to integrate writers into their universe. I already gave the example of K.E.V.I.N., but there’s another more obvious example from the Marvel comics itself.
5. The Stance of the Marvel Comics
Throughout the comics’ 60-year history, many of the Marvel comics characters mention an omnipotent being called ‘The One Above All.’ He is most famously known for meeting the Fantastic Four.
In the comics, this being looks eerily similar to Jack Kirby, one of the creators of Marvel. He is known for channelizing his power through an interesting device that looks similar to a pencil.
Indeed, this is a metaphor for creation and suggests that the actual being ‘above all’ is none other than the creator of the MCU and all Marvel characters. Jack Kirby is a writer and comic artist who has made as many contributions to creating the Marvel Universe as Stan Lee.
In simple words, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee are the actual creators of the MCU, so within the universe, they are the real Gods. It is not Thor, Thanos, or a Celestial.
Rather, the creators are the Gods here. The writers try to convey this message through the comics as well as the films by using the literary device of metafiction.
It is as though the MCU characters are aware of their fictional status and know that it is the writers who decide what will eventually happen to them. They channel their power into a device that looks like a pencil.
Kirby and Lee created the characters, decided the rules of the universe, and also called the shots on who lives and who dies. So, MatPat’s theory totally makes sense.
6. The Stance of Marvel Studios
Coming to the present day, the Marvel characters no longer exist just in the comics. They are now a part of Marvel Studios, so the ‘Gods’ calling the shots here are Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios, and Disney. MatPat’s video illustrates the same.
There are several instances where the producers and the studio have played the God card. For example, in James Gunn’s original vision, Gamora was never supposed to die.
However, this powerful entity called the Marvel Studios must have called the shots and killed her character in Infinity War. Therefore, James Gunn had to alter his vision.
We also know how Gunn was fired by Disney over some controversial tweets, which led to a three-year delay in the release of Guardians 3, and also D.C. Studios roping him in as C.E.O.
We all originally expected James Gunn to hold a role similar to Kevin Feige in Marvel Studios, but he now heads their direct rival, D.C. Studios.
7. Beyond the Writers and Producers
MatPat suggests that there is one more being that is even above the writers and producers – the God of the Gods, and that is you. It is none other than the audience and the fans of the MCU.
If we stop watching the movies, there’s no point for these characters to exist. If we do not love, appreciate and consume the content the writers or producers create, they cannot live. Our approval is like the oxygen of this universe, and our disapproval is like the apocalypse that can end the universe. Feeling powerful yet?
To sum it all up, MatPat’s theory is brilliantly crafted and observed and shows how the MCU uses the literary device of metafiction to offer a tribute to its creators. The position of the creator (be it an author or a director) has always been much debated in the world of art.
MatPat’s theory opens up the horizon to bring the MCU into serious literary research. This theory can be studied from a purely academic point-of-view as well, using principles of literary theory.
Moreover, the theory puts the position of the author on a pedestal while also talking about the position of the reader or consumer. It paves the way for the age-old author vs. reader debate in the MCU.
8. About Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films and TV series, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.
The franchise includes comic books, short films, television series, and digital series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.