Science Fiction Film & Television

The pretense of prosthesis

The prosthecized superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Science Fiction Film & Television (2022), 15, (2), 169–191.

Abstract

Drawing on David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder’s concept of narrative prosthesis and Kathryn Allan’s Disability in Science Fiction, this article examines the role of the prosthesis in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), arguing that the cyborg limbs of prosthecized superheroes enable narratives of identity, rebirth, degeneration, and transcendence, serving as overdetermined - yet open - signifiers while also remaining stubbornly material in their techno-capitalist cycle of production, obsolescence, destruction, and endless upgrading. Specifically, the paper interprets the MCU’s use of the superheroic prosthesis as an attempt to reach closure regarding the threat to the ideology of ability posed by the figure of the disabled superhero, an attempt that inevitably ends in failure that results in the graphic destruction and eventual replacement of the prosthesis. Analysis of the prosthesis in the MCU reveals a seemingly inevitable cycle in which the superheroic prosthesis acts as a lightning rod for this failure of resolution, with its destruction serving as both the titillation and vicarious horror that often accompanies depictions of disablement as well as a plot device through which narrative tension is generated as the disabled character must be re-prosthecized to begin the cycle anew.

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Author details

Drislane, Liam