Do This All Day

'Hawkeye' just solved one of Marvel's biggest Phase 4 problem

“The rent and garbage are both sky high.”

Hawkeye is a lighthearted family story. At least, that’s what Clint Barton wanted it to be. In the first moments we see him in his Marvel Cinematic Universe series, he’s out with his kids at a Broadway show. But not just any show: Rogers: The Musical is a show tunes-y adaptation of the life of Captain America, including the Battle of New York from 2012’s The Avengers.

Yes, it’s cheesy and played off as a joke, but seeing the Avengers immortalized (and, probably, glorified) through live theatre is just the latest sign that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are no longer just heroes: they’re almost gods.

The song we get to hear from Rogers: The Musical is entitled “Save the City,” and it shows the original MCU Avengers assembling moment during their first battle together. It was written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the team behind the show-tunes-within-the-show in Smash as well as the musical Hairspray.

Rogers seems to be an ensemble piece featuring all the Avengers, but it’s named after Steve Rogers. This is just more evidence that in the wake of Endgame, he’s seen as the heroic martyr of the Avengers, much more than the other lost heroes like Tony Stark and Clint Barton’s best friend Natasha Romanoff, whose character in the stage show catches his eye.

Clint’s grief is triggered by a pirouetting Natasha. Marvel Studios

Why is this one-off gag so important? Well, first, it shows a perspective we rarely see in the MCU. Each Marvel project follows a superhero, so it’s interesting to find out how normal people view the Avengers. Second, it shows Clint Barton is aware of this idealized version of himself, the version he can’t reach because, unlike many of his colleagues, he doesn’t have powers.

Making musicals out of superheroes is nothing new. From It’s A Bird...It’s a Plane...It’s Superman! to The Toxic Avenger: The Musical, epic tales have been set to song for decades. The key moments of these shows are these huge ensemble numbers, like “Super Friends” from parody musical Holy Musical B@man! or the infamous “A Freak Like Me Needs Company” Sinister Six number from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Though the lyrics of the song featured in the scene are purposefully written to be cheesy, there is one line in an early draft acquired by TVLine that emphasizes Hawkeye’s public image: After countless lines praising the other Avengers, the line the ensemble sings about Clint is simply, “Hawkeye seems cool, like a really nice guy.” In the final version, the music fades at this moment, so we never learn if those words made it into the version Clint actually watches.

It’s the epitome of damning with faint praise. Every other Avenger mentioned in Rogers had a solo adventure (even Ant-Man, who wasn’t even at the battle but still appears in the musical). For Marvel fans and even the people within the MCU, Hawkeye is simply the guy who’s also there. It’s no wonder Kate later points out that Clint’s problem is branding.

Rogers is so much more than a funny joke.Marvel

The Inverse analysis — Hawkeye isn’t the first superhero show to pull a similar trick. We saw something similar in HBO’s Watchmen with its prestige TV series American Hero Story, while Amazon’s The Boys has an entire in-universe movie franchise of its own.

But aside from simply being a clever bit of meta-commentary, these in-universe reinterpretations help to make our heroes more relatable. These fictional characters find the further fictionalized versions of them difficult to live up to.

How can an audience find something to latch onto in a character who is already a world-renowned hero? By making them realize they don’t live up to their own public image.

With the MCU moving into a phase where its heroes are an accepted part of the greater American mythical canon, the stories will have to work harder to keep their characters human. What better way than with one of the greatest American pastimes: laughing at overly cheesy Broadway musicals.

Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.