With the focus of modern cinema in mind, specifically Marvel Studios' strong foothold in transmedia storytelling, it is important to recognize then that the verbal-visual intertextuality present is likely allusive of precise motivations, rather than guileless references that arise inevitably because due to mere conventions. The construction and placement of symbols is indicative enough of where the producers of the texts value its emergence: the promotional process. This is likely strategized in a manner that favorably positions the film itself. Previous literature examining the superhero genre in modern film, television, and comics have tended to focus more generously on the text itself without enough attention apportioned to the influences that govern, such as production and audiencing. As a result, analyses often undertake more inspection into the meaning behind the genre as opposed to why the genre was constructed in such a way that holds such mass appeal. This could only have been attainable through efficient and successful marketing. Whilst there were many overarching campaigns likely working together to stimulate this model of film consumption off the ground, the growth and maintenance of such cinematic phenomena seems to be retained most predominantly through the promotion of sequels, reboots, and consecutive films that fit into the shared universes, building communities and fostering social bonds within the alienated fiction world. It would seem quite thoughtless to not use intertextuality as a key tool in achieving this.
The emergence of nostalgic feelings is a manifold phenomenon. It can comprise of a strong passion for people, places, things, and even feelings from the past, placing recognition as key in unlocking a cathartic emotional experience (Holbrook & Schindler, 2003). From the perspective of marketing, passion must be injected into promotional materials so that consumers will not soon forget the memory of it. With the rich emotional experience it evokes, it is no wonder that nostalgia is thus consistently employed in this context, whereby consumers are offered ‘throwback' of sorts in order to stimulate and activate their nostalgia and eventually promote buyer behavior through inducing the desirable feeling of familiarity and security. Former scholars have studied the conceptual structure of consumer nostalgia, identifying the core distinctions as personal nostalgia (direct experience and memory), interpersonal nostalgia (indirect experience and memory, sourced from close relationships and common experience) and virtual nostalgia, the feeling of intimacy and security derived from familiar books, movies, and other materials from the past that hold value even in non-direct experiences (Holak, Havlena, Matveev, 2006). The latter, most prominently, is most relevant in the nostalgia marketing of franchise films, as transmedia storytelling calls for many relational cues. For example, the narrative continuity of Marvel Studios' output from 2008 to the present is ridden with a series of intertextual references, built upon strategic ‘aesthetics of incompleteness' (Johnson, 2012). That is, ‘dangling scenes and quick character teases in Marvel's films foster not just narrative expansion but also an audience participation that extends the commercial viability of the films into new media markets beyond theatrical distribution' (Johnson, 2012). In particular, the films' mid-credit ‘stingers' (the abrupt interruption of the film's credits with new diegetic material) help to cultivate anticipation for planned sequels and franchises in development, and with successive promotions paying homage to familiar symbols, characters, and genre conventions. This trend of transmedia storytelling, consisting of the “repeated adaptation of an established entertainment text into different media forms” and “the promotion of a text's reputation as a successful entertainment property when marketing later versions produced in other formats” (Kearney, 2004) makes it easy to build an intimate and familial world that audiences can feel comfort in. In the Marvel cinematic universe, the same characters can now inhabit multi-media online spaces via official websites, fan sites, social media pages and accounts, online and console games, and even mobile phone apps, further expanding and strengthening the reach of visual nostalgia. However, a mere replication of media characters across different platforms is no assurance of consumer acceptance or affinity. Instead, the success of such forays into transmedia exploitation hinges on the coherence of transmedia storytelling, where “a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics; its world might be explored through gameplay or experienced as an amusement park attraction” (Jenkins, 2006). Transmedia thus leverages a constellation of diverse and dispersed media platforms to tell a series of interconnected stories, each of which can also be stand-alone. This comes full circle to employ nostalgia marketing in furthering its success.
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