From Hero to Villain: The DC Universe Curse Keeps Striking Down Stars One at a Time
It's no secret; in the world of DC Comic movie and television adaptations, they keep winding up with problematic headliners.
It's no secret; in the world of DC Comic movie and television adaptations, they keep winding up with problematic headliners. From Ezra Miller and Amber Heard to Will Smith and Jared Leto – the DC Universe seems a little cursed, if we're being honest.
But their major competitors keep making moves in the right direction, with stars who have squeaky clean reputations (for the most part – we'll get to that). So what is it about the DC Universe that attracts the wrong kinds of attention, while Marvel looks pristine by comparison?
DC Stars Who Have Made Headlines For All the Wrong Reasons
The world is divided into two camps: DC stans and Marvel stans. Depending on which comics, movies and television adaptations you prefer determines which table you can sit at during the comic conventions and events.
But unfortunately for those who think DC is superior, the universe expanding onto the big and small screen has come with some benefits – and a lot of pitfalls.
From on-screen flops to off-screen scandals, the DC cinematic universe has brought its fans as much pain as pleasure. Here are some of the top curses that DC fans have endured:
- Amber Heard: Once known mostly at the star of Aquaman alongside Jason Momoa, Heard was at the top of her game until things went sideways with her ex-husband Johhny Depp. A public defamation trial in which Heard was accused of domestic abuse and assault against Depp along with other unsavory behavior sullied her reputation, to say the least.
- Jared Leto: Leto is both an actor – whose role in the DC universe includes playing villain Joker – and a musician. But he also moonlights as a cult leader. Leto has faced accusations over the years of defrauding and misleading followers, but it's older accusations that make his reputation what it is. Over the years, Leto has been accused of sexual misconduct, rape and behavior some describe as "pedophilic" and "predatory." While it provides the perfect backdrop for a Batman villain, it's hardly the sort of headlines you want your leading man to carry with him.
- Ezra Miller: Perhaps nowhere is the DC curse as evident as it is with fallen-from-grace Ezra Miller. Once at the top of the world as a queer activist and rising star in the acting world, Miller fell hard and fast – and recently. Set the be released in 2023, Miller's DC debut as titular character The Flash is facing an uphill battle after accusations surfaced that Miller had acted inappropriately towards a 12-year-old, although the impropriety is denied by the now-18-year-old. Other nefarious public and private accusations have hounded the artist, who has since deleted their social media and gone underground. Warner Bros faces a difficult decision as they consider the $200M investment they made in an actor who many may not be willing to watch on the big screen as the allegations mount.
- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith: Although this couple isn't on the same level as say Miller, Leto or Heard – they nonetheless have some shady contributions to make to the DC curse. Everyone knows about the slap heard 'round the world, when Will Smith stormed onto stage and slapped Chris Rock for a dig at his wife Jada Pinkett's bald head – the result of alopecia. Smith also a has a history of arrest for assault. Pinkett herself has been accused of violent and bullying behavior over the years, as well as possibly having an affair during her marriage to Will. Smith played DC villain Deadshot while Pinkett played the sultry Fish Moony on the DC TV series Gotham.
- Josh Brolin: Brolin is a special case, and we'll get to that when we talk about Marvel. Under-the-radar DC hero Jonah Hex from the animated universe was voiced by Josh Brolin, who has been arrested for public brawling and public intoxication.
- Not-so-great on screen: The curse extends beyond legal woes, however. The movies just aren't that popular. Batman vs Superman was a spectacular flop, and overall, the movies have been met with lukewarm enthusiasm. A battle for the soul of the original Justice League movie led to a bizarre double released, with the second version including extended footage that director Zack Snyder originally wanted included but was voted down on – and would have made the movie infinitely better had he won that battle. Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and more) took over for Snyder, and the version that aired in theaters was met with a big fat "meh." In addition, newly wed Ben Affleck won't reprise his role as Batman beyond the uncertain release of The Flash in 2023 because his time on set was so difficult that it drove him to drink.
- A racism lawsuit: There's also the case of Ray Fisher who played Cyborg. Fisher has spoken out against what he sees as racist mistreatment of cast members on the set of Justice League after director Joss Whedon took over.
- Keanu Reeves: Take a deep breath, because we're diving in on this one. Everyone loves Reeves, and it would seem that he can do no wrong – except he can. Reeves, who played DC antihero Constantine many moons ago, has been stopped over the years multiple times for driving offense. But the one moment everyone tries hard to forget is his arrest for drunk driving in 1993. We'd like to think that he's changed in the past 30 years, because we need at least one good guy in Hollywood.
Of course, it could all just be bad luck. Or it could be due to the fact that the DC universe is considered more gritty and dark overall – appealing to a more mature fanbase.
A more mature overall vibe requires actors with a bit more grit, and gritty actors are apparently problematic.
It's worth noting that the DC universe isn't relegated to its somewhat sus movies – there are a number of DC TV series that have been met with much more enthusiasm, including Gotham, The Flash (not with Ezra Miller), Legends of Tomorrow and more. These series seem to have escaped the wrath of the DC curse.
Marvel Stars Are Keeping Their Nose Clean – For the Most Part
In Marvel land, everything's coming up roses. After the conclusion of the Avengers saga, fans wondered where the MCU could possibly go from there; after all, where is there to go after you've reached the peak?
But Marvel is not a one (or three) trick pony, and they've continued their characters' stories with expert grace. Since the wrap-up of the Avengers movies, fans have been gifted multiple new movies including the most recent Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness which met with mixed but mostly positive reviews, in addition to Disney + hits like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Wandavision and more.
We do have to make a brief stop on the Marvel congratulatory lap, however:
- Josh Brolin: Remember that special case? That's because Brolin is one of those unicorns who transcends universe. After wrapping up his role as Hex, Brolin took his far more famous role as the megavillain Thanos in the Avengers movies. Thanos brawling and getting publicly intoxicated seems unlikely, but then again – he is inevitable.
But there's more good news than bad in the Marvel Universe. For instance, the newest addition to the family, Ms Marvel, is making strides towards inclusivity and expanding the universe.
What is in the magic juice that makes Marvel so successful while DC keeps hitting stumbling block after stumbling block?
Aside from that whole, "dark and gritty" theory, it could just be – wait for it – Marvel is better. But you didn't hear that from us.