Crossing Over: The Migrant “Other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Casey Walker
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX, USA

Anthony Ramirez
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX, USA

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez, Ph.D.
Texas A&M International University
Laredo, TX, USA


Two mainstream films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) reflect anxiety about the alien (migrant) “other” through difference and crisis. In this article, we explore how refugees and “shithole” planets form a major plot point in Captain Marvel (2019). At the most extreme, alien exclusion is articulated in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), from the villain’s perspective, as a Malthusian need for extermination of lives to preserve environmental balance. Seemingly innocuous, these narratives are symbolic of a creeping right-wing discourse that dehumanizes outsiders, refugees, and migrants in popular culture. Inspired by the call to consider how film and new media converge, and to bridge the gap between media and migration studies, we assert that the representation of and rhetoric about migrants deserve study in popular culture beyond their mere textual representation. Symbolic convergence theory (SCT) is used to do a close reading of the texts and the fandom communities around them, drawing out discourses and themes that resonate in popular discussion. We find translations of anti-immigrant narratives bleeding into fan communities, mediated through irony and internet culture.

Keywords: Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Other, Migrant, Symbolic Convergence Theory, Captain Marvel, Avengers Infinity War

Author Bio 

Casey Walker is a PhD student in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies how sci-fi and monster films (such as Monsters (2010), Arrival (2016), and Star Wars Episodes VII and VII (2015, 2017)) are reacting to the rise in visibility of white nationalism in the 2010s.

Anthony Ramirez is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. He studies Latinidad in popular culture and media, representation of immigration and issues of the U.S./Mexico border.

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Communication at Texas A&M International University. He studies digital media, identity marketing, Latinx political communication, and visual culture. 

Reference Citation


Walker, Casey, et al. “Crossing Over: The Migrant “Other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2021,


Walker, C., Ramirez, A., & Soto-Vásquez, A.D. (2021). Crossing over: The migrant “other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(3).

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