Moon Knight is a new Disney Plus show set to premier on March 30 and will soon be the latest installment in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). To say that the MCU has a huge fan base would be an understatement. People of all ages have been flocking to the theaters, and more recently to Disney Plus, to see MCU content for the past fourteen years. Part of the appeal of the MCU is that it reaches such a wide range of people. Adult fans can theorize about the extended universe and appreciate the darker themes of grief, morality, and justice that often come packaged with your average superhero story. Meanwhile, kids can watch brightly coloured fight sequences while clutching their favourite Spider-Man action figure.
With the ever expanding nature of the MCU, Marvel Studios has started to reach deeper into the universe of the comics in order to bring new characters to the big and small screen. Up next is Moon Knight, aka Marc Spector. He is a vigilante, anti-hero, and “avatar on Earth” for an Egyptian moon god (so nothing out of the ordinary for a Marvel character). Moon Knight has created some controversy between Marvel Studios and Disney with his anti-hero status. In the comics, Moon Knight is extremely violent and has quite the high kill count on his record.
Many fans have desperately wanted the MCU to produce R-rated content, more in line with some of the comic books’ gruesome storylines, and this seems like a show that would warrant an R-rating. However, given the current state of the MCU, it seems unlikely that Moon Knight will pack harder than a PG-13 punch. I think that the MCU has painted itself into a corner when it comes to the possibility of having R-rated content. Part of the reason why the MCU has such consistently high viewership is because, these days, you have to have seen every piece of MCU content released to date in order to be able to watch whatever comes next. Sure, the MCU could make Moon Knight R-rated, but then kids (and squeamish adults like me) would not be able to watch it. So, if Moon Knight showed up in an upcoming show or movie, people who had not been able to watch the Moon Knight show would be at a loss.
Moon Knight could be released as a separate entity from the general “cinematic universe” in order to safely obtain an R-rating, but it seems unlikely that Marvel Studios wouldn’t want to keep tying all their characters together in an ever-tangling web of cameos and supporting roles. The other issue is that if Moon Knight were to be R-rated, Disney would not be able to sell any Moon Knight toys! This may seem like a silly thing for a multi billion dollar company to worry about, but Disney brings in gigantic amounts of cash off of merchandise and toy sales every year, so it is hard to believe they would pass up the opportunity to make more action figures just to appease fans of the original comics.
I am very sensitive when it comes to violence and gore in the media. I only made it through two seasons of Game of Thrones because my girlfriend would cover my eyes whenever she knew I would get too scared. So, if Moon Knight were to be R-rated, would I personally watch it? Maybe not, at least not without a screening buddy. That being said, I do think there is a place for R-rated content in the MCU. As fun as it is to see Doctor Strange show up in a Spider-Man movie, not everything needs to be connected. By being so adamant on putting every single character and storyline in the same cinematic universe, Marvel is missing out on an opportunity to create more original content that doesn’t rely on an Iron Man cameo in order to get viewers.
People want to see Moon Knight be Moon Knight, just as they wanted to see Deadpool be Deadpool. I’m willing to bet that an original story which focused solely on Moon Knight, his character, and his universe, that was completely separate from the larger MCU and given an R-rating, would be much better received than a watered down Moon Knight who lives down the block from Bruce Banner. In a world where dark and gritty reboots of beloved children’s media are oversaturating the market, there is still space for adult media that was always meant to be dark and gritty in the first place.