Last week, longtime Marvel Studios executive Victoria Alonso was fired after almost 18 years with the company. The initial reporting was that she “exited” the company, but that was always euphemistic language, and over the course of the week, more and more details spilled into the public’s view, making clear she was fired and she is fighting back. But despite clearer details, the narrative is as messy as ever, and somehow the combined media forces of Disney and Marvel are not handling this well at all. Firing a longtime executive was never going to be easy, but it is lowkey amazing how ugly this is, with no sign of the PR side, at least, getting better any time soon.


It should be clear by now, though, that whatever the complaints about Marvel’s VFX have been—from vendors, fans, and shareholders—that was not the issue over which Alonso was fired. Disney is officially claiming “breach of contract” because Alonso, who is Argentinian, was a producer on the Oscar-nominated film, Argentina 1985. Alonso’s attorney is pushing back, calling it “ridiculous” and maintaining that Alonso was “silenced” for speaking out against the company.

Here’s the crux of the problem: the VFX stuff is plenty of reason to fire the person ultimately responsible for that department. The quality of post-production work on Marvel movies has been noticeably declining for years, vendor complaints and accusations that Alonso is a bad boss have been rising over the same period (though again, there are plenty of people who defend her as a good boss, and there is an unchallenged strain of misogyny in the VFX-side reporting), and costs are growing even as quality of work is deteriorating. Even though there IS an industry-wide problem with the VFX pipeline, any studio would be justified in shaking up their post-production/physical production unit(s) to try and stem the tide and get things moving in the right direction again.


But that is NOT what Disney is saying they’ve done. They’re not saying, “There have just been so many problems, we’re trying something new.” They’re going the breach of contract route which suggests…firing her on VFX/production grounds is even shakier legal reasoning. So, all that reporting about how bad things are behind the scenes? Apparently, not bad enough to justify canning Alonso. There is still a perception that shaking up the production unit at Marvel could solve some, if not all of those problems—it won’t, but perception and reality are rarely the same thing—but it is SO interesting to me that Disney is citing other reasons, nothing to do with Marvel or production/VFX at all, to get rid of Alonso. 

That’s really about the legal wrangling, though. They needed grounds to fire her, it’s interesting they went with something not related to Marvel production at all, but at the end of the day, Marvel still has a perception problem, which is not helped by Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania floundering at the box office (it is currently underperforming the previous two Ant-Man films, and is struggling to hit $500 million worldwide, making it one of the lowest-performing Marvel movies ever). For the first time in a decade, Marvel is vulnerable, and a lot of those vulnerabilities coalesced around elements of production under Victoria Alonso’s purview. It made her vulnerable, in return. 


And while axing the person responsible for the most troubled part of the studio should look good for Marvel, firing an out gay Latina looks bad for Disney. At this point, I’m trying to understand what ANYONE is getting out of this. No matter how it LOOKS, firing one person isn’t going to magically fix the problems in the post-production pipeline. Those problems are bigger than any one person or studio. Whoever Marvel promotes will be contending with the same issues and limitations Alonso did. And it’s bad for Disney, which looks retaliatory towards an outspoken employee. Again, firing a longtime exec was always going to be messy, but this is EXTRA messy, especially for a studio not used to bad press and a parent company that usually handles their sh-t better than this, in public, anyway. Although, there was also that very public mess with Scarlett Johansson—what IS going on at Disney legal these days?

I’m sure there will be even more new information, clarification, and words said from both sides about Victoria Alonso’s firing. Just as I am sure that if Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a big hit come May, Marvel’s problems will vanish overnight, at least publicly. And I am also sure the only person getting any kind of benefit from the current situation is Kevin Feige, who both retains his position atop the Marvel pyramid, and escapes any criticism or uncomfortable questions about his role in Marvel’s pipeline problems. Curious, that.