“No, you see, I once heard a scientist say the word ‘multiverse’ once, so you actually need to be pretty smart to follow this show.”

– some nerd

An interesting thing seemed to happen when Marvel thrust superhero stories into the forefront of mainstream media – a bunch of formerly niche superhero/sci-fi tropes also got thrust into mainstream consciousness. Notably, to me, it appears the idea of “alternate timelines” is just a common thing general audiences are familiar with now. Used to be, this sort of writing device was just avoided in mainstream media – it’s too complicated for average viewers to understand, or the characters would have to start drawing diagrams on a whiteboard to explain what’s going on.

Or maybe I’m just outing how heavily superhero-based my media diet still is – I’m mainly thinking about the likes of Loki, Spider-Verse, and the various CW shows that just kind of delve into these themes without having Doc Brown exposit on the mechanics of the multiverse. I was especially taken aback by how Superman and Lois just casually dropped that a major character came from an alternate Earth and treated it like it was an everyday occurrence. Like, that was it. No lore-dump about multiverse theory or branching timelines, just “Oh, that’s where he came from. Well, moving on.”

It’s kinda like how “life on other planets” used to be a fairly uncommon theme in stories until H.G. Wells (or someone else, I’m no sci-fi historian) pushed it to the front of the collective unconsciousness. I’m just wondering where the turning point in pop culture was when “alternate timelines” just became a standard storytelling tool.

– James