The MCU has become self-aware. The opening episode of Hawkeye brings the Avenging Archer and his children to the Big Apple for what we can assume is maybe opening week of Rogers the Musical, a stage show dedicated to the life of Clint’s friend and fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers. The musical itself isn’t important to the plot of the show other than being the plot device that brings Clint to New York and getting him involved with Kate Bishop and the Tracksuit Mafia. It is, however, important in that it represents a fabulously funny step forward for the MCU: it’s learned to laugh at itself.
In a wonderful bit of meta humor, the musical reenacts the Battle of New York (in song form!) and puts, at its center, one of the real internets most memed MCU moment: Captain America’s “I can do this all day.” The musical gives each of the Avengers their moment to shine, even putting Ant-Man who, as Clint points out was NOT there, a moment in the spotlight, but its shining moment is when the actors who plays Cap belts out the character’s signature line. Hulk’s smash moment comes in a close second, but for the creators of Hawkeye to put one of Rogers core traits at the center of the musical and use it for a laugh shows that they are deeply connected with their fandom.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time the line has been used for a laugh. Avengers: Endgame saw one Steve say the line to the other which led to a light moment. This feels different, however, as it’s not a moment between Caps. It’s a great meta moment because once you’re done laughing at it, you immediately think, “Wait a minute! He never said that at the Battle of New York. And how’d they know he said that anyway?” and that, folks, is the joke. Turning the Battle of New York, the moment the Avengers came together as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, into the plot of a musical that gives an historically inaccurate representation while one of those Avengers sits in the audience is the kind of laugh that can’t be built in a day. It’s the kind of laugh that only long-time fans of the MCU are going to truly get; it’s so layered and nuanced that the fan who is watching Hawkeye because they like Hailee Steinfeld would need a 20-minute long lecture from a friend to explain why it was funny in the first place; it’s the kind of laugh that lands hardest because it’s the world’s most successful franchise laughing at itself.
The MCU has become self-aware and if this is the type occasional meta humor fans can expect to see, then Feige has transitioned from MCU overlord to MCU memelord, cementing himself as The One-Above-All.