Magic: The Gathering: Five Places We Saw Magic In The Media Wilds

Let's face facts: representation is one of the cornerstones of popularity. Whether it's relatively comic superheroes like Shang-Chi getting full feature films made out of the stories, or television shows like Stranger Things making otherwise-"nerdy" games like Dungeons & Dragons enter the public eye as something cool, it is clear that in order for something to break the mold of geekdom obscurity or even geekdom in general, the media plays a massive part in making this happen. So too, is this the case with the world's premier trading card game, Magic: The Gathering. This article seeks to look at five instances where Magic has been seen in the wild of film and television.

#1. Invasion Poster in Spider-Man

One of the earliest and most notable appearances of Magic memorabilia in a film is the infamous Invasion promotional poster hanging in the room of Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker from Spider-Man (2002).  This is seen most prominently during the pivotal scene where Peter first realizes he has superpowers, albeit for a couple of seconds.

The pivotal scene where Peter Parker realizes he has superpowers in Spider-Man (2002) briefly shows a poster from Magic: The Gathering's Invasion expansion, seen here, slightly obscured by shadows on the left side of the image. (image attributed to Sony Pictures)
The pivotal scene where Peter Parker realizes he has superpowers in Spider-Man (2002) briefly shows a poster from Magic: The Gathering's Invasion expansion, seen here, slightly obscured by shadows on the left side of the image. (image attributed to Sony Pictures)

Seen as little more than a cameo, this scene is near and dear to many a Magic veterans' hearts as it shows the poster in a time where games like this were seen as remarkably nerdy by a larger majority of the populace than today. Given that Peter Parker is quite a nerdy character, however, it fits right at home in his bedroom.

#2. Zombieland: Double Tap Taps For Mana

More representation, albeit showing Magic: The Gathering as a game for nerds, is given in Zombieland: Double Tap (2019). It is clear that Magic is one of the most popular games to survive even a zombie apocalypse.

Zombie apocalypse survivors Columbus, Wichita, and Flagstaff turn Magic: The Gathering cards sideways in Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), while Tallahassee, Albuquerque, and Nevada look on. (Image attributed to Columbia Pictures)
Zombie apocalypse survivors Columbus, Wichita, and Flagstaff turn Magic: The Gathering cards sideways in Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), while Tallahassee, Albuquerque, and Nevada look on. (Image attributed to Columbia Pictures)

In this cameo shot, Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, Wichita, played by Emma Stone, and Flagstaff, played by Thomas Middleditch, get a game of Magic in while hanging out (or rather, perhaps holding out) in Nevada (Rosario Dawson)'s Elvis-themed hotel hideout. All the while, Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, and Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) watch with Nevada. There is not much to see here, but at least it is easy enough to make out that these are, in fact, Magic cards, using a naked eye. This is also one of the more recent cameos by the game in major media.

#3. Power 9 in the Antiques Roadshow

The following example we have seen of Magic: The Gathering in the media stems from the popular PBS show Antiques Roadshow. In the 24th season of the popular appraisal show, a woman is seen with a binder full of her husband's older Magic cards from the Beta set of 1993, which is the second set of the game. Fortunately, we have an official video from the episode that showed the segment, and it is shown in full in the YouTube video below.

Those cards are worth a small fortune on the market, as evidenced by the appraisal of the binder. None of the cards are even graded, and they still fetch that much! It makes us wonder how much the husband spent on the cards initially.

#4. Magic Isn't "Nothing"

A relatively recent discovery, we have found that the two-part final episode of Seinfeld, aptly named "The Finale," features a hidden gem in the form of a box of Magic cards, with the logo on the side, tucked away under some other items.

Magic: The Gathering: Five Places We Saw Magic In The Media Wilds
A shot from Seinfeld's final two-part episode in which a box of Magic: The Gathering cards can be seen in the background. (Image attributed to Columbia Pictures Television).

The shot, from Seinfeld's 1998 finale, is hard to make out, if not for the arrow pointing it out, added by Magic content creator Olivia Gobert-Hicks, but there it is. Was the character of Jerry, played by Jerry Seinfeld, a Magic player? Who can tell, as he never played it in the show?

#4. Some Of The Results Of Representation For Magic

Finally, we have a real-world outcropping of Magic: The Gathering in the wild. During a recently televised news interview with Lucas Kunce, a man running for U.S. Senator in Missouri, something very interesting popped up behind the Senate candidate.

A shot of MO U.S. Senate candidate Lucas Kunce. In the background, an alleged uncut sheet of common Beta cards can be seen. (Image attributed to MSNBC)
A shot of MO U.S. Senate candidate Lucas Kunce. In the background, an alleged uncut sheet of common Beta cards can be seen. (Image attributed to MSNBC)

We cannot confirm or deny that that is actually an uncut sheet of common Beta cards from Magic behind Kunce, but if it is, that's pretty neat. This shows that Magic: The Gathering's popularity is peaking, as now it is clear that even federal political candidates have some stake in the game.

Do you have any other examples of games like Magic: The Gathering showing up in media? How many of these have been coordinated in part by Wizards of the Coast? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.
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