Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead! There are a lot of questions fans have about what's going on with the Hulk in the latest Avengers film: like where did that accent come from, why is he dabbing, and is it OK to be still be attracted to him? Is Bruce always the Hulk after Endgame? This new "Professor Hulk" persona, a happy medium between Bruce Banner and his big, green alter-ego, doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Banner and Hulk have come a long way since 2012's The Avengers — and even further, if you can remember what happened in the technically-an-MCU film The Incredible Hulk (which was pre-Ruffalo). They finally seem to have reached a compromise. When he first joined the team, Banner was reluctant to suit up. He was traumatized by his other self. The events of Age of Ultron certainly didn't help matters, lullabies be damned. At the end of that film, Hulk took over and took off into space. By the time we caught up with them in Thor: Ragnarok, Banner had totally checked out, and Hulk paid him right back in Infinity War by staying out of the fight.
So it's surprising when Endgame jumps five years into the future and a fully-talking, clothes-wearing, slightly smaller Hulk appears. What's up with that?
Two years ago, Ruffalo revealed to CinemaBlend that Kevin Feige had an arc planned for the Hulk over the course of three movies (Ragnarok, Infinity War, and Endgame.) This is the culmination of that. Hulk's refusal to play in Infinity War was part of his ongoing journey as a character separate from Bruce Banner, co-director Joe Russo revealed in an interview on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, per CinemaBlend. He said:
"I think people have interpreted it as Hulk's scared. I mean, certainly, that's not a — I don't know that the Hulk is ever... he's had his ass kicked before, and he loves a good fight. But I think that it's really reflective of the journey from Ragnarok. Is that these two characters are constantly in conflict with each other over control. And I think that if the Hulk were to say why, it'd be [that] Banner only wants Hulk for fighting. I think he's had enough of saving Banner's ass."
So what is this new Hulk/Banner version of the hero — and why do people keep calling him "Professor Hulk" when we don't even see him in a lecture hall? To keep things short, Professor Hulk is from the comics, an idealized version that takes the best of both personalities and body types.
The Hulk was already talking a bit in Ragnarok, so this is just a natural progression of that. In the comics, there are actually more personalities in the combined Professor persona. One of them is called "Joe Fixit;" it's a whole thing, and could explain the goofy accent he would occasionally adopt in Endgame.
It doesn't seem that Banner is stuck this way. It's not a curse. If he really wanted to, he could science himself back to being all Hulk or all Banner. In the comics, his moods can send him in either direction. In the MCU, this is just how he's choosing to live his best life at the moment. Honestly, after all Banner has been through, he deserves it.