If you haven’t figured it out by now from my other posts, I’m a pretty big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The MCU is, without doubt, the biggest money-making superhero franchise in history. From the original Iron Man to last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, the MCU has proven to be an entertainment juggernaut full of narrative complexity. If you include any of the series on Netflix, Hulu, or ABC, the Marvel Universe is a massive intertextual narrative.
Sticking with the movies, however, the MCU has been criticized for a number of reasons, and rightly so. Where are the women? Where is the diversity?
Tony Stark/Iron Man = white. Steve Rogers/Captain America = white. Thor = white. Bruce Banner/Hulk = white and sometimes green. Peter Parker/Spider-Man = white. Steven Strange/Dr. Strange = White. Peter Quill/Star Lord = white. Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier = white. Scott Lang/Ant-Man = white. Clint Barton/Hawkeye = white. Vision = orange-ish, but with that British accent, you just know he’s white inside. Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch = White. Pepper Potts = white. Natasha Romanov/Black Widow = white.
Now some people will say that the inclusion of Nick Fury, James “War Machine” Rhodes, T’Challa, Sam Wilson/Falcon, Potts, Romanov, and Maximoff prove that there is diversity in the MCU. I don’t concur.
I’ve been concerned with the lack of diversity in the MCU. Why?
One reason is because of the dichotomy between what Marvel was giving us on screen and what’s been happening in the Marvel comics. The comics themselves have been particularly and marvelously progressive and diverse(although there have been some problems there). In this regard, they are vastly and amazingly different than what we have been seeing on the big screen. Here’s a short list of some of ways that Marvel’s comics have diversified away from the straight white male superhero:
- Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is female and has been called “a feminist icon.”
- Half of The Avengers are women or people of color.
- The X-Men featured a same-sex wedding after superhero Northstar proposed to his boyfriend.
- Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American Muslim woman from New Jersey.
- Miles Morales – the Ultimate Spider-Man – whose father is black and mother is Puerto Rican, is being moved fully into the friendly neighborhood of the Amazing Spider-Man.
- Gwen Stacy, dropped the moniker of Peter Parker’s girlfriend and became Spider-Gwen, a hero in her own right.
- America Chavez/Ms. America is the first Latin-American LGBTQ character to star in their own series.
Those are just some of the examples from the comic book. Heck, in the comics our favorite trickster Loki is bisexual/genderfluid.
Secondly, the heroic black characters in the MCU to this point have been Fury, Rhodes, Wilson, and T’Challa. (Sorry Luke Cage – you are awesome – but not part of the MCU proper.) They have all been side-kicks of a sort. Or as in Captain America: Civil War T’Challa was a foil to help set up a major conflict for the other superheroes. They have not been main characters. None has headlined their own movie. None has been a standalone superhero.
T’Challa/Black Panther was created in 1966. Like me, he’s going to be turning 52 this year.
He’s finally getting his own movie.
And it’s about damn time.