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Marvel Again Talking the Representation Talk, Really Needs to Walk the Walk

Seriously, please don't let me down.
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There’s been a change in the winds when it comes to the way Marvel talks about representation in their films. Following the immense success of Black Panther, the studio has started to realize that films not centered on white male heroes will sell to a mass audience.

Naturally, this has led to promises from the studio that we will see more films centered on characters of color and LGBTQ+ characters. Mostly recently, Victoria Alonso, the executive vice president of production at Marvel, spoke to the BBC about diversity on and offscreen.

“It is better when you have balance, when you have a 50/50 it creates for a better room, for a better conversation and I think it sort of guides stories in a way that it doesn’t if there is only one of me,” she said as she spoke about being the only woman in the room sometimes. She also reiterated the promise to represent more communities in Marvel films, mirroring what Kevin Feige and others have said in the past.

This is great news, and honestly, I do think that Marvel will follow through on their promises, but it’s hard to have complete faith when it took 18 movies to get a film led by a non-white protagonist. Black Panther and Captain Marvel will be the first major Marvel productions not to be led by a white guy (whose name is usually Chris), and it’s taken them a while to get here.

It’s also worth noting that these are the only two projects that also aren’t helmed by a white male director, and none of the films released so far have featured an LGBTQ+ character.

Marvel has been talking the talk for a while now, and in 2012, Natasha Romanoff was peak white feminist representation, but audiences have grown up since then, and more importantly, movies have grown up. The demand for films to represent more than a fraction of their audience has translated to tangible box office results and critical acclaim. Steve and Tony punching each other in an attempt to keep audiences engaged drew in viewers, but T’Challa’s origin story became a cultural phenomenon and an Oscar contender.

Having one white woman and one character of color no longer means your film is inclusive. Marvel needs to pick up the pace. Having representation means making those characters as central to the narrative as the white male characters are.

Marvel is being incredibly secretive about their upcoming films, and even the ones we know about have their details kept tightly under wraps. Marvel is not about to tell us what characters are about to make their cinematic debut, or spoil a relationship, or really do anything to detract from the mystery.

However, without knowing what is happening behind the scenes, it’s hard to judge what’s going on in front of the camera. I can’t put my faith behind them to include diversity when their track record has been spotty, even though the potential is there and they claim to be ready.

Promises are great, but we need to see meaningful change before I can with certainty say that Marvel is moving in a more progressive direction. Black Panther and Captain Marvel cannot be the only titles in which we see progress; it needs to be across the board, in all their projects. It would also probably generate some goodwill to “leak” upcoming diverse heroes, as that will actually get more people interested in their films.

Representation pays off, as mercenary as that sounds.

I love Marvel. I want to trust Marvel, but the secrecy of upcoming projects means we have no way of knowing right now if they’re putting their not-inconsiderable money where their mouth is, and so until we know for sure that they’re going to honor their promises, I will remain somewhat cynical.

(via BBC, image: Marvel)

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Image of Kate Gardner
Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.