By Samantha Anteau
When people think of superheroes, they often think of attractive white men saving the world. It’ll usually take a couple rounds of “name a superhero” before someone says a woman (though, admittedly, the “Wonder Woman” movie helped change this a little; more on that later) and even longer for them to get to a person of color, if they ever do.
If we’re just going to look at blockbuster superhero movies, this is pretty intensely reinforced. In the first wave of blockbuster superhero movies, we got “Iron Man”, “Wolverine”, “Batman”, “Superman”, etc., all falling snugly into the category of “white men saving the world.”
Were there female side characters? Did people of color occasionally make an appearance, including the rare woman of color? Of course. However, being a top-tier superhero tended to fall on the white, male characters.
That’s not to say that those who create superhero movies don’t have a lot of sources to pull from. Though the comic book industry is notoriously male-centric and white, there are plenty of notable female superheroes and superheroes of color. There are already introduced characters to pick from, like Black Panther, Storm, Black Widow, Heimdall (Idris Elba edition), Jubilee or Falcon.
There are also plenty of characters who haven’t appeared who would make great choices. John Stewart’s Green Lantern, America Chavez, Bishop, Danielle Moonstar. If you haven’t heard of them before, it really doesn’t matter; after all, who even knew that the “Guardians of the Galaxy” existed before the movie came out?
Studio executives can’t say that movies featuring women and/or people of color in leading roles wouldn’t sell. “Wonder Woman” is the fifth highest grossing superhero film of all time, and the highest grossing film in the DCEU. “Black Panther” has the highest pre-release ticket sales of any superhero movie ever and is predicted to make at least $400 million at the box office.
There simply is no excuse, monetary or otherwise, for these movies not to be made. Are the studios getting better about being inclusive? Yes, of course.
Wonder Woman’s second film is in pre-production, “Black Panther” is coming out this week, and “Captain Marvel” is set to come out March of next year. But to have three out of thirty-nine solo superhero movies in the last ten years (including ones that are set to come out in the next two years) be centered on a woman or a person of color is absolutely abysmal.
Honestly, I’ll just say it: I’m bored. I’m bored of the same generically good looking white actor playing some guy with a tortured background but the heart of a hero, I’m tired of women and POC having to play love interests and sidekicks to their white male counterparts.
It physically exhausts me that Batman had twelve movies before Wonder Woman had even one, and that up until Wonder Woman, no female superhero ever had a solo film.
People of color suffered the same fate, with the first superhero of color with a solo movie being the upcoming “Black Panther” while a white Spiderman got to be rebooted and told in virtually the same way three separate times. We need to do better.
If this is something that you want to see as much as I do, encourage those you know to go see “Black Panther” or “Captain Marvel”, to tweet about how much they want to see more diversity in films.
The only things that will ever be made are the things the studios think are going to sell, so support these movies in every way you can. Once we prove that this is the content we want to see, we can take a step forward towards a cinematic universe that offers more diversity than a bevy of white guys named Chris.