Is Marvel starting to deliver diversity?
Representation has been a hot issue over the last few years, especially in superhero movies. With the upcoming Black Panther film set to drop in February, eyes are focused on the first hero of colour to get his own feature film.
Stand Up spoke to Anthony Mackie, who plays The Falcon at MCM London Comic Con about his views on representation in blockbuster superhero films.
“Well I think that DC and Marvel have made huge strides unlike any other part of the film business to diversify their portfolio,” Mackie said. “I think if you look at just everything that they’ve done on television, everything they’ve done on film, there’s been multiple shows that have had female leads, I mean Miss Hayley Atwell is here [at the con].”
He also thinks that Marvel and DC are incorporating representation in the way that a lot of other franchises and companies simply aren’t, saying:
“If you look at what they’re doing with Black Panther, what they’re doing with my character – if you look at the amount of women and minorities that they’ve put to the forefront of those two universes, I think they’ve set a precedent that the rest of Hollywood and the film business should get behind.”
Aside from the aforementioned Hayley Atwell, star of Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD has also featured multiple actors of colour, including Ming Na Wen, Chloe Bennet and Henry Simmons. Meanwhile on Netflix, diversity is even clearer, with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones both offering chances for women and actors of colour to shine.
Fellow MCM London guest Hayley Atwell, who played Agent Carter in both the Captain America films and her own spin-off TV series, also shared her thoughts on the need for reflective representation, particularly with regards to women.
“At every convention I go to I get questions [about representation] and I’m aware it’s part of our social conscience of women and men wanting more and better representation of ‘real women’.” (This was referring to an earlier comment about women being forced to look or act a certain way) “And that means that it’s not just looking a particular way to fit a particular demographic or to be a particular age, or race, or sexuality,”
Atwell went on to say that she thought it was the humanity of characters that made them important, and their ways of dealing with emotions and creativity that resonate with people – and it’s this dealing with emotions that people are responding to.
She also said that audiences have power as well – by responding positively to films and TV shows with good representation, we can make a difference. And arguably, that that difference is already being seen, as she explained.
“You have a Captain Marvel film coming out next year, and I’ve just done Howard’s End, which is another female led narrative about a woman and her relationship with her sister. And it’s a female relationship where the two women are not pitted against each other. And their relationship does not revolve around getting the boy. It’s funny, it’s playful, it’s warm, it’s critical, it’s contradictory, it’s contrary, it’s bickering , it’s jealousy – it’s all the things that are natural and real.
“You choose what you like, and you go see what you love and that creates enough heat around it for film companies to go ‘well apparently the audiences want strong female characters, we’ve got plenty of those, so let’s bring them out to the forefront.’”
So while the media industry has a long way to go in many ways, especially with regards to sensitive and accurate portrayals of queer characters we are the ones who can make a change, by responding to the media that depicts the characters we deserve to see.
You only have to look at the success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, to see that: not only is Wonder Woman one of the highest grossing DCEU film to date, according to Box Office Mojo, it has overtaken everything bar Batman vs Superman in terms of domestic success – and it’s still in cinemas worldwide.
Here’s hoping that Black Panther and Captain Marvel (currently set for release in 2019), go to prove further that not everyone wants to see yet another story exclusively about white dudes.