Alright, time for Black Panther and race in superheros. For those who didn’t read my post on Captain Marvel and female superheros in Part 1, you can here.
So, Black Panther, the first black superhero in the history of ever. Real name: T’Challa, the King of the African nation of Wakanda, known for having stores of vibranium, the thing Captain America’s shield is made of, and for having an immense distrust of outsiders because of said vibranium. It is also one of the most technologically advanced civilizations on Earth in the Marvel Universe.
Like Carol Danvers, I know next to nothing about T’Challa. But, here’s what I got: when his father T’Chaka is murdered by Ulysses Klaw, T’Challa vows to avenge his death, studies abroad, and later earns his heraldically title of the Black Panther. Like Captain Marvel, he has been a member of the Avengers several times and has helped them and the Fantastic Four on multiple occasions. Also he was married to Storm from the X-Men at one point.
….Yeah. that’s what I got.
Okay, so like I said, Black Panther was the first black superhero ever. It makes sense that he gets the first black superhero solo film in the MCU. (I am aware of the Blade movies, no I haven’t seen them) War Machine and Falcon are great characters, but it looks like they’re gonna be spending a lot of time playing second banana to Iron Man and Captain America. Maybe they’ll get their own films in the future, but who knows. I’m still waiting for my Incredible Hulk sequel.
Unlike superheroine films, there have actually been some decent black and other ethnicities superhero films. Some have even been good. Please note I’m basing this off Rotten Tomatoes. If you don’t like these films, that’s fine. I’m just going with what the vast majority of critics say.
The first Blade movie was decent, not great, but not bad either. It made enough money to get a similarly decent sequel made by Guillermo del Toro (a director I highly admire) and a shitty second sequel because third movie syndrome. It also got a TV series and the character got an anime series alongside Iron Man and Wolverine. Blade was Marvel’s second widely theatrical film attempt after the disastrous Howard the Duck and was a much improvement.
Let’s see, what else, Storm was in successful X-Men films, but that’s an ensemble and is more focused on Wolverine at this point. War Machine and Falcon are mainly supporting characters to Iron Man, Captain America, and now Ant Man. Men in Black isn’t about superheros. Luke Cage has his own TV Show, but I don’t know if that counts cause it’s a show. …Iron Fist is Caucasian, right?…maybe they’ll change his race for the show.
I guess Big Hero 6 counts seeing as most of the character, including the lead, aren’t Caucasian and two of them are even female (which is more than most including some Power Ranger teams (Seriously, not all female power rangers had a skirt and I know, limited by the sentai footage and diversity and all that. but still.)). …Animated, but I’m counting it.
The first Zorro actors were Caucasian, not sure if Antonio Banderas counts as Hispanic since he’s from Spain and the character is supposed to be Hispanic so I’ll put his first Zorro film as a maybe. (yes, Zorro counts, he has a secret identity and fights bad guys.) Catwoman was terrible and sadly remains the only superheroine of colour movie. The Crow did well, but unfortunately the actor died during filming.
Neither Blankman nor The Meteor Man did well. Spawn didn’t either, a shame considering his actor was the first African-American to play a major comic book character. Steel didn’t do well. Underdog is a dog and voiced by a white guy. Still not sure what to make of Hancock, but it looks like it didn’t do well. Chronicle is more about the two white kids. And the latest one is…the new Fantastic Four movie…which has an ensemble cast…
So, that in total gives us 5 good (or at least decent) superheros of colour movies (4 if you don’t count Zorro) to superheroines’ 0. ….Well, it’s certainly something. ..And going by race, we have 2 films with black protagonists (Both with the same character), 2 with protags of Asian descent, and 1 Hispanic (?) protag (2:2:1). No Arabic, no Indians, no Native Americans…. Note to self: Make a superhero book about a girl who’s not white.
Anyway, if this teaches us anything it’s that it IS possible for Hollywood to make a superhero movie about someone who is not white and make them good. If they can make one about someone who’s not from America without being racist we’ll have to see in Civil War. But, they do apparently have SOME faith in films about non-white protagonists….so long as they’re male…and original.*Sighs*
Here’s the thing, people seem to be okay with the idea of POC characters…provided they don’t have the same names as established white characters. It’s the reason there was a stupid amount of backlash about Donald Glover’s joke about playing a Miles Morales Spiderman, which he later voiced on Ultimate Spiderman. (The Spiderman in Civil War has been confirmed to be Peter Parker to the dismay of most, including myself, but at least his solo film isn’t another origin story) The sad truth is that there are some people that can’t/ won’t accept that characters from different mediums with the same names/ identities don’t have to be the same race/ gender/ …everything else.
Idris Elba went through this when he was cast as Heimdall (A white character in the comics) in Thor and he was one of the best parts of what I consider to be two of the worst of the Marvel movies (Not bad, just as good as the others. Worst does not always equal bad, just not as good. Thor and Thor: The Dark Word are good movies, not great but decent.). He’s going through the same thing now with the rumour that he MIGHT be the next James Bond after Daniel Craig retires. …And yet Samuel L. Jackson gets a free pass with his black Nick Fury…maybe it’s because he was already established as black in the Ultimates Universe in the comics…or because it’s Samuel L. Jackson…*shrugs*
Hell, Sam Wilson, Falcon, went through this when he became the new Captain America in the comics. Guys, it’s the Falcon. Cap’s known him for decades. He’s in the movies. You just saw him in Ant-Man. Ease up! (On a side note, during that Falcon scene, I wasn’t sure whether to be laughing at or feeling sorry for the poor guy, though there really was no other hero that could happen to other than him, so…) No doubt the new Hulk will go through the same thing. …Look it up.
And then there’s the whole thing where Hollywood has progressed from making Germany the bad guys, to China and Russia, to vaguely Middle Eastern (because it’s the 21st century and you can’t be completely overt with your racism anymore), and back to Russia again (And isn’t Hollywood happy, no more racism complaints…eh, there’ll still be some anyway). It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure if it’s progressive or racist to make the main bad guy of your film coloured…but, as far as I can tell, there aren’t that many coloured main bad guys in films (I only know of a few, including various Samuel L. Jackson roles), they’re usually the henchmen, so it’s probably progressive.
I think about a quarter of the reason they went with Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek into Darkness (Yes, I know, not a superhero movie but I’m making a point) is because they were afraid that if they made him Indian (the country, not Native Americans) like in the show, where he was played by a Mexican, they would get accusations of racism from Islamic Indians since , you know, there’s that whole flying machine crashing into buildings scene and the fact that Khan in the film is a metaphor for terrorism which is mainly seen by Americans as related to Muslims in some form or another. …The rest of the reason for Cumberbatch is just that he was/ is still very popular. And while there is a reason in the tie in comics why he looks the way he does, not everyone reads the comics so it doesn’t make sense to them.
Also, never mention Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange around my friends. Some were hoping for a more Asian or Middle Eastern or another ethnicity version and got Cumberbatch instead. No doubt they are further outraged that they made the actually Asian Ancient One white, though he is a lady now so kudos for some progress. They didn’t just make him a white guy. Plus, the main bad guy is black, not a white guy from Transylvania. That counts for something, right? …Right?
But I’ve already gone through the rant and I don’t need it again. The only reason I don’t mind is because Strange is white in the comics so it’s not white washing. Would I have minded if they made him something else? No, not at all. I’d have welcomed it. I’m just not as outraged as my friends.
On that note: yes, there are far too many straight white cis guy actors with roles than people of colour, women, trans, and gay people and that needs to change. I started that rant in the last part and I’m gonna finish it up here. It’s not THAT hard to find actors who aren’t the default. There are just as many good non straight white cis guy actors and actresses as there are otherwise. You just need to stop putting ‘hot white guy/ girl’ on the call sheet. Melinda May from Agents of SHIELD was supposed to be called Althea Rice until Ming-Na Wen was cast and they made her Asian-American. This is NOT THAT HARD!!!
(On a side note, Wen also voices Mulan in Disney properties….yes, your badass SHIELD Agent is literally Mulan. Let that sink in. Also, two of the lead females on SHIELD are Asian-American on a team about half made up by women. …Yet another reason why SHIELD is awesome. ….Wow, I’m getting off track.)
Hell, look at the current line up of Power Rangers on Dino Charge, it’s (as far as I can tell from the opening since I haven’t actually seen it yet so correct me if I’m wrong) one of the most racially diverse of all the previous Power Ranger teams, 3/5 of the original team being people of colour…with only 1/5 being a girl, but they change that later on from what I hear. Plus, a Latino lead. Haven’t had that before in Power Rangers….and that I checked, the lead is usually either white or black with the one exception being Mystic Force, whose red ranger was Lebanese Australian. Also, look at that last line, “usually either White OR Black” Well done Saban.
See, TV is doing better than movies in terms of diversity and I didn’t even mention the cartoon about the lesbian gemstones from space mostly voiced by people of colour. (That’s something for another day, but you should be watching Steven Universe. It’s amazing.)
So, why isn’t Hollywood getting what TV is slowly getting? Well, TV is cheaper than movies. This is changing, what with more media being made by streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, but TV still comes ahead, especially on those streaming sites. Investors take more of a risk on movies than TV. Canned TV shows can be salvaged, movies, for the most part, can’t. Therefore, investors stick with something they know will work, straight cis white guys with vaguely christian beliefs. It’s the same thing that gave us all these sequels and remakes. This is slowly changing, but not fast enough and I think Marvel can help give it a good push forward.
Marvel is what every action film is trying to copy these days. Why? Because Marvel works. Marvel makes money. Both critics and audiences love Marvel. The only ones who don’t are the Academy and people who don’t like special effects like my dad….we’re working on it.
Who knows, maybe around the time Captain Marvel comes out we’ll be hearing the plan for Phase 4 and heros like Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan), White Tiger, She-Hulk, Nova (Sam Alexander), Spider Man (Miles Morales) America Chavez, Squirrel Girl, Blade, Wasp, Misty Knight, etc. will have their own movies (Yes, I know Blade had his own movies. We can reboot him! And Misty Knight will be in Luke Cage Netflix show). Maybe I’ll finally have that Incredible Hulk sequel I’ve been waiting for. Hey, a girl can dream.
…Now I’m gonna go daydream about Ms Marvel and Iron Man teaming up to save Bruce Banner from being shot into space by General Ross and the world governments.
Black Panther premieres in theatres on July 6, 2018. I’m going. How about you?
(Photo via Marvel Studios)