OPINION: Marvel Studios needs to further diversify its characters

By Frank Portillo

Marvel Studios needs to continue its trend of diversifying its roster of characters and actors. What started off as a handful of traditional white male superhero characters has evolved to include more female and minorities in respectable roles.

It began with the casting of Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury, a character who up until that point was traditionally caucasian. Jackson changed the character who was portrayed by David Hasselhoff in the 1998 film “Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

The next step was the involvement of the Black Widow character in “Iron Man 2.” Played by Scarlett Johansson, the film established her as a force to be reckoned with, but still struggled with over sexualizing her. The shots of her in action focused more on her physical beauty and curvaceous body as opposed to just treating her like her male counterparts.

The trend continued through Joss Whedon’s “Avengers” film, where she is the only female on the team. In some of the artwork and posters, she is posed provocatively while all of the male characters are posed as heroic and strong figures.

This prompted an artist to draw the Avengers in reversed roles, with the male characters showing off their bodies while Black Widow was given a normal pose. The artwork, posted on Reddit, makes it clear that the studio was having difficulty portraying the character who has now evolved into somewhat of a maternal figure on the team in the latest “Avengers” film.

Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely seem to have understood the importance of diversity through their portrayal of Agent Peggy Carter, who is played by Hayley Atwell. Aside from being Captain America’s love interest, she was a strong female military leader in World War 2.

Despite the snide remarks that she would get from males, she was established as a respectable female character who didn’t take crap from anyone and wasn’t faced with being portrayed in a sexual manner.

Since phase one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which culminated in 2012’s “Avengers,” the entire landscape has changed. Not only are women finding better representation in the biggest film franchises of all-time, but minorities are starting to be represented in respectable fashion as well.

“Black Panther” changed the game with a stellar cast consisting of all African-American actors, except for Martin Freeman. Ryan Coogler created a film that transcended being a simple comic book film. “Black Panther” has so much substance to it as a social commentary, showing audiences images that have never been seen before.

One of the greatest shots in the film is at the start. The scene takes place in Oakland, California. African American kids are playing basketball, using a makeshift hoop, watching in awe as the Black Panther’s ship takes off above them. Coogler was given the opportunity to show audiences something that had never been seen before.

Marvel Studios needs to keep pushing the envelope. With “Captain Marvel” coming out next year, the studio is finally releasing their first female-driven superhero movie. Behind the DC Extended Universe, Marvel Studios really needs to deliver on “Captain Marvel”, given how amazing “Wonder Woman” was.

Aside from delivering on this film, they also need to branch out and integrate even more of a diverse character pool.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said that a “Ms. Marvel” movie was in the works after the release of “Captain Marvel.” This is exciting news because Ms. Marvel, also known as Kamala Khan, is a Pakistani-American female who holds the title as first Muslim superhero to ever be the main character in her own book. Her book is so fantastically written by her co-creator G. Willow Wilson, who stays true to the traditions and culture that comes with such a diverse character.

Fans should be excited for this news especially considering the fact that Riz Ahmed and Mindy Kaling have expressed interest in writing for the project. Hopefully this leads Marvel to have an all-female superhero driven franchise.

Marvel Studios certainly has enough characters to comprise a worthy team as it is. These new additions would simply be icing on the cake.

With the newfounded relationship between Marvel Studios and Sony, one can only hope that they can integrate a character like the Miles Morales’ Spiderman. As a child of an African-American father and Puerto Rican mother, there are so many other cultures to be explored in the MCU.

Currently the highest grossing Marvel movie, even above “Avengers,” “Black Panther” is proof that fans want something more than the traditional white male superhero.

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