More diverse superheroes are long overdue

The other week, I saw the highly anticipated “Black Panther.” My mom and I made an event out of it and both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. After the movie, my mom commented about how there seemed to be quite a few children in the theater. And she was right – there were an unusual amount of children in that theater. But I wasn’t all that surprised.

The only other time I saw that many children in a PG-13 superhero movie was on the night of the “Wonder Woman” premiere last June. It makes sense – people want to bring their children into a theater that features diverse representations of what a hero looks like because children aren’t only male and white. It’s hard to see yourself succeeding unless you can see others who look like you succeeding as well. Growing up, all I had were the Spiderman and Captain America movies. These are not bad movies, but it’s hard to relate to them as a young girl. I can only imagine that people of color face the same issues concerning Marvel and D.C. films.

Therefore, I think it’s well past time that these huge blockbuster films feature women and people of color as the protagonists. White males have had their time to shine, and now it’s time to step aside.

Huffington Post recently reported that “Black Panther” has passed the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office numbers. This makes the film “the United States’ ninth domestically highest-grossing film of all time, and had the second-largest four-day domestic opening weekend.”

“It’s well past time that these huge blockbuster films feature women and people of color as the protagonists.” – Megan Hussey ’20

These statistics challenge the notion that films with predominantly black casts don’t sell. I think America and the world have made clear ever since the film’s release that a person of color in the lead of a superhero movie was long overdue.

“Wonder Woman” didn’t quite reach the billion mark, but had similarly impressive turnouts. NPR reported that “Wonder Woman” broke the box office record for film directed by a woman, totalling $800 million by the end of summer 2017. The director, Patty Jenkins, is only the second woman to single-handedly direct any Hollywood live-action movie with a production budget over $100 million.

These numbers don’t lie – people are ready and excited for change in our heroes on the big screen. It shouldn’t have taken this long and now that it is here, it shouldn’t be any different.

Marvel still has yet to make a solo woman superhero movie, despite fans begging for a Black Widow story. Instead, they continue ahead with the Avengers film series, putting Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and other white men in the spotlight. Sure, Black Widow and other women are on the outskirts of the film’s plot line, but it’s not enough for me to really believe the industry wants to make steps towards permanent change.

It seems Marvel still has some ways to go when featuring female leads, even though they broke history with “Black Panther.”

Fans don’t have to wait long though – Captain Marvel, set to be released in March of 2019, will feature Marvel’s first leading woman portrayed by Brie Larson.

This trend isn’t only present in superhero movies. Since 1929, the first Academy Award ceremony, only one woman has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director. This past year, Jordan Peele, with “Get Out,” was only the fifth black director nominated for the Best Director category.

Hollywood remains one of the most white-male dominated industries in the country.

It seems the problem stems not from what the people are arguing for, but the fact that there are few people behind the scenes in Hollywood fighting for diverse representations of protagonists. As more people of color and women get more involved in the industry at all levels, I’m confident the change will only continue to grow. In the meantime, all we can do is let the money talk.

Megan Hussey ’20 (hussey2@stolaf.edu) is from Edina, Minn. She majors in psychology and women’s and gender studies.

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