I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have faithfully stood in line since 2008, donning a classic Marvel t-shirt of course, waiting to dive into their latest on screen masterpiece. Like most geeks across the globe, I freaked out in anticipation over the announcement of the film, Captain America: Civil War, and have gleefully been getting my #TeamCap gear ready for opening night ever since. Marvel then changed the game and announced their historic deal with Sony, officially making Spider-Man a part of the MCU. I joined in on the hype, I blissfully tweeted and pools of happy tears fell at the thought of finally seeing the Web-Crawler stand alongside the Avengers.
After the shock of this massive deal began to fade, I quickly realized that Marvel had the opportunity to really change the game. This was an opportunity to finally include brown and black characters in main roles. A chance to take a risk and go with Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino Spider-Man, instead of re-telling (or re-re-telling) the outdated, overplayed story of a white Peter Parker. Like I said, I truly love the MCU but witnessing the choices made at Marvel over the past couple of months has made me come to the sad realization that Marvel does not love people like me.
Choice 1: Casting Tom Holland
No shade thrown Tom Holland’s way, fans that have seen his performance seem pleased. But just imagine a major Marvel film with an Afro-Latino teen hero from New York. Imagine him navigating through a world that fears both heroes and people of color. Imagine the struggles his community and family experience, from police brutality to racism to struggling to find an identity. Now imagine what that image would have meant for fans of color.
Back in 2015, the mastermind behind the MCU, Kevin Feige, spoke with MTV news about casting Peter and Miles in the upcoming Spidey film:
“No, I mean we always thought it should be Peter,” Feige said. “We’ve never seen the MCU version of Peter Parker, and it felt like we needed to see that first. Miles, I think, is awesome,” Feige continued. “There are opportunities for him, for sure, if this all works.”
“If this all works.” I get it, I really do. Peter is the original Spider-Man and the desire to include the original character in the MCU, despite two mixed interpretations of the character within the last ten years, must be strong. But “originality” did not stop Marvel from revamping Ironman, Star Lord, the Maximoff twins, and Antman. The casting of a white Spider-Man perpetuates the racist idea of white people coming first and building something for people of color to join. The whole MCU has been multiple “risks” built around white characters, supposedly setting the stage for real diversity later down the line. Eight years later and I’m still waiting.
Marvel could have depicted well-rounded characters of color instead of making fans experience the traditional (and pretty basic at this point) white story of Peter Parker. Choosing Morales to portray Marvel’s most popular hero would have shifted the current conversation on race and gave fans of color a character they could relate to, and more importantly look up to. Morales’ Spider-Man would have also allowed Marvel to add depth to their films by exploring the internal conflicts of a young hero trying to save a world that constantly destroys his people.
Choice 2: Pushing back Black Panther
The deal between Marvel and Sony didn’t just mean that Spider-Man would be joining the MCU, it also meant that other upcoming films would be re-arranged to make room for the web-head. Marvel moved the release date of Black Panther, the only MCU film with a non-white lead, to 2018 to accommodate another white male character. Fans of color have waited eight long years and have supported twelve films led by white males, and have to wait even longer to finally see themselves represented in lead roles. This choice reminds fans of color that brown and black fans are not a priority to Marvel. It reminds us that our characters are expendable. It reminds us that our stories are not worth telling.
Choice 3: “Diversity” in Spider-Man: Homecoming
Recently Marvel casted a slew of young actors and actresses of color, including Zendaya and Laura Harrier, in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Just like Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and Don Cheadle’s War Machine, these characters will exist solely to add to their white hero’s story arc. They will not receive the character development that Holland’s character will receive and will more than likely not be involved in Avengers: Infinity War I or II. Fans who are hoping to see the interactions between Miles Morales and Kamala Khan jump from the current Spider-Man comics to the silver screen will have to painfully endure another white character evolving from his interactions in a “diverse” film. Once again, Marvel is reminding its fans of color that we are not worthy of donning the cape, just at playing the sidekick.
I really do love Marvel, and have ever since I was a child. Spider-Man gave me a dream of becoming a hero and helped me get through tough teenage years. However, Marvel’s recent choices regarding characters of color (the white washing in Dr Strange included) continues to exclude me from their party. As an Afro-Latino, I wish I grew up with a Spider-Man who looked like the people in my community and it hurts that Marvel has continued to deny young kids of color that experience. Civil War is fast approaching, and I have to make a difficult choice. Do I spend my hard earned money to support a company that I love with all my heart despite the harm it commits against its fans of color or do I take a stand and sit this one out?