The Positives and Negatives to Marvel’s Minority Sidekicks
Marvel has been praised for their diverse casting in the MCU. Marvel does enlist actors/actresses of all backgrounds in their films and television shows, but people of color and women are rarely in the forefront of their films. From War Machine to Falcon to Heimdall to Black Widow, minority actors and actresses are being cast but in a reserve role. The depiction of minority characters as supplementary heroes to the white male hero in these films can be viewed in a positive or negative light.
The partnering of white heroes and black heroes can serve as a strong opponent of segregation. Up until the early 2000’s interracial relationships were rarely viewed as appropriate for television or films. This subliminally promoted self segregation and even in 2017 children are advised by their parents which children are appropriate to hangout with based upon their race. Marvel is fighting that by creating close friendships between heroes of color and white heroes. In their flagship film, Iron Man, we are immediately introduced to the bromance of Tony Stark and Rhodey. This was the beginning of the trend that continued with Captain America and Falcon, Ant-Man and Luis as well as Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo to name a few. With Marvel producing family friendly films, parents are all but forced to expose their children to the interracial friendships shown in many of the films. This is a powerful tool because if racism or segregation is preached in a household, children are able to see their favorite heroes being accepting of all races.
While there is a positive spin on this, there is also a negative one. Minorities are being repeatedly depicted as supplementary to the white male hero. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier we are introduced to Falcon who is a huge fan of Captain America. Falcon proves to be an asset in helping Cap take down Hydra, but is also depicted as much weaker and inferior than Captain America. The same can be said for War Machine or Rhody who is the only casualty of the airport battle in Captain America: Civil War. Even the minority characters who are powerful do not get the screen time to display their power like Idris Elba’s Heimdall. Heimdall is said to be one of the most powerful beings in all of Asgard, but other than a few small scenes Heimdall is never an integral part of the films. This casting of inferior minority characters can subliminally suggest that whites are better than blacks or men better than women, even at being a hero.
This argument will be met with people casting doubt suggesting that Marvel is just sticking to the canon and that they are giving us minorities such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel. It is agreed that Black Panther and Captain Marvel are both welcomed additions as strong minority leads, but it has taken ten years for the MCU to feature a strong minority lead. It also has to be remembered that most of these characters were created in a time when racial differences were socially promoted and for most of these characters, their color and gender does not play a huge role in who they are. Looking forward, the recent trend in Phase three has promised more diversity in the forefront giving us Captain Marvel and Black Panther. Rumors of a possible Namor film also give hope for more diverse characters in the lead and not to the side.
What do you think? Has Marvel done their part when it comes to diversity, or do you believe they can do more? Let us know in the comments section below!