By: Olivia Baumhoer
I’ll start off by saying that I’m slightly biased when it comes to talking about superhero movies. I’ve been a Marvel fangirl ever since I stepped out of the theater in 2011 after seeing “Captain America: The First Avenger.” I obsessively followed the release of every movie and like many Marvel fans bawled my eyes out watching the credits of “Avengers: Endgame” as we said goodbye to the original cast of 6 that formed the Avengers back in 2012.
These movies are the “Star Wars” of our generation: capturing everyone with fascinating characters, thrilling fight scenes, and touching emotional moments that bonded nerds and fans alike. “Avengers: Endgame” was truly the end of an incredible era. But even though it was hard to say goodbye to characters we’d grown up seeing on screen, a new era was being born before our very eyes. An era in which Marvel would help bring everyone to the big screen.
Though the original Avengers sparked the superhero revolution in the film industry, representation was definitely lacking. Among the 6 original Avengers, all but one were male and all of them were white. Marvel did slowly start introducing more diversity as the cinematic universe went on and gained popularity with having strong supporting characters such as Peggy Carter in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and War Machine introduced in “Iron Man 2”. But just like the title implies, they were merely there to support the main hero. No woman or person of color had their own movie where they were the star of the show. That was until 2018 when Marvel released “Black Panther”. It destroyed the box office and earned a mind blowing $202 million in its opening weekend, made $1.3 billion dollars worldwide, and is now the 10th highest grossing film in history. A little over a year later in March of 2019, Marvel released the highly anticipated “Captain Marvel.” The excitement was not only because it was the last Marvel movie before “Endgame”, but it also featured Marvel’s first female leading lady, Carol Danvers. It made $1.1 billion dollars worldwide and took social media by storm with videos and pictures of young girls dressed as their favorite superhero who looked just like them.
These two movies ignited the call for more representation in movies and gave fans the answer to help fix the lack of diversity in films: money and social media. As much as I would like to think that the film industry is making these changes out of the kindness of its heart, it’s simply not the case. It is doing it because film executives know it’s what people will want to see and more importantly spend their money on. I can name a handful of people who went to see “Black Panther” multiple times not only because they enjoyed it, but because they wanted this movie to be successful in hopes of paving the way for more movies of its kind. They knew that if they wanted to see more representation on the screen, the box office numbers would help Marvel see how many fans wanted to see more diversity in its films. The box office is the major way many companies tell if a movie was successful and base those numbers on whether movies deserve a sequel. So the best way to make sure equal representation continues to grow and expand for women and people of color is to support these films in any way you can whether it be going to see the movie or buying merchandise. It’s the best way for companies to see that people want more representation. And if you can’t necessarily afford to spend money on endless movies and novelty shirts, let your voice be heard on social media. Social media has become such a powerful tool in connecting the public to companies and letting them know what they do and don’t like. It even caused an entire movie to be postponed because they had to change the look of an animated character after the internet tore it to shreds. Though this was an extreme example, it just showcases the power of social media platforms.
The film industry is finally taking steps in the right direction towards equal representation. The shield and title of Captain America is getting passed on to a black man, the next installment in the Thor series is going to focus on Female Thor and will have the first openly LGBTQ character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Valkyrie, and much more to come in the future. But to see more movies with a diverse cast, we need to continue to support those movies both online and with our wallets. It’s so important for people especially younger kids to see themselves as the star and to believe that could be them one day. Marvel is continuing to make sure that everyone of every walk of life can see themselves as the superhero.