Where the Black Women At? A Message for Marvel

  |  Topic: Entertainment, Media Analysis, Movies, Opinion
By Kenneth Franklin

Something beautiful happened earlier this summer: Comic book fans everywhere were finally blessed with a teaser for Marvel’s “Black Panther” starring Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan.

Understandably, the internet went insane on June 9 after finally seeing the nation of Wakanda in live action, accompanied with shots of the Dora Milaje, the all female royal Wakandan guard. And I’ll admit, so did I, but not only was I excited for Black Panther, I was also excited to finally see women of color represented in a film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the MCU.

Now for those of you who are probably thinking, “What about Halle Berry as Storm?” Well, that’s actually not the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Storm is a character from the X-Men franchise, and those film rights belong to 20th Century Fox; whereas, The Avengers are owned by Disney. As one Youtube commenter pointed out, “There’s more women of color in this trailer, than in all 15 current MCU movies combined…wow.” That’s just one of the sad truths of the greater superhero movie genre that no one has seemed to mention until recent years.

Fortunately, other movies like “Spider-Man Homecoming” (opening Friday July 7) are taking steps forward in the necessary representation of black women in superhero culture, as both of the leading women in the film are black, and the cast in itself is very diverse. I’m excited, because it’s about d*mn time Marvel has finally acknowledged the existence of black women.

While, yes, I am ecstatic about black women finally being canon in the MCU, I can’t help but feel that there have been multiple times where the insertion of a black woman would’ve made perfect sense. Couldn’t Marvel have at least given James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) a black girlfriend or thrown in a few high-ranking black SHIELD agents?

I don’t know, man, the exclusion of black women in these movies sometimes feels intentional, and I can’t just overlook that. You know it’s jacked up when a movie set in high school has more diversity than 15 movies encompassing various parts of the world and outer space. Come on Marvel, do you really expect me to believe that there are no black women outside of Wakanda and Peter Parker’s high school?

But I will give credit where credit is due: Choosing Ryan Coogler to direct “Black Panther” was the smartest thing they’ve done right after they cast an actual teenager to play Peter Parker. Based on his interview with Cinemablend last year, you can really tell Coogler is excited about making this film, and I thank Marvel Studios for not “nerfing” or downplaying the power, intelligence and blackness of Wakanda.

While this certainly doesn’t make up for the past 15 movies, two phases, and nine years of alienating a huge portion of your audience, I’m glad the change is happening now, rather than later in the dystopian future of 2025. And while I do acknowledge that Marvel is trying to emulate an era of comics where attempts at “diversity” were not commonplace, leaving out black women is still, and always will be, complete and utter bullsh*t. Marvel, do better.

Kenneth is 17, a rising senior at Druid Hills High School, and is tired of seeing white leads in Marvel movies.

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