Marvel has been making waves this last week with the revelation of a new Female Thor, as well as the mantle of Captain America being taken up by black superhero Sam Wilson. It's great to see increased diversity from them - but when will we see this sort of thing in Marvel Movies?
Sometimes it can be difficult to critique the MCU - after all, even all these years after the original Iron Man, it's still baffling and spectacular that we've had a consistent stream of superhero movies that don't just work (a success story in itself), but are global megahits. Who would've thought a decade ago that some of the highest grossing films in cinematic history would be about Iron Man or The Avengers? This success has allowed Marvel to even get a little more wacky with some of its output, something most comic book fans feared would kill their success with mainstream audiences, but look at where we are: Casting and production are under way on movies for Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, hell there's a Guardians of the Galaxy movie out in two weeks! That's ridiculous to comprehend even now, in the light of Marvel's seemingly neverending cavalcade of movie hits.
So why is it we can get a space movie starring a talking raccoon and his sentient tree friend, but not one with a female lead?
Look at Marvel's movie slate for the next couple of years, as they head into 'Phase 3':
- Captain America 3
- Thor 3
- Doctor Strange
- The Avengers 3 (unconfirmed as of yet, but let's be honest: It will almost definitely happen)
None of those films will have female leads, and there's a very good chance that none of them will have non-white leads (who knows, Steven Strange could be cast as non-white - what's to say that he has to be Caucasian?) either. There's still plenty of time for Marvel to announce a curveball for that lineup, but if this is it - and it's admittedly a big if - are we really looking to 2017, 2018 a decade into Marvel's movie plans, without a single movie based around a female character?
It's not like Marvel doesn't have a stock of diverse characters to build on in the MCU either - for women on screen, we've had Scarlett Johansson's excellent portrayal of Black Widow, and then there's solid supporting characters like Maria Hill, Lady Sif, Peggy Carter and Pepper Potts. Agents of SHIELD, for all the trouble it had in its early stages, can't be faulted for having half of its lead ensemble made up of female characters. Minority characters are unfortunately rarer - James Rhodes has been a long stalwart of the MCU thanks to his role in the Iron Man films, and then there's recent successes with Sam Wilson/Falcon in theatres and Agent Triplett on TV - but that doesn't discount Marvels huge catalogue of non-white comic book characters they could choose from (Black Panther is an almost constant rumour for his own movie, for example), or the fact there are at least some already there. But so far all of these characters have been supporting roles. Black Widow has reportedly come so close to a movie following the character's success on screen - Nicole Perlman, who wrote the original script for Guardians of the Galaxy, got the job on the strength of a Black Widow standalone movie script she submitted to Marvel's writing program - yet still, it's 2014 and Marvel have shown they're willing to take some pretty big risks with their movies. Why haven't they taken the risk of making one with a female lead?
That's not to say there hasn't been some progress. Peggy Carter is getting her own Television series, and both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage will be starring in shows for Netflix. Anthony Mackie's largely popular appeal in The Winter Soldier - as well as the actor's own infectious enthusiasm for playing a black superhero on the big screen - could lead to more from The Falcon in the future. Agents of SHIELD will carry on with Agent Triplett's promotion to a main cast member, and they could even be joined by Maria Hill in the future. And we already know that the big leads of Marvel's franchises won't be around forever: their replacements could expand on what Marvel is doing in their comic books by allowing these diverse supporting characters to take up the lead's mantle. Could Don Cheadle's Rhodie succeed Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man? Maybe Jaime Alexander could be found worthy of Mjolnir's grip when Chris Hemsworth tires of the God of Thunder - and although it's pretty likely that Sebastian Stan will be taking up Captain America's shield when Chris Evans bows out, Mackie's statements earlier this year that he's signed up for as many Marvel movies as he could, combined with last night's decision for the Comic Book Sam Wilson to replace Steve Rogers as Cap, could mean that the same happens in the MCU.
The opportunities are there for Marvel to start taking a stand for diversity within their film opportunities. And with SDCC next week, there could be a few movie announcements from them that surprise us - perhaps that long-awaited Black Widow movie could finally happen, or perhaps a film for Carol Danvers' Captain Marvel. Maybe we'll get the Black Panther rumour train going again. It's great to see Marvel promoting diversity with some of their biggest characters in the comic book world, but as the MCU expands and takes more and more chances with its eclectic source material, it's about time to see it happening there too.