The Marvel Cinematic Universe and how it is Accepting Diversity


Nolan Chadwick

Marvel has been making blockbuster films since 2008, and now with Disney plus more people than ever are able to enjoy the films. It also offers the company more opportunities to experiment with new characters and concepts.

Nolan Chadwick, Entertainment Editor

Marvel for the last several decades has been at the forefront of the comic book industry, and ever since 2008, has also been producing blockbuster after blockbuster each year in their ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Every film had a stellar cast and incredible computer effects, but in the first few years, all of the films were centered around white male superheroes. 

For a long time there were no female heroes that stood out and the black or asian and other characters of color were minimal. But that started to change as time went on, specifically with films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel.

 “I think that in terms of race,” said Isabella McMullen, a freshman and comic fan, “[ Marvel ] has done an excellent job with adding characters, because all of the African American and just African characters are really interesting and complex. I think that is a problem in a lot of media, where they will just have a person of color on screen and they won’t give them problems, they won’t give them issues.”

For instance the first black superhero to appear on screen in the MCU was War Machine/James Rhodes. His character of War Machine was teased in 2008’s Iron Man, but never actually put on the suit until the sequel, and was really just there to move the plot forward.

Also in Iron Man 2, we see Marvel’s first female superhero, Black Widow, and director Nick fury who becomes another very popular black superhero.

The second black character to hit the MCU’s big screen was Heimdall, the all seeing protector of the bifrost in the Thor franchise. However, the Heimdall we see in the comics was different from the on screen Heimdall because in the comics he was white, and in the movies he is black.

“The actor who portrays [Heimdall] in the MCU (Idris Elba) is a black man ,” Austin Richardson, a student teacher at YCHS, said, “and the character from the comics and the broader Norse Mythology is white. I think making minor changes to casting such as that are good and should be encouraged because it is finding ways to make the movies more representative of who is seeing the movie and that is a good thing.”

The same happened with Nick Fury, who was originally portrayed as white in the comics, and in the movies is black.

The Marvel character, Black Panther, was introduced to the comics in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. (VCU Libraries)

But in 2016, we finally saw the Black Panther, one of the first black superheroes in comics make his way onto the big screen in the movie Captain America: Civil War. Prince T’challa was the prince of a fictional country called Wakanda, located in Africa. When his father is murdered, he joins the hunt for the supposed killer.

In the year 2018, the Black Panther got to star in his own movie of the same name, which became one of the highest grossing Marvel films, and the 12th highest grossing film of all time. Unfortunately, Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played the Black Panther/T’challa, passed away. There is quite a bit of speculation about how the company will continue with the sequel that is planned for 2022.

 “I think because of the actors passing away,” McMullen said, “and him not being able to be in the movies anymore, I would love to see Shuri ( T’challa’s sister) take up the mantle as Black Panther. I would love her to be Black Panther.”

“ I think it would be an amazing development for her character because everyone loves her. She’s funny, and she’s kind. She’s intelligent. And she’s young too, which is really cool to see a super young superhero that’s not Peter Parker.”

As for female superheroes included in the movies, aside from Black Widow and Shuri who were mentioned previously, there have been quite a few, including Gamora, Valkyrie, Wanda Maximoff, Wasp, and Okoye.

The most notable though is Captain Marvel, who starred in her own movie in 2019. The Captain Marvel movie was the first Marvel movie with a female lead actress. The film was essentially like one of the original marvel marvel origin stories that they did for Thor and Captain America, and will be getting a sequel in the near future.

This movie has opened the door to more female lead Marvel movies, like the upcoming Black Widow film. And with Disney+, Marvel will be introducing us to even more female heroes like She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel.

In some of Marvel’s upcoming phase four films we will even be seeing more asian characters, in the Shang Chi movie, along with our first LGBTQ and disabled heros. On a whole, Marvel has been becoming a more diverse franchise, that through their ever growing roster of heroes, has been able to appeal to more and more groups. 

“If I was in charge of the MCU,” said Richardson

, “I would use the movies to promote more variety of stars and try to make it as inclusive as possible. Whether it’s through race, sexual orientation, age, disabled in some way or something else. I also wouldn’t keep hiring big name movie stars for these movies. We need to get fresh blood into the movie business overall and super big action movies are a great way to create new opportunities for new, promising actors who need a big break in their field to get some notoriety and build their popularity.”