How Diverse is the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The Movies: Phase One

The Doctor Strange controversy — combined with the push to cast an Asian American actor as the title character Danny Rand aka Iron Fist —  has been buzzing for the last couple months. With the release of the first official trailer for Doctor Strange, Marvel’s next would-be blockbuster movie after Captain America: Civil War, the controversy has reached an all time high. So much so that a Marvel spokesperson gave this statement to Mashable regarding the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange:

Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.

Is this statement true though? Has Marvel Studios really pushed diversity in their movies? Have they increased the visibility of marginalized peoples in their film franchise or television properties? Has Marvel Studios subverted stereotypes? Enough to supposedly excuse recent controversies surrounding Doctor Strange and Iron Fist?

To be sure, we have to take a deeper look into the overall universe of the MCU. From all the phases of movies, to the ABC and Netflix television shows. We have to look into the MCU, bit by bit, and break everything down to to the sum of its parts. Marvel Studios says the films have a strong history of diversity, that the MCU has a “richly diverse cast” in the film franchises. But do the movies truly? Today, we’ll begin with Phase One of the MCU, which kickstarted the juggernaut franchise into what it is today.

The official Marvel Cinematic Universe — in that, movies owned by Marvel Studios, and later Disney, not including anything owned by 20th Century FOX, Sony, Columbia, New Line Cinema, Artisian Entertainment, or Universal Studios began in 2008 with the release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.

Iron Man starred Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Leslie Bibb in leading roles. The other top billed cast included Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg, Bill Smitrovich, Sayed Badreya, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Peter Billingsley, and Tim Guinee. Out of a cast of fourteen actors, Howard, Toub, Tahir, and Badreya are the only actors of color who have major speaking roles.

Pictured: Faran Tahir, Terrance Howard, Sayed Badreya, and Shaun Toub in Iron Man

Terrence Howard played James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Tony Stark’s best friend, a pilot in the US Airforce, and an aerospace engineer. Shaun Toub played Yinsen, the kindly captive that aids in Tony’s escape from their mutual captors. Yinsin dies after helping Tony escape, and his death is used as further motivation for Tony to become Iron Man. Tahir and Badreya both played terrorists who capture and torture Tony and Yinsin.

The reason to bring in how these four men — the only four men of color in the entire film with any sort of major speaking role — are portrayed in the narrative is to address how the MCU films have “departed” from stereotypes, or rather, haven’t. Iron Man is still one of Marvel Studios’ highest grossing movies to date. Iron Man, it can be argued, is the reason the MCU exists. The success of Iron Man, and by extension Tony Stark, was key in building the overall success of the MCU. It is one of the staples of Marvel’s cinematic universe, and in the film only one of the four characters of color comes out well.

Yinsin is martyred, playing into the “good person of color” rhetoric as he is the only Middle Eastern character (specifically Iranian) portrayed in a positive manner. One that is climaxed by his willing sacrifice to save the white hero of Tony Stark. The other Middle Eastern characters, Raza (played by Pakistani American actor Tahir) and Abu Bakaar (played by Egyptian American actor Badreya) are terrorists. The other Middle Eastern characters in Iron Man are either victims or terrorists meant to be saved or stopped by Iron Man.

Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart in Iron Man

Rhodey is the only character of color in the film that is positively portrayed and a hero in his own right. While he doesn’t don his own superhero suit in the film, he’s still portrayed as a competent and well respected Air Force officer and trusted friend of Tony. Rhodey is portrayed as a heroic figure in Tony’s own life, and a deeply loyal friend. The women in the film — of which there are only two and who both are white — have some struggles in their specific storylines, however.

Specifically the character of Christine Everhart, who is positioned in the narrative to be an personal antagonist of both Tony and Pepper. Though her part is small, her role embodies a few troubling tropes and negative stereotypes about women.

Christine openly challenges Tony Stark’s military and business practices as a journalist before falling into bed with him. This would be fine since it’s clearly a consensual encounter, but then we met Pepper Potts. While Christine is seen wearing nothing but a shirt that’s mostly open buttoned, just covering enough of her underwear, Pepper is in a sensible business suit and tied back hair. They are visual foils of each other that’s emphasized further by the following dialogue:

The “trash” Pepper is referring to is Christine. An obvious subtle dig at her supposed promiscuity. The conversation is designed to showcase that Christine is “trash” while Pepper is the good woman in Tony’s life. She’s respectable, in both her dress, mannerisms, and professionalism, while Christine is not. Pepper judges Tony for his outlandish behavior, but she never outright slutshames him for sleeping with women as she does with Christine.

Tony also belittles Christine throughout the rest of the film. Christine is made to be a devious, sexy vixen compared to the classy, and business minded Pepper. She embodies various negative tropes such as: Fanservice Extra and Hot Scoop. Both tropes reduce Christine to a sexual object, while other tropes she embodies are Romantic False Lead, since she’s positioned as a “bad girl” to Pepper’s “good girl.”

Christine in Iron Man isn’t positioned to be a woman who the audience is made to see as deserving of respect. This is further emphasized whenever she interacts with Pepper or Tony, which isn’t often. Each time in the film, they further disrespect her. This only makes her role that much more troubling.

Terrence Howard as James Rhodes and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

With only two women, Christine’s role proves Iron Man as a film relied on some frustrating sexist stereotypes to emphasize how Pepper was a strong and capable female character. Ironic, considering Christine is the one to tell Tony about his weapons being sold without his permission, but since her main characterization in the film is to be seen as a catty, trashy reporter with no ethics, this noteworthy scene is often overlooked in favor of showcasing her as a one-dimensional antagonist. There is nothing wrong with Christine being developed as an amoral journalist, female characters can be antagonists and well done antagonists at that. Christine isn’t either. She’s not an interesting amoral journalist, Christine is the “trash” Pepper has to take out after a night with Tony.

Pepper Potts, at least, is shown to be vital to the plot and has a strong relationship with Tony. She’s showcased to be more than a simple assistant, but rather a good friend and confidant of Tony’s. Pepper also aids in defeating the final villain in the climax of the film. Iron Man also resists temptation by giving into Tony and Pepper entering a romantic relationship before either are truly ready.

That same year, The Incredible Hulk was also released. Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, Christina Cabot, Peter Mensah, Lou Ferrigno, Paul Soles, Débora Nascimento, Greg Bryk, and Chris Owens as the top billed cast. That’s thirteen main cast members with varying levels of importance within the film.

Obviously the leads of the film are Norton, Tyler, Roth, and Hurt who play Bruce Banner, Betty Ross, Emil Blonsky/Abomination, and General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, respectively. They take charge of the story, and have a majority of the screen time in the film. Unlike Iron Man, which had Rhodey playing a prominent role, The Incredible Hulk didn’t have one main character of color in the film who played a major leading role. In fact, the only actors of color in the entire film are Peter Mensah (Ghanaian-British) and Debora Nascimento (Brazilian) who play the small roles of General Joe Greller and Martina. Two actors of color, out of a cast of thirteen, and they don’t even play any sort of major role in the film.

Débora Nascimento as Martina in The Incredible Hulk

Martina is played up as a sexy Latina stereotype, down to needing to be saved by Bruce from being sexually assaulted by a group of Latino men. Later, when Bruce is on the run he finds himself in her apartment where he stumbles upon her half dressed. Joe Greller’s main role is bringing in the main antagonist, Emil Blonsky.

After The Incredible Hulk, Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued with Iron Man 2 in 2010. The top billed cast included fourteen actors. Of those fourteen, only one is an actor of color, the recast James Rhodes, this time played by Don Cheadle.

Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow as Rhodey and Pepper Potts in Iron Man 2

Rhodey gets the War Machine suit this movie and a piece of the superhero action that drives a majority of the plot. His friendship with Tony is mildly tested as Tony deals with his own interpersonal issues. Rhodey grows in Iron Man 2, becoming both a partner to Tony, yet also separate from him as well. He steals an Iron Man suit, and remodels it to better fit his purpose as an Air Force officer. He provides a contrast to Tony’s anti-government stance and even proves to be more heroic than Tony at one point. Similarly, Pepper also grows, gaining a new position in her life much in the same way Rhodey does. She becomes CEO of Stark Industries and proves to be a very savvy businesswoman. Pepper appears to excel at her position as CEO, and even puts her foot down in the face of Tony’s behavior removing herself from him until he can improve upon his damaging antics.

Christine Everhart, however, doesn’t fare as well as Pepper or Rhodey. One of the only three women in the film her role is small in Iron Man 2 can be summed up in this short exchange between Justin Hammer, Tony, and Pepper:

That’s it. That’s the extent of Christine’s role in Iron Man 2. To be further insulted, and disrespected in an especially sexist manner. No one shamed Tony for sleeping with her, but Christine for two movies now, has been shamed for sleeping with him. Going as far as to discredit her position as a journalist.

Which brings us to the other women in the film. Iron Man 2 features the debut of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow. While the interaction between Natasha and Pepper is nice, viewers didn’t get to see them speaking with each other alone. Pepper and Natasha apparently work well with each other, but the film doesn’t dedicate much time to developing that working relationship. Spending more time showcasing Natasha as a femme fatale. From shots that focus on her body, to being introduced by Tony zooming in on her in her underwear. 

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff in Iron Man 2

When Happy Hogan makes a series of sexist comments about Natasha’s workout routine then attempts to engage her in a boxing fight, Natasha reflexively takes him down. Tony’s reaction is to quip “I want one.” The audience is supposed to laugh, because Tony is funny, and Pepper snarks back with a resolute “No.” The narrative doesn’t question Tony speaking of Natasha as an object, just as the narrative also positions Happy sneaking peaks at Natasha as she changes clothes in yet another comedic gag. Perhaps these are small nitpicks, or perhaps they are narrative devices that contribute to the larger problem of media reducing women as sexual objects. Especially when we take into consideration how various promotional posters displayed Natasha in various subtly provocative poses

This was Natasha’s — arguably Marvel Studios’ biggest female character — introductory film appearance, and upon meeting her the audience is graced with various photos of her in a state of undress for no reason other than for Tony to ogle her. This is supposedly justified because Natasha uses her sexuality to manipulate men, but it occurs again in situations that aren’t manipulative, such as Happy sneaking glances at her changing in his car. Natasha in Iron Man 2 embodies a lot of the Action Girl and Femme Fatale traits. She can fight, so the narrative of the film feels justified in continuously positioning her in sexual ways. 

Then there’s Justin Hammer who plays dangerous close to being an evil gay stereotype. Justin Hammer is showcased to be less of a man than Tony in various ways. Visually, he’s slimmer, and more flamboyant in his speech and movements. He’s clumsy, and though Justin states he’s intelligent, he very clearly lacks the same intellect as Tony Stark. In the one-shot, All Hail the King (released after Iron Man 3), Justin is seen with another male prisoner who he calls “babe.”

Justin’s stereotypical flamboyance is used to emphasize Tony’s own masculinity, and desirability. Justin is weaker than Tony in various ways, and his embodiment of gay male stereotypes are only used to further drive that point home to the audience.

After Iron Man 2 came Thor in 2011, which lists fourteen top billed actors in its cast. Out of those fourteen, two are people of color and four are women. Hogun, played by Tadanobu Asano, and Heimdall, played by Idris Elba, aren’t leading characters, but they do play an active part of the plot. Especially Elba, who is able to bring to life a strong, resolute character in Heimdall who was originally white in the comics. Hogun gets less to do, but no less than the other Warriors Three.

Idris Elba and Tadanobu Asano as Heimdall and Hogun in Thor

Jane Foster, Sif, Frigga, and Darcy all have varying levels of importance and screen time, but their existence isn’t bogged down too much by the more overt sexism that existed in the two previous Iron Man movies, nor are they marginalized (and later forgotten) as Betty Ross was. The character with the most troubling role is Frigga, who garners less recognition as a parental figure than her husband Odin and exists mainly to cheer up her sons or gaze lovingly at her comatose husband. That’s still a step up, however, from the utterly absent Maria Stark who never even warrants a mention when the topic of Tony’s parents arises in Iron Man 2.

Thor makes out better than both Iron Man movies and Hulk, which in a way, is a low bar to set. Thor features four women, but all of them are white and the cast is still majority white with Thor, Loki, Odin, and Jane as the stars of the narrative. It’s a step up from previous Phase One films, but doesn’t necessarily push diversity boundaries. 

Chris Hemsworth, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, and Natalie Portman in Thor

The next Marvel movie is Captain America: The First Avenger which lists fifteen top billed cast members. Three of those cast members are people of color, one is a woman. Nick Fury, Gabe Jones, and Jim Morita are the only named characters of color in the film with a speaking role. Unfortunately, their speaking roles are extremely short and near minuscule.

Jim and Gabe’s only scenes of note are when Steve Rogers breaks them out of a HYDRA base to rescue James “Bucky” Barnes. Jim has a line where he corrects Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan (played by white actor Neal McDonough) that yes, he is American, in fact Jim was from Fresno. It’s a good moment that showcases how Asian Americans were a part of the war effort during this time period. Similarly, this is why the inclusion of Gabe Jones is also important. 

Gabe Jones has one noteworthy scene where he hijacks a HYDRA tank, and shows off his linguistic skills. It is nice, to see that Captain America’s team of Howling Commandos have two men of color in their ranks. Especially when segregation in the military during the time was still a huge problem. The film never even attempts to touch upon that subject, and the audience isn’t meant to want it too. Since Marvel movies are, at their core, fun action flicks and not emotionally introspective films on the lives of superheroes. The formula works, and at face value, it is nice to see two men of color being a part of a superhero team fighting against a Nazi organization.

Kenneth Choi and Derek Luke as part of The Howling Commandos in Captain America: The First Avenger

Which is why it’s a shame those are the only scenes we see with Jim or Gabe for the rest of the film. Dum Dum and James (not Bucky, this James is French), don’t play a large role either, but that hardly puts things in balance. Not when Howard, Bucky, Peggy, Colonel Chester Phillips, and Steve play such huge roles in the plot. With a cast of fifteen people, some white characters are going to play smaller roles, but only because there are plenty of other white characters who play larger ones.

Nick Fury only shows up for a handful of minutes at the end of the film which serves more as an introduction to The Avengers. Captain America also never features any women of color, even in background roles. Peggy plays the only woman of note in the film, the other is a nameless military secretary (played by a pre-Game of Thrones Natalie Dormer) who kisses Steve and makes Peggy jealous. Aside from her, there are the various chorus girls, the women who fawn over Howard Stark (while Maria Stark remains continuously absent), and the two women who Bucky takes out on a date.

If the question of the time period comes up, the film acknowledges there were soldiers of color within the army during WWII — two are members of The Howling Commandos. The film just doesn’t deem them important enough to emphasize them or showcase them in any sort of larger role. Them or women.

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger

Peggy is positioned as the exceptional woman, the only one worthy of fighting with the men, and is alone in a sea of them. While the other women gush over newly muscled Steve Rogers or dance in a chorus line. Peggy is a great character, she simply shouldn’t be the only great female character in the film.

The final film in Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is The Avengers. The juggernaut film that brought all their previous heroes together in one huge cinematic event. The Avengers lists fourteen top billed actors. One is a person of color, three are women. There, once again, are no women of color in the film at all.

Nick Fury plays the one character of color in the entire film. Though his part is important, bringing together the Avengers, and finally getting a chance to shine as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director. Maria Hill plays his right-hand, Natasha pushes forward most of the movie’s plot, and Pepper has a small scene with Tony.

Natasha pushes most of the plot, but also gets called the equivalent of a sexist slur by Loki. She is, however, the one who physically brings all the Avengers in one place and collects them for Fury. She has a sideplot involving rescuing Clint Barton, and is the one to deliver the final blow in stopping the alien invasion. Her role in Avengers isn’t without flaws, but Natasha is an active character in the narrative. Without her, the overall story in Avengers doesn’t work.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in The Avengers

However, without the inclusion of any women of color — even playing background speaking roles — The Avengers doesn’t push much in regards of intersectional feminism. Pepper’s overall role is a singular scene that encourages Tony to consider the Avengers initiative. Maria gets to play a no-nonsense and capable second-hand to Nick who isn’t belittled for her working attitude nor sexualized by the narrative or other characters. Nick Fury does showcase thought as a leader, and his connections to Agent Coulson and Maria, while brief, are given emotional weight. Avengers is also the first time the audience was able to see Nick as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and get a taste of the power he welds as Director. However, Nick Fury is the only character of color, and though it’s a good role it is the only non-white character in the film which is dominated by white characters.

There were more aliens in The Avengers than there were people of color or women.

To recap, over the course of five years between 2008 and 2012, Marvel Studios released six movies. Of those six movies, there was only one woman of color, Martina, and she was an unimportant, forgettable character with a handful of lines who played into harmful stereotypes about Latinx women.

In total, there’s been 70 top-billed white actors that have starred in a Marvel Studios film during Phase One. If we remove repeated appearances that number drops to 61. There have been a total of fifteen top billed female actresses in Phase One of the MCU (and only one of them was not a white woman). If we remove repeated appearances the number drops to twelve. The total number of appearances by characters of color is thirteen. If we remove repeated appearances the number drops to ten.

Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Colbie Smulders as Agent Hill, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in The Avengers

That’s Phase One of the MCU. The statistics become more troubling when you take into account that four out of the ten characters of color seen in Phase One have died. If that was taken into account, the total number of characters of color in the MCU’s Phase One would drop down to a sad six people total. While it can be noted that some white characters have died in the films as well, the amount is a handful at best. A drop in the bucket of 61 white characters total. Even then, white characters have a higher chance of re-appearing across the films — Pepper, Coulson, Loki, and Natasha are all white characters to have crossed over into other films. During Phase One, Nick Fury is the only character of color to appear in more than one MCU film.

Overall, Phase One of the MCU film franchise doesn’t prove itself to be a very diverse franchise overall. A majority of the top billed cast members over the course of six films have been white actors. With only a handful of actors of color included, and only one woman of color. The only character of color that could be considered a lead is Nick Fury. All the women, save Martina, have been white. While sexist and homophobic tropes have inhabited parts of the writing in various Phase One’s films. Phase One had it’s positive moments representation wise, but it certainly could have been much better and sets a rather lowbar for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But this is merely Phase One of the MCU, and I want to know if it gets better afterwards. What’s Phase Two like? The ABC shows Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? What about the Netflix shows? While Marvel’s spokesperson only talked about the films in regards to diversity, I want to know about the entirety of the MCU.

Phase One is down, onto Phase Two.

59 thoughts on “How Diverse is the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The Movies: Phase One

  1. how diverse? not at all. one of the many reasons im loving dc more. right out the gate DIVERSITY!!!!! tons of women, people of color (look marvel more than two women in our films and they arent all white, what a concept) and various types of people not just in terms of race but nationality and personality.

    one thing: i never took justin hammer as gay but if he is, he is my type lol. he is fun, funny, smart and can dance. tony stark is nothing but annoying i really dont see the popularity. i get that some people value money but…no. heart over green paper anyday.

      1. to each their own. one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and i love the dc films. two for two and i have no reason to not have faith for suicide squad, wonder woman (my ultimate shero), aquaman and justice league. i’ve always preferred women heroes so marvel doesnt do it for me (yeah for wanda but what else you got) and x-men before anything else. and im FAR more into thunderbolts then avengers

  2. I’m glad they are aware if this issue and are working to fix it because Marvel comics created the X-Men who were the first diverse team of superheroes.

  3. The troubling characterization of Christine Everhart continues in the promotional ‘fake news’ viral videos for Civil War. She’s meant to showcase the pro-government regulation side, but comes off as being merely disgruntled and petty because of her past relationship with Stark – at least in my opinion. Which is a shame, because a more nuanced and sincere antagonistic journalist would’ve have been easy.

    I think Iron Man gets away with some of its sexism though because the main character is sexist, and the movie is presented from his point of view. It’s part of his arc. I haven’t seen Iron Man 2 in a while though, and it’s interesting to look back at how the treatment of Black Widow began versus where it is now.

    Marvel keeps adding black men and white women to the cast (which is great), but is very slow when it comes to others. Still, they seem aware of it

      1. I’m also excited for Misty Knight to debut in Luke Cage. So Phase Three should finally make good on some of their promises

      2. well to be fair two of them are with sony (sony and marvel are working together, spiderman is STILL with sony) and neither of them have been given characters. tessa as valkyrie is fan speculation. some even think she is enchantress or caiera (hulk’s twin baby momma)

      3. Yes, I was gonna say because in the MCU women of color don’t seem to exist except for Orora Munroe, Angel Salvadore . Where are the other Black and Asian females with LEADING roles?

        I also never liked how Black Widow was objectified and somewhat marginalized. Secretly I always wanted BLACK WIDOW to be played by an Asian or Black actress. I know, I know, the Russian storyline but there are Tatars and everyone has heard of Black Russians.

    1. The other issue is that the male MCU characters are generally depicted as more collegial onscreen, which is in stark contrast to how the women are generally shown as either merely civil, isolated among “one of the boys or men,” as it were or downright catty.

      I know, I know we just saw Captain America: Civil War but at the heart of that was Tony constantly saying how he thought he was Steve’s friend and an almost forlorn position when Tony compared his relationship to Steve with Steve’s relationship with his only link from his past….Bucky Barnes.

      I did notice that Black Widow and Scarlet Witch were cordial to each other during CA: Civil War, but where was the deep sisterhood?

      1. I’ve read people say that Natasha likely has trouble relating to other women, which I can see given her occupation and past. That and they were on opposite sides through most of the movie. However, it would also make sense for Natasha to be protective of Wanda because everyone else is, especially Hawkeye, who is Natasha’s best friend.

        I hope to see the two Avengers women develop some sort of relationship in future movies.

  4. Hollywood moves exceptionally slow, but that said,they have incrementally improved in their depiction of women. My biggest problem with the movies is not just that there are no WoC in the franchise, it’s what I like to call, the Black Widow Phenomenon, where there is only one prominent woman in the entire cast, and what other women might exist, never interact with each other. (Jane and Darcy are a rare exception.)

    But I can see that they are trying (and failing, mostly) but at least trying, bit by bit, to be more inclusive over the course of the films. It seems they’r only capable of fixing one issue at a time, though.

    DC is doing this diversity thing a lot better.

    I knew that statement from Marvel was bogus though. Thanks for breaking it down for us. I’m looking forward to your breakdown of phase two.

      1. why are you commenting this on every comment that praises DC for its diversity?

      2. I actually happen to like DCs movies okay. They could be better, they’re not perfect, but I don’t hate them. I’m one of the few people who actually loved Man of Steel. So DC is not a problem for me that way.

    1. Yeah, I was disappointed that Wanda and Widow never actually interacted/worked together in Civil War. But Agent Carter and Jessica Jones has had great female interaction at least.

      1. I don’t watch either of those becasue they have no PoC in them at all, as far as I can see, and that’s important (but not everything) to me. Having no WoC is one of my criteria for skipping some shows. (I had other, more personal, issues with Jessica Jones, though.)

      2. Agent Carter Season two has a black love interest, but otherwise is segregated yes. Jessica Jones also has a black love interest, but I did have issues with it’s lack of diversity considering it takes place on the streets of New York City. It’s a little ridiculous

      3. The truth of the matter is in 2016, People of Color and Women of Color and Women in general are not isolated the way they are depicted in the MCU and I do not like this.

        Curious to know about the “personal issue” with Jessica Jones, who had a bad habit of directly or indirectly eliminating any Black woman who stood in the way between her getting at Luke Cage. Glad that married chick called her out on it. The married chick was cheating (on a white guy, I think?), but still. Covetous Jessica Jones was hard to NOT notice when it came to Cage.

  5. I feel like it’s worth pointing out that despite these problems all of these movies (well, maybe not IM2) are all very good.

    Also, Christine Evehart’s gotten a lot more to do as part of the WHIH viral stuff.

  6. Also, looking through the twitter of the person who wrote this, it’s odd that someone so biased towards DC is writing a series about Marvel. Kiiinnda hard to take it seriously. :/

  7. “During Phase One, Nick Fury is the only character of color to appear in more than one MCU film.”

    What about Jim Rhodes. It’s different actors, sure, but still the same character.

    1. I think what they meant was character of colour that crosses franchise borders. Rhodey only appears in the IM movies. Nick Fury is in IM2, CA and the Avengers.

  8. I loved Pepper as a love interest this intelligent, sharply dressed woman instead of this bombshell in a catsuit who uses her sexual appeal to get her way those put me off but there’s nothing wrong with showing some skin if or when the situation calls for it. Phase One was not as diverse as people hoped but it wasn’t terrible either.

  9. I see improvement on the diversity. Its easy as hell to throw criticism at Phase One but they turned it around from Phase 2 and beyond. Marvel at least listens and adjusts accordingly.

    1. I was just thinking about the MCU could change in the years to come, I posted a question how would Captain America do in the 2040’s? It’s not that far away roughly 24 years. He might be spending more time in ice I think the WWII origin is a crucial part of the mythology. Racebending Steve Rogers from the 1940’s will be almost impossible I see him changing his race on his application form if so because an ethnic minority in the 40’s being a symbol for America not something I see. What do you guys think?

      1. Interesting concept, Suarez. I’m not sure what Steve Rogers’ status is as a human—is he immortal now?

        xAt any rate, since he never left the military and is a veritable multi-millionaire, I can see Steve Rogers changing his identity to “Steve Rodriguez” in 2045 which hits about the right time in America when the Latino population will hit 106 million out of a total projected U.S. population of 438 million. Steve does this to protect himself and his loved ones by adopting this new identity, biometrics and all and with permission, he even has himself injected with a DNA cocktail of some of the most famous and influential Hispanics of the 21st Century.

    2. Oh, Jessica Jones wasn’t a bad show, just “triggering” for me. I had a very bad reaction to some of the things in it (outside of Jessica killing Luke’s wife.)

  10. Reblogged this on Rambling Justice and commented:
    Not very, is the conclusion the author draws (#Marvel universe, diverse?). Looks at racial #diversity and at representation for women. But not a single word about #disability representation, not even when talking about Bucky, which should have been an obvious opportunity. Also nothing on lgbtiqa+ representation. Am really really tired of STILL being invisible even in conversations whose whole point is visibilizing the historically invisibilized.

    1. In a superhero movie isn’t a disability narrative rather an oxymoron? And, Bucky may have lost an arm but her’s a veritable ‘zombie’ cyborg with superhuman strength so I do not view him as disabled even though he is a technically an amputee.

  11. Out of the Phase One films I liked the first Iron Man the most. As for racial or gender diversity I don’t care; as long as the character is strong, has a purpose in the story, and has elements I can understand and relate to, then I’m golden. Whenever an established character has a race-lift (or genderbend), I feel that it’s pandering, especially if the writers (and audience) focus on what a character is rather than who, overshadowing the potential the character has and making them weak as a result.

    1. Why is showing diversity “pandering” when the globe is diverse with more Humans of Color in existence than their white counterparts? To me, diversity is about REALITY and MCU better get (more) REAL.
      Black Panther is a step in the right direction. Nick Fury is cool, too but he’s not a super hero per se.

  12. A really thoughtful and thorough analysis. I’m glad you wrote this, and I’m glad I read it. Diversity and representation are issues that the movie industry in general has long pandered to but rarely ever followed through on.

  13. I just read that ABC cancelled Agent Carter. I really liked the show but I knew it wasn’t gonna come back after its stab at diversity with the Wilkes storyline. America’s still “not ready” and when will it ever be?

    1. The show was already near cancellation. You act as if it had Big Bang Theory numbers one season and was cancelled the next. People love Shonda Rhimes show and even though there is an overabundance of black women/white men pairings there have been bm/wf pairs and her shows are still on the air, same network too.

      The CW is also a place where Swirl dominates.

      1. Swirl? That’s a soft serve ice cream concoction and your tone is duly noted. I don’t watch the CW (HELLO, SUPER GIRL & yummy Tom Welling), but I am aware of some of its pairings e.g. The Flash…..

        Back to Agent Carter, I recall there being some backlash about the invisibility of People of Color on the showing except for the short-lived guest appearances of Dum Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos and Kenneth Choi as Jim Morita got killed off, if I am not mistaken. Boo!

        So for its last season AC tried to compensate and now look CANCELLATION. Not right but the viewers have spoken. They’re just not ready for seeing People of Color in super heroic capacities (especially in period TV shows, that means set back in time, BTW, Carnage) and they most certainly are not ready to see a brilliant Black man being a full team member with complexities and kissing a white English gal on the tube and ultimately SURVIVING and being hired away by Howard Stark. Boo Yah! and Bravo! for Wilkes but bye bye Agent Carter…so sorry to see the show go because I liked it better than Marvel Agents of SHIELD.

  14. A shame really, I felt they could have done more with agent Carter. In my own opinion the term people of color will become change s in the years to come as more Americans of multi racial descent are born, I am a person of biracial extraction my father is from Colombia and mother is Irish American. TV protagonists in the future might be more biracial than anything else.

    1. It has been said that at some point in the near future the entire world will be the same color so yes, that would wipe out the term: People of Color because future populations will become ONE COLOR. Homogenous society on the horizon!

  15. Race is ever changing, we’ve been race mixing since we began walking up right as a species. For example a century ago race in this nation if you weren’t an Anglo Saxon northerner you would not get far in America.

    1. The Fast & Furious franchise does a better job of diversity, particularly with women of color

      1. One thing in the franchise’s favor is it is not based on decades old source material created during a time when people of color were not considered admirable or heroic.

      2. People of Color have always been admirable and heroic or else how could they have survived the centuries of racism and discrimination. Now, the lame stream media, Hollywood and Broadway finally gets it and gets with the program because there is lots and lots and LOTS of MONEY to be made.

  16. Man, someone did their homework. Great stuff! It seems to be getting better though since Civil War came out. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  17. Nothing as enjoyable as posting on a long dead article but here goes.

    I found this while looking for something about Marvel’s clear focus on white America (looking at both the films and TV series). Given the fact that N. America including the US makes up about 8% of the worlds population one would expect there to be (if superheroes occured on a random basis – or genetic basis as with Agents of SHIELD) 60 Asian superheores/powerd people; 16 Africans and 10 Europeans for every 8 N. Americans.

    While racism within the US is its own problem I would argue that the Americano-centrism of continually protraying the US and its heroes as the only people who are doing anything is in its own way more racist/bigoted since SHIELD claims to represent Earth and as much as the US has a problem with race it has a bigger problem with not being the centre of everything.

    While I understand that it might be bad marketing to have Loki or the Germans speak German in Avengers, or to make Americans consider the existence of other nationsm the fact that China hasn’t got a single hero is arguably more lacking in diversity than the misrepresentation of the ethnic make-up of the US snce the MCU continually does move outside of US borders (Wakanda, Segovia, Germany etc.)

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