Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been nothing short of a smash, both individually as a solo film and as yet another building block in Marvel’s continued domination of the box office at large. The film has already earned a jaw-dropping $363, which is an impressive haul even among the already incredibly popular Marvel films. Marvel’s audacious plan to create a web of interconnected films has been a massive success. By employing a web of characters that cross over from film to film, Marvel has achieved what seemed too difficult to pull off: they have created an entire larger cinematic universe, now with nine films and counting. The stars of these films range from All-American super-soldier Captain America (Chris Evans), norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), billionaire playboy Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and temperamental scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton/Mark Ruffalo) – also known as The Incredible Hulk.
Noticing a trend? All of these characters are men, and all of them are white men at that – though to be fair, Hulk is occasionally green. The next Marvel character who will be receiving their own film? Ant-Man, to be played by Paul Rudd. That is not to say that Marvel does not feature characters who are more diverse… they do, albeit generally in supporting roles. The choice to take Nick Fury, a traditionally white character, and have him be played by Samuel L. Jackson is a progressive and commendable one. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is actually full of strong characters who aren’t just white men. Fury and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are both African-American, while many of the film’s capable agents – Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) all play vital roles in the film. That fact aside, however, there remains the fact that none of the lead characters of Marvel films have been even the slightest bit diverse… not to mention none of the aforementioned characters have actual superpowers.
Marvel’s roster of characters is so deep that availability isn’t an issue – perhaps there’s simply less willingness to take chances characters like those. In fact, the phrase “take chances” seems like a silly one. In 2013 several of the highest grossing films of the year – including Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen, and Gravity – all featured female protagonists, yet Marvel seems to be avoiding committing to making a superhero film starring a woman in the headlining role. When asked about a female-led superhero picture, Marvel’s Kevin Feige will only acknowledge that it’s a desire and that it’s being discussed… why not commit and simply say that it will happen?
Marvel is making headway with diversity on the small screen, however. In its recently announced deal with Netflix, Marvel is producing four television series based on its characters – one will star Jessica Jones, and one will star Luke Cage, an African-American character. This is certainly exciting, but why does it seem like when it comes to the big-screen, Marvel isn’t ready to take the plunge? Films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier prove that Marvel is willing to weave those characters into their stories – now they need to let them take the spotlight.
By: Alex Warheit