While the Marvel movies so far have boasted some diversity among their supporting casts, the standalone titles in the franchise have so far stuck to white male protagonists: Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Thor and – coming next year – Hank Pym and Scott Lang in Ant-Man. Marvel’s planned Doctor Strange movie would also introduce another white male superhero (barring any gender- or race-bending casting choices) to the roster, but there are still no standalone superhero movies that break that mold in sight.
It’s somewhat surprising for a studio that’s known for taking bold risks; this summer’s release of Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, will feature a team-up that includes a talking alien raccoon and an anthropomorphic tree. It’s notable, however, that the Guardians’ only white male team member, Star Lord, heavily dominated the movie’s first trailer.
Speaking at a press junket for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel’s President of Production Kevin Feige was quizzed by Badass Digest on the lack of diversity in the studio’s past and announced standalone titles. Feige recently responded to questions about a standalone Black Widow movie by saying that Marvel has “various outlines and ideas” for such a thing.
However, in his response to a related question posed by Badass Digest, he seems a lot more cautious about the idea:
“I think [Black Widow] has a central leading role in [Captain America: The Winter Soldier]. What people are really saying is “When are you doing a standalone female superhero movie?” The answer is: I don’t know. We only do two a year, we know more or less what’s coming up through ‘16/’17. With Widow what’s great is the interaction with all the team members, and the question is whether we want to pluck her out of that.
“I’m very proud of the way the Marvel movies handle the female characters who are in all the movies we are making, as opposed to feeling the pressure of ‘When are you doing a female movie?’ We’re exploring a lot of Widow, and that’s going to continue with Age of Ultron in a big way.
“Frankly if we do a Black Widow movie after Age of Ultron, when she’s been central in three or four movies I don’t think we’d get the quote unquote credit for it. People would say ‘She’s already a big giant superhero!’ But if we had a great idea, we’d do it.”
To Marvel’s credit, the studio has offered some decent roles for women and non-white characters, even braving the wrath of comic book fans by casting Idris Elba as Heimdall. Based on trailers and early reactions, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is really more of a team-up movie along the lines of The Avengers rather than a straightforward standalone title about Steve Rogers. As with Guardians of the Galaxy, however, Marvel is still able to sell the movie on the central presence of a white male superhero.
It’s understandable that a studio like Marvel, which makes fairly risky properties using pretty massive budgets, might have developed a need for each movie to have at least one white male superhero playing a core role. It offers the opportunity to include great African-American characters like Nick Fury and Sam Wilson, along with strong and capable female characters like Jane Foster and Natasha Romanoff, without the kind of risk that would be involved in marketing a standalone Black Panther or Captain Marvel movie. In an interview with NPR, Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan described this as a kind of “Trojan Horse” approach.
“Piper was my Trojan Horse. You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories.”
For now, Feige’s answer to the question of when and if Marvel is going to make a standalone superhero movie with a female protagonist remains a firm, “I don’t know.” When asked whether Captain Marvel – or indeed the new Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American teenager called Kamala Khan – could eventually get her own movie, Feige responded with a vague (but promising?), “We’ve talked a lot about [Captain Marvel]. I think that would be very cool.” He also said that he liked the idea of creating an entirely new female superhero for the Marvel movie universe, and writing an origin story for her.
Tell us what you think of this debate in the comments – should Marvel try making a standalone movie with a non-white/non-male protagonist, or is it enough to have diversity in the supporting cast?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is out in theaters on April 4, 2014.
Source: Badass Digest