Creating Change Through Film By Jack Fitzgerald

The typical images of superheroes portrayed in comics and films has for decades consisted of predominantly white cisgender men, but a shift is beginning to be seen recently. Marvel, the top producer of superhero genre films, is becoming one of the leaders of this shift and it has been welcomed as fans and the public have been vocal with their demands for proper representation and exposure. Superhero films and Marvel specifically have been bringing in record numbers of viewers and profits dominating the film industry for years but have only in the past few years begun to make the needed changes. 

Marvel released Black Panther, in 2018, their first film starring a black lead hero. For Marvel this was their first film aimed towards increasing diversity and inclusiveness and it proved to be what viewers and the public were desiring for so long. The film broke records including becoming the highest grossing solo superhero movie ever and it was also the only superhero movie to be nominated for the Best Oscar Picture. Along with Black Panther in 2018 Marvel released with Columbia Pictures Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse. This was an animated film that featured a lead black character and the first black Spiderman. These films and roles along with others in the Marvel Universe are essential to helping the genre to become more diverse and inclusive. This allows viewers to connect more deeply with the films and feel that they are heard and seen giving hope for more change to be continued in the future. Also these films were made possible by black producers and writers showing the change occurring behind the camera as well. 

Along with a shift towards diversity Marvel has been becoming more inclusive by featuring leading female superheroes. In 2019 Marvel released Captain Marvel, their first solo superhero film featuring a female lead. This film was also extremely successful earning over $1 billion worldwide. This film filled a role similar to Black Panther in showing audiences characters that are diverse and inclusive moving away from the mold that Marvel has followed in their previous films. Captain Marvel has been an inspiration to women and girls across the world showing the power of a female lead and giving hope to women and girls that they too can be in these roles and reach their goals. Marvel is not stopping here though as they have given fans and viewers a peek into their plans moving forward in their “Phase 4” of movies and shows heading into 2021. The head of Marvel studios, Kevin Feige, announced in 2019 new characters and changes including the first Asian-led Marvel movie, the first deaf hero, and a LGBTQ storyline in an upcoming film. These are all welcome changes that fans have been asking for many years for but Marvel should continue to push for change and become a leader in diversity and inclusiveness in the film industry.  

The image of superheroes has been the same for decades and change is finally beginning to be seen. The era of superheroes fitting the mold of being a white cisgender lead is beginning to fade and this is being welcomed by fans not only of the superhero genre. This shift is not only being seen in the film industry but across the United States. The country has also begun to place much more focus on becoming more diverse and inclusive showing a shift in society. Society and culture are shifting to be more open and accepting of everyone regardless of their appearance or how they choose to live their lives, and Marvel’s films have the opportunity to help create change not only in their industry. Films and movies impact people’s attitudes and ideas and creating change in what we watch and listen to can help to facilitate change in our everyday lives.