Superhero movies have been a well of entertainment for both MHC students and audiences worldwide for years. The superhero movie trend was started in 2000, with X-Men. X-Men proved that these movies could be well-made, entertaining, and, most importantly, financially successful. But with the increasing number of superhero movies, many critics have raised concerns about the consistent lack of minority representation in these films.
Female superheroes tend to get sidelined and have their sexuality emphasized more than their strength. An article from Mic.com highlighted that DVD covers and movie posters often feature the males facing forward, ready to fight. Meanwhile, the females are either standing at an angle to emphasize their curves or pressed up against the main hero’s chest as a damsel. Superhero movies also tend to lack diversity in their hero leads. Neal Adams, an award- winning American comic book artist, is part of an effort to increase diversity in comic book movies. He once described the problem as follows, “It may be that a majority of superheroes are white males, but that’s because they used to all be white males.”
Mount Holyoke College is a women’s college. In 2015, the college started admitting transgender students. About half of the students identify as Hispanic, Black, Asian, Native American, or multiracial. As a community we strive for inclusivity and mentorship in every field, whether it be STEM, executive leadership, writing, public office, etc. While anyone, regardless of race or gender, can enjoy a superhero film, not everyone can see themselves in the superheroes, and that is a problem. From a broader cultural viewpoint, superheroes represent ideals and moral norms. Disconnecting minorities from those roles can send the message that minorities do not or cannot possess those qualities.
While there are many problems the superhero genre has to deal with, more than the few that I have mentioned, progress is being made. 2017 will see the release of Wonder Woman and 2018 will see the release of Black Panther. The former film will feature a female protagonist, the latter a black protagonist. The Mount Holyoke community is generally excited and hopeful for these movies. One student I talked to, Raziya, had this response to the the upcoming Black Panther movie and recent superhero media. “Recently, Luke Cage came out and that was a ‘wow’ type of moment. We never thought that we could have people of color cast. And next thing you know Black Panther is happening. It will be interesting to see his storyline from the buildup that’s happened so far.” Another student I talked to, Tinks, had this response to the Wonder Woman movie: “I’m really excited about it because I’m a really big fan of Wonder Woman. I usually watch DC and Marvel movies, so it’s really nice to see someone who isn’t Iron Man or Ant Man (who I don’t like) as the main character.”
More than anything, the students want to see good films with well-developed characters and storylines. Inclusivity is great, but these movies still need to have the entertainment value and the care put into them that all the previous movies have had in order to make a meaningful impact on Hollywood and audiences.
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