The last year was kind to superhero movie fanatics like myself. With surprising success of movies like Venom and the expected enthusiasm for Avengers: Infinity War, I had quite a selection when choosing movies. Amongst all of them, there were two that stood out for me, and the ones I waited upon with trepidation and hope was Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Aquaman.
Both the movies had PoC leads and directors, and while Black Panther was a success, I still had my fears about these new films. Superheros of mixed cultures and heritages have graced our screens, and these two movies managed to depict the lead characters’ identities and even embrace and explore what it means to be mixed race.
The numbers speak for themselves. With Aquaman breaking the 1 Billion mark, and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse making around 306 million worldwide, it shouldn’t be a question anymore. The people want to see themselves when watching a movie as much as they want an amazing story.
Throughout Aquaman, we are treated to breath taking special effects when we finally see Atlantis and the fight sequences. But we are also taken a journey with Arthur as he tries to reconcile with his two heritages. Seeing Jason Momoa (whom I can’t unsee as Khal Drogo) break down and talk about his warring identities and the unworthiness he feels because of it was a profound sight you rarely see.
For me, as a woman of color, to see a non-white superhero who isn’t a sidekick, rather one who has his own agency and doesn’t conform to the standard traits of masculinity is utterly refreshing and something I realized I’ve been yearning for. All my life, I’ve seen men and women of color be reduced to the sidekick or the butt of the joke, and when they are the center of attention, they conform to toxic standards set by society (I’m looking at you specifically, Bollywood). But witnessing a hero who looks nothing like his comic book iteration, have a gentleness and kindness that is non threatening when he is around people who don’t threaten him and seeing him so openly struggle with his identity was unusual, not just for a superhero movie but for any genre of film.
Aquaman had everything I realized I needed. A genuinely kind individual who despite his demons wants to help people, a lovely father-son relationship, a love interest who is equally strong-willed with a sense of justice, the lovely drama involving two brothers who blame the other for the loss of their mother and mostly an underlying environmental theme. With Black Manta surviving, I can only hope the next movie delves into similar themes without just being an action movie.
More superhero movies are coming out this year, and Captain Marvel is another movie with a underrepresented group as the lead to look forward to. With hopefully even more sequels with PoC leads and non-sexualised female leads, I am hopeful for the future of superhero movies. After all, any 10 year old child should be able to see themselves as a cool hero and not just the sidekick or love interest.