White men may easily relate to superheroes, but other genders and races may not be able to identify as easily with comic book characters.
As movies come out with white actors portraying characters who were originally a different race, such as The Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, many people are becoming aggravated.
In Marvel superhero movies, some feel misrepresented because of whitewashing, but most believe Marvel’s movies could benefit from introducing more diverse characters.
The term “whitewashing” describes white actors portraying characters that were originally a different race. With The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, a white female actor plays a character that was an Asian man in the comic book.
“We need to move towards more diverse stories with more lead actors of color, different genders ... there need to be more writers and directors of color,” Mailé Nguyen, the president of Students Teaching About Racism in Society, said in an email.
Marvel’s vice president of sales, David Gabriel, said diversity with characters is “no longer viable” and blamed low sales on diverse characters, according to NPR.
Gabriel also blamed female characters for Marvel’s plummeting sales, saying that people who read the comics tend to reject the female characters compared to the more “core” characters such as Captain America and Spider-Man.
When creating anything, Kieffer Wilson, a junior studying integrated media, believes it is essential to think of everyone that will be viewing it, including diverse people.
“For (Gabriel) to say (diversity does not sell) empowers people who want diversity to be washed away,” Wilson said. “You can’t justify putting down a race.”
Many people are saying that Gabriel is using female and nonwhite characters as the scapegoat of Marvel’s decline in sales. According to Comic Book Resources, Marvel’s sales are not as low as Gabriel painted them to be. Compared to comic book sales with white male characters, comic books with diverse characters only sold about 11 percent fewer copies in February 2017.
Some of Marvel’s best selling comics are “The Mighty Thor” and “Black Panther,” which feature a female and a person of color, respectively.
Nguyen thinks Gabriel’s comments about diversity being no longer operable for sales is “absolutely ridiculous.”
“As the world becomes more and more diverse, the market is going to be made up of more and more diverse people.” Nguyen said in an email.
With Rogue One, a movie not from Marvel, Nguyen mentioned how there are many different characters of color and the movie was extremely successful, making $801.9 million worldwide. The cast includes a woman, Pakistani and Chinese actors. With that example, Nguyen believes “diversity is clearly not the problem.”
Wilson believes Gabriel’s viewpoint is discouraging to young creators.
“If we make it so media is designed for one type of audience, we are rejecting the diverse society that we are,” Wilson said.
Along with being discouraging, Nguyen believes there needs to be more representation of diverse people with all roles.
“It's not enough to have diverse people playing the villains, because that just maintains the idea of othering and demonizing people of color,” Nguyen said in an email. “We need to be the heroes.”