The UK Independent put out another irritating article denigrating whiteness and manhood in superhero movies, calling for replacing every “pale, male and stale” superhero they can think of, in an item doubtlessly written by somebody with no actual knowledge or experience with the medium (or just to generate some clicks):
Superhero movies are important – that’s not an opinion, it’s just true.
Avengers: Endgame is the top box-office film of all time – raking in $2.79bn and watched by millions. Superpowers get bums on seats… and sneaking in social justice messages under the radar is a tried and tested way of speaking to the masses.
Ah, and I see they consider it justified to annoy and frustrate people with social justice propaganda, subtle or otherwise. I hesitate to think what they’d think of DC’s earlier efforts from the mid-2000s, post-Identity Crisis, when they threw out white, male heroes in any way possible to make way for a black Firestorm, an Asian Atom, a Latino Blue Beetle and a female Manhunter. In fact, even the way a female Question was introduced was very weak, even if there, Vic Sage died of natural causes after handing his role over to Renee Montoya, once of the Batman cast.
What’s more, with the way they’re going in this direction, there’s no telling how much longer superhero movies will carry much importance. It’s honestly gotten tiresome at this point, including all the special effects.
These stories have always been about underdogs proving their worth, or those who are “Other” finding their place– and the recent wave of heroes who truly reflect these traits is one we should cheer as it builds into a tsunami.
I think the Captain Marvel movie contradicts that, with its fanfiction plot and a ‘Mary Sue’ protagonist. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not the only example awaiting us from Hollywood.
Since Saturday’s announcement of a female Thor, the internet has blown up with people wailing that the historically straight, white, male pool of superheroes is being drained for a more diverse roster.
Many can be safely ignored. I saw one person on social media bemoaning the betrayal of the Norse myths – a complaint curiously absent for Thor: Ragnarok – I’d love to know which myth has Jeff Goldblum swanning about in an orgy spaceship.
It’s the ostensibly more reasonable complaints of “I don’t mind female/POC/LGBT+ characters, but why can’t they make their own?” that nettles me – because make no mistake, we are! Villain, Interrupted, my play about supervillains in prison therapy, runs at the Camden Fringe in August – highlighting my point perfectly. Original characters, even the ones created by behemoths like Marvel or DC, have nothing like the traction of old favourites, meaning we’re starting the race seconds before the big boys cross the finish line. Stealing a few of their spots at the front is not only positive, but absolutely necessary.
Quite apart from anything else, it genuinely makes the art better and bigger.
Sounds awfully contradictory here to say you’re conceiving new ones in your own separate theater plays (starring villains too, apparently), but think it’s justified to rob even “a mere handful” of white heroes of their own roles and costumes in already well established franchises, instead of conceiving new ones to build up as time goes by. If new characters don’t have the impact of old ones, it’s because the dearth of talented writing and poor marketing making it impossible to sell audiences on a new character. I think it could all be turned around if truly talented people in marketing and production were found who could work things out, but so far, nobody’s willing to act responsibly.
And funny why she thinks new characters in old costumes would automatically have the same traction as the men previously wearing the old threads. A costume is not the same as a character, and it wasn’t for Hal Jordan’s younger brother Jim Jordan either, recalling those tongue-in-cheek stories from the 60s where Susan Williams, the girl reporter Jim later married and bore a child with, kept insisting she believed the younger guy was Green Lantern, all the while not realizing Hal was the real deal. This running joke was later dropped, since in the late 70s Hal and Oliver Queen later paid a visit to the other Jordan household (in what was still being sold as GL co-starring Green Arrow back then), by which time Jim was growing a beard, and with Hal living elsewhere in California by that time rather than Coast City proper, Susan was finally convinced he wasn’t GL. But anyway, what matters is that somebody at the newspaper cares more about the costume than the character underneath its masks and cowls, providing an example of how story merit these days is no longer considered an asset of value.
Audiences tire of the same old stories, told by the same old people, with the same old characters just dressed up in different superpowers. Look at the success of films like Black Panther, Captain Marvel, or the aforementioned Thor: Ragnarok, which took a risk, hired a minority director, let him get on with his (frankly insane) ideas and reaped the rewards in the form of a massive box office smash ($854m), fawned over by critics. Likewise, Into the Spiderverse re-imagined Spiderman as a black teen graffiti artist – and won an Academy award and $375.5m at the box office.
And audiences also tire of pushing identity politics rather than focusing on talented writing. Also, much of the box office grosses these days rely very heavily on foreign sales more than ever before. Domestic sales can count, and stateside, the CM movie didn’t make waves as big as the Wonder Woman movie. And IIRC, didn’t that Spiderverse cartoon feature several different iterations of characters wearing similar costumes and nearly all bearing the same codename? What’s her point, then?
It clearly makes for more successful movies with better bottom lines – which a cynic might say is all Hollywood cares about.
Straight from the mouth of…a cynic! Besides, how does she know these social justice-laden screenplays Marvel’s now using will hold up financially for long, if anybody starts to get bored, finding them lacking in merit and excitement?
But just consider the raw potential harnessed by films seen by millions. Giving audiences superheroes (and spies and princesses) different to themselves normalises diversity in a way targeted campaigns can only dream of. This is the power of representation – I can’t tell you how good it felt to watch women, PLURAL, fight alongside the men in Endgame, and how disappointing it was to have Marvel swerve an (onscreen-or-it-doesn’t-count) bisexual superhero in the form of Valkyrie – something they have pledged to correct in Phase 4.
So now it’s clearer that her only interests are in shoving subjects whose “importance” lasted 2 minutes down everyone’s throats. Funny thing is that Valkyrie might’ve been implied as lesbian in the Defenders where she was a notable presence, but it was never as forced as this sounds to become. Also, ladies fighting alongside men in fantasy settings is nothing new, except to somebody who evidently wants to make this sound like a genuine breakthrough in the entertainment world.
So yes, let’s plunder the male heroes – and Thor is an excellent place to start. There’s a simple mechanism by which someone else can gain his powers – as shown in Endgame with Steve Rogers (to whoops of glee from the fanboys now complaining). Plus, Marvel women have a history of relegation to the sappy love interest or worse, the “feisty” girl whose only power is the super-boyfriend backing her up. Jane Foster’s a particular victim of this casual misogyny: she spent 2011’s Thor demanding S.H.I.E.L.D give back her life’s work (they capitulate when Thor asks) and the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, as a swooning damsel, showing her mettle by giving Loki a good slap… while he’s in cuffs and Thor is standing right there.
Wait a minute. When did I ever demand Captain America get the same powers as Thor? That would reduce the challenges to the Star-Spangled Avenger, whose physical strength was never at Thor’s levels. He was merely deemed “worthy” to momentarily wield the hammer.
And it’s clear this clown has never read any comics stories from 50 years ago, because Jean Grey was hardly a “sappy” girlfriend, as she did have telekinesis and Sue Storm got force field powers to use 2 years after her Fantastic Four debut. The Black Widow was established as an expert combatant in the Bronze Age, and Scarlet Witch became even more effective by this time. Say, what about Misty Knight, Colleen Wing and Storm? Don’t they count? If anything, this does confirm the propagandist who wrote this tommyrot is somebody with nothing more than contempt for Stan Lee’s hard work, and doesn’t have what it takes to appreciate the other writers who worked hard to expand and improve on whatever he came up with. No doubt, she doesn’t care for Mary Jane Watson either.
Some people in the comments pointed out this was all just clickbait nonsense by somebody desperate to promote her theater play, which is about villains, their being in therapy notwithstanding. And indeed it is. So not only is this a worthless article, it also tells why the play’s not worth wasting money on tickets to see. What a waste of paper for the sake of social justice propaganda.
Brilliant idea, mates!
However, the sorry lack of popular superheroes in the UK (especially ones that aren’t white males) requires that you remake Marvelman and Judge Dredd into a non-binary, transitioning, POCs first.
— Bleeding Fool (@BleedingFool) July 26, 2019
Originally published here.