While the first couple of phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe largely centred around straight white males, the past few years has seen Marvel Studios take steps towards becoming more inclusive. Not only did we get a superhero movie centred around black characters, Black Panther, we also saw the release of Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, Captain Marvel. In a couple of months time, we will be getting the long-overdue solo Black Widow movie and in November, the world will not only witness Marvel Studios’ first gay superhero but also a same-sex kiss in The Eternals.
Every time I write one of these articles, the comment section lights up with people saying things like “this is nothing but an SJW agenda by a large corporation.” Believe it or not, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to Mark Ruffalo in an interview with The Independent, the higher-ups at Disney were initially against the idea of female superhero movies because apparently nobody will go and see superhero movies in which the main character does not have a penis. But Kevin Feige wasn’t having it. Ruffalo said:
When we did the first Avengers, Kevin Feige told me, ‘Listen, I might not be here tomorrow.’ [He was going to talk to Disney about the issue of why there were no female superhero movies.] And he’s like, ‘Ike [Isaac Perlmutter, Disney’s largest shareholder at the time] does not believe that anyone will go to a female-starring superhero movie. So if I am still here tomorrow, you will know that I won that battle.’
Kevin Feige (the creative genius behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe) challenging a major shareholder at Disney proved to be the turning point. Ruffalo continued:
Because Kevin wanted black superheroes, women superheroes, LGBT superheroes. He changed the whole Marvel universe. We now have a gay superhero on the way, we have black superheroes, we have female superheroes – Scarlett Johansson has her movie coming out, we have Captain Marvel, they are doing She-Hulk next. No other studio is being that inclusive on that level. [Smiles] They have to, though. This is the fucking world.
And I’m glad we as an audience have helped prove Kevin Feige right. Despite what social media comment sections and old studio execs will have you believe, people do want to see superhero movies featuring characters of different creed, colour and sexuality. Both Black Panther and Captain Marvel successfully grossed more than $US 1 billion each at the worldwide box office. Even looking outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wonder Woman smashed it at the box office, raking in solid $US 821 million in 2017.