I am a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fan and with the releases of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, I saw clearly the differences between them and other Marvel Avengers movies.
Representation Makes People Uncomfortable
Black Panther and Captain Marvel were received similarly. I saw hard-core MCU fans state disappointment in both of these movies. One of the most common criticisms of them was that they “didn’t tie into the main story-line of the MCU”. After seeing both films, I was confused because I didn’t think that at all. Just like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Ant-Man (among others), they were the stand-alone backstories of each hero.
But the truth is that these two heroes were different than all of the others, and some fans felt threatened, some annoyed, but mostly, people were uncomfortable.
With Black Panther and Captain Marvel, we had the first MCU movies without a main-protagonist white male hero.
When Black Panther came out, I some fans said, “It was too obvious what Marvel was trying to do” in making an almost-completely black cast movie. And when I watched it and tried to think of any other movies with an all-black cast in it, I couldn’t even think of one. Not one.
People were uncomfortable with it, and we should be—because why don’t we have more movies like it? People everywhere deserve to look up to, imitate, and be inspired by smart, brave, powerful, and strong superheroes that look like them. For years, we’ve had a white-dominant narrative in our media. This shouldn’t be the only movie to change that, may it be the first of many.
Similarly, I saw of Captain Marvel that many MCU fans felt that “Marvel was trying to do what DC did with Wonder Woman”. Has anyone ever said that Marvel was just trying to do what DC was doing with any of their other movies? Nope.
I felt that people (mostly men) were really saying, “We already have a female superhero movie. That’s enough now.” Girls, and women alike, should have more movies of strong, powerful, independent, and intelligent female superheroes. We’ve watched male superhero movies for years, and now finally, we get to see superheroes like us.
Why Representation Should Matter To Christians
Storytelling is an intrinsic part of being human and we can see that demonstrated even when Jesus was on the earth. He was always telling stories, and in those stories Jesus made the story of God and His people relatable. He told stories about men, women, and children, about farmers, workers, shepherds, the marginalized–everyone. His listeners could see themselves in His stories. They could see, like never before, that they belonged in God’s story.
As bringers of the Gospel, and as tellers of God’s story, we need to see to it that our art, music, and writing are relatable to our listeners and the people around us. Because everyone is a part of God’s story, and the stories we tell with our media should only be more reminders that say: you are a part of His story, you belong here too.
Representation matters in our media no matter who it makes feel uncomfortable. We need diverse stories because we live in a world of diverse people made by God and He’s always included everyone in His story.
What are your thoughts on representation in our media? How do you feel that these movies changed the typical narrative for our media? How can the Church do better with this?