Why We Really Need More Black, Female, and LGBT Superhero Movies

There have been many articles written about the need for for a female-led or African American-led superhero film and it finally seems that it's going to happen, whether it be DC's Wonder Woman or Marvel's Black Widow or Black Panther (no word of an LGBT superhero movie in the works). When we talk about the need for these films in mainstream popular culture we talk about it mostly in grandiose terms that boil down to "it's time" or that "girls or kids of different races deserve their own superhero to look up to," etc. Looking at the need for these films as a cultural necessity is all well and good, we often neglect to look at the fact that these ideas simply present great storytelling opportunities.

The opportunity of an African American superhero, for example, is huge. Being African American in this country is different from that of being a white heterosexual American male, a type who makes up pretty much every other superhero movie these days. This difference isn't even based on social or economic status, but how they are looked at by their country and how they look back at it. In the case of the superhero narrative, this is the country they're supposed to fight for. A country that has a history of slavery. A country which has only allowed women to vote for less than a century. A country that still doesn't allow certain people to get married.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are already several minority and female characters who have been introduced that could lead their own film. Thus far we've only seen them regulated as a love interest or sidekick to the white protagonist. Nearly every individual franchise within the megafranchise MCU has had the "black sidekick" character. These characters are often the most interesting parts of the film, partly because they are portrayed by some fantastic actors.
Actually, can we just have a Black Avengers movie? Because that sounds amazing.
Look at the Iron Patriot for example, a character who started off being called "War Machine" but was literally rebranded by the government as "The Iron Patriot." If that doesn't scream social commentary, I don't know what does. Don Cheadle's performance in Iron Man 3 and the theme of changing identity proves that The Iron Patriot could carry his own film.

I'm not proposing that we have a movie in which Wonder Woman fights for equal pay or The Falcon stops the police at Ferguson. What I am proposing is that we see a different perspective on the superhero narrative. Anyone who knows anything knows that a good superhero movie isn't really about the hero. Thus far, we've seen tons of white heterosexual male superheroes dealing with their own internal and external conflicts. Many of them are quite good. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, about perhaps the whitest of the white superheroes, is probably Marvel's best film. The reason for that is because the film is a rich allegory about war, power, and corruption all depicted through Cap's point of view as he struggles to come to terms with this new world. Captain America came to the shocking realization that his country and his government were no longer on his side. What an amazing film it would be if the hero was someone who felt their country has never really been on their side.


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