Women Of Colour And Their Treatment In Superhero Franchises

Posted by Vaishali Bhargav

We’ve watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe take flight with Iron Man, 10 years ago and continue to find box office and critical success with their next 18 movies, we’ve seen multiple DC movies get made with Batman and/or Superman beating the life out of the villain who is most of the times convinced that he’s right, we’ve seen the journey of Luke Skywalker from a young, hopeful boy to an old man who’s lost all the hope he once had, however what these franchises have not shown us are strong, diverse, women of colour take control of their narrative in these heavily men lead movies.   

The Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence in 2008 and for the past decade, it has in its own way ruled the box office with its 19 movies, establishing a shared universe, a concept that many have tried to achieve but failed. However, this universe is heavily established on straight white male characters and there’s a glaring lack of women of colour.

The women of Black Panther

Before Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok, the lead black woman in this universe was Zoe Saldana and even she was painted green for her portrayal of Gamora. Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok showcased black women in unapologetically strong roles, however, it took Marvel almost 8 years to include these women in their movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Zoe Saldana as Gamora

Another instance where Marvel has mistreated its female characters of colour is when they casted Elizabeth Olsen, a Caucasian woman to play Wanda Maximoff, a character who is Romani in the comics hence leading a case of whitewashing. DC movies face the similar problem when they gave Katana, a Japanese woman, only a minute worth of screen time in Suicide Squad.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff

While Marvel and DC movies feature women of colour with little screen time, Star Wars is yet to cast someone who is not a white brunette as a lead in one of their films. Kelly Marie Tran in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Thandie Newton in Solo: A Star Wars Story are the only two women of colour in this 40-year-old movie universe who had significant screen time and dialogue but were still not leads in any manner. You would expect a franchise that’s played a significant part in shaping pop culture for the past 3 decades to lead the way with diversity in film, however Star Wars has failed to do so when it comes to showcasing women of colour in strong and yet different roles.

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Kelly Marie Tran in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

These movies are made with the intention of showing real people in fantastical roles, often becoming a medium of escapism and hope, however women of colour find themselves searching for someone who looks like them in these character driven movies. While the past of these franchises can’t be changed we can rightfully hope for them to do better when it comes to representing women of colour as we are being more vocal than ever for inclusion and diversity and these franchises are being called out for their lack of the same.

Also read: Why The Women In Black Panther Deserve Their Own Film

Vaishali Bhargav is a future pet lady who just wants equal rights and clear skin for now. 

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