Movies are some of the biggest sources of entertainment today. From cinema visits to personalised Netflix content, films have remained the permanent fix in popular culture and entertainment. Every now and then, a movie comes along and goes beyond the realm of pop culture and entertainment. It stretches into mainstream public consciousness and becomes a cultural statement.
Marvel Studios is probably at the forefront in the fight for gender and racial equality worldwide, as far as movies is concerned. Through the creation of films that transcend the industry to permeate various sectors of our daily lives, Marvel manages to focus the attention of peoples across the globe on a singular message of unity; more qualities unite us than divide us. This was a major theme in Black Panther, Captain Marvel and most recently in Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame as a result of which these movies have been welcomed with an astounding degree of global acclaim that they have been made more than just affairs for cinemas.
The biggest reason for advocating for roles for women and minorities is for normalization. When we see these roles reflected in movies and the media, we begin to accept that these values are normal; that women can be superheroes too and that black people can possess advanced technologies and confidence in their own race. By making these statements, we take charge of the narrative of events in our various societies and younger generations will be made more aware that regardless of sex or race, there are no mountains too high for them to climb.
In Black Panther, the introduction of Shuri as the warrior princess as well as the country’s technological whiz have been described by many as a statement to spur the interest of young girls and women in STEM. With the carefree playfulness that comes with being comfortable in your own skin, she reminds us as she continually upgrades her tech that ‘…just because something is working doesn’t mean it cannot be improved’. Wise words to live by.
Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.”– Shuri #BlackPanther
As opposed to the situation found in a litany of other (older) movies, Shuri was not seen at any point waiting for a prince charming. Alongside General Okoye (another woman who was just plain badass) she fought alongside her brother and the country’s army (almost all of whom were women), saved the lives of her people and delivered on every task until the very end.
Following in the ground-breaking steps of the movie, at the last Oscars Ruth E. Carter was the first black person to win the Award for Best Costume Design. and Hannah Bleacher became the first black person to win the Award for best Production Design. Both awards were for their work on Black Panther and this further demonstrates that the decision for representation has a positive cascade effect that goes beyond the immediate project.
Captain Marvel exceeded our expectations in more ways than one. Starring Brie Larsson as probably the most widely cheered heroine of all time was not enough; by inserting the character of Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch) as her brilliant black co-pilot, Marvel went a long way to introduce into the narrative, the incredible qualities of motherhood, sisterhood and true friendship, the sort that rises above racial diversity. We see a mother, great at her job and cheered on by her little girl to go save the planet and we realize that contrary to popular belief, mothers can successfully nurture both their careers and their families without necessarily sacrificing one for the other.
In Avenger’s Endgame then, it came as no huge shock to see Captain Marvel, arrive as the last resort of mankind on this planet; fishing out Tony Stark from his lost place in space and leading the search for Thanos when the Avengers team felt most powerless. Alongside Natasha, Mantis, Gamorra, Mrs Stark (yet another mother who helped save our world) and the other heroes, she fights for the survival of this universe and when the situation arose, we see Natasha sacrifice her soul for the soul ring with no hesitation.
And it continues to get better. In one of the most fascinating scenes of Avenger’s Endgame, we find that Asgard, the God-race of Thor now has a Queen. Not as the wife of a leading King but as one in whom the leadership of the whole race is now solely vested in. Thor in handing over the mantle of leadership to Valkyrie, was sure to point out that a true leader shouldn’t be denied his or her calling in life by mere reason of birth or sex.
Then at the peak of it all is the fact that Captain America is now a black person. In one of the most touching scenes of the movie, Rodgers hands over the Captain America shield to Falcon. While Marvel has not announced any plans to pursue stories with Valkyrie and Black Hawk going forward, all these twists in the narrative are crucial because this is how revolutions are fueled. This is how inclusivity of gender and all race is born and reborn. Through messages such as these, tucked away in the many little scenes of these movies, Marvel Studios reminds us that times are changing. We all can be powerful and we all matter; women and the world’s minority races alike.
To cover the business end, it is necessary to point out here that following this shift in trends, in recent times, making movies and comics with women and minority races as the stars have actually become very profitable ventures to embark upon. Black Panther and Captain Marvel alone were some of the biggest grossing movies of all time even though Marvel Studios may not have fully envisioned this development from the start. But there you go, actual proof that coming down on the right side of women’s empowerment, encouragement of minority races and even the adoption of sustainable values pay well. The profitability here can be likened to what is tenable when a hair relaxer company expands their business to include masks and natural treatments for natural hair. Their profit just goes through the roof.
I am not a movie geek but I have been so impressed by the messages relayed through these movies that I just had to share my feelings on them. We need to change the narrative for our young girls and attack these other societal prejudices head on, and one of the most powerful ways to get this done is by using as many platforms as possible. Whether through music, religion, films, schools, or the social media; we all need to continue correcting these social injustices until the better way becomes the new norm.
We all need to try. We owe the next generation a society better than this one.
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Feature image via Edits By Ronan.