When you think about heroes, perhaps the first examples that pop into your mind are Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and more recently, Ironman. These are probably some of the most iconic superheroes from comics and cinema but are only a fraction of the heroes that have appeared in comics and movies over the past few decades.
Despite Marvel and DC generating a high volume of heroes, plenty of others can be thought of in the same right that are not infused with superpowers. Over the past decade, we have seen quite a bit of change in the casting of main characters, seeing more diversity in influential roles and garnering widespread success and acclaim. But this wasn’t always the case.
While there have been diverse actors dating back decades in cinema, they were generally not well received. A majority of these roles were supporting characters, extras, or even villains. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t an impact from these roles, but the characters were put into less prominent positions than the films’ stars. But this isn’t to say that there weren’t standouts as well.
For example, Bruce Lee became a major action star, putting himself in the lead role for many of his films. We also saw the rise of many female stars like Ellen Ripley from “Alien”, Sarah Connor in “Terminator 2”, Catwoman in “Batman Returns”, and more.
While comedic in nature, Robert Townsend and Damon Wayans both suited up for superhero films in the early 1990s, titled “The Meteor Man” and “Blankman”, respectively. During the 90s, we also had characters like Spawn, which starred Michael Jai White. Perhaps one of the bigger breakout hits during that same era was Wesley Snipes‘ “Blade” series and Halle Berry as Storm in the “X-Men” movie franchise.
By the 2000s, we saw characters like Trinity from “The Matrix” series, along with Samuel L. Jackson’s “Nick Fury” and Furiosa from “Mad Max: Fury Road”. In more recent years, we have blockbuster films being helmed, with the most memorable and successful being the “Black Panther”.
[box] “I think that in the movies we’ve already made, and certainly in the movies that are coming up, it will be as inclusive a group of characters as one could want,” Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige told Vulture in 2016. “It’s definitely important to us that these movies reflect the world.” With Phase 4, the MCU is closer than ever to reaching that standard.
While there were some diverse characters in the movies, it was over 15 films before the MCU had a lead that wasn’t a white male. “Black Panther” was the first film to have a person of color as the main character, and “Captain Marvel” was the first Marvel movie to have a female lead.[/box]
But despite the recent success and diversity seen in modern films, it might come as a surprise that despite all of these changes, diversity in cinema is still relatively low. We can only hope that things will continue to improve, with the mindset that Hollywood is becoming more and more inclusive, year after year.