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Diversity In The Marvel Cinema Universe’s Fourth Phase

Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will not only be introducing a new generation of heroes; it will also be ushering in a new era of diversity in superhero films. Among the heroes that we’ll be seeing in the next few years will be Marvel’s first Asian-American hero, and openly gay hero and a deaf superhero.

In an interview with Inverse in August 2019, Trinh Tran, a development executive at Marvel Studios announced her delight at seeing Shang Chi and Black Widow getting their own movies in the MCU’s Phase 4. This was shortly before The Eternals’ cast was announced, which will feature a hugely diverse cast, including:

  • Kumail Nanjiani: Kumail made his mark as a cast member on HBO’s Silicon Valley and, in 2017, the Pakistani-American comedian received an Academy Award for his screenplay, The Big Sick.
  • Brian Tyree Henry: Best known for his role as “Paper Boi” in Atlanta, Brian is an African-American actor who was nominated for an Emmy award in 2016 and received and Tony Award in 2018 for his role in Lobby Hero.
  • Gemma Chan: Gemma is a Chinese-English actress who has appeared in many high-profile films like Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them and Transformers: The Last Knight, but she is best-known for playing Astrid in Crazy Rich Asians.
  • Lauren Ridloff: Lauren is a former Miss Deaf America winner, who was nominated for a Tony for her performance as Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser God. She is also known for her role as Connie in The Walking Dead and will be Marvel’s first deaf superhero.
  • Salma Hayek: Salma probably doesn’t need an introduction, as everyone knows her for her ground-breaking performance as Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic of the painter. She has won numerous awards for her work in both television and film.

Guiding all of these talented actors will be Chloe Zhao, the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie.

The film will also feature the MCU’s first openly gay male superhero. While no details about who exactly this character will be, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has confirmed that he will be married with kids and will be a fully fleshed-out character. Prior to this, there was just one instance of a gay male character in the MCU – who was featured in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in Avengers: Endgame.

Phase Five, DC and Beyond

Phase Four is just the beginning of the shift towards a more diverse collection of movie superheroes. Marvel and DC both have films planned for release up until 2022, and we’ll see even an even more varied mosaic in the coming years.

The DCU will also be making some great strides in terms of diversity. Ava Duvernay, who directed and wrote When They See Us, will be directing DC’s New Gods which is slated for release in 2022. James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is another film that will feature a diverse and star-studded cast, similar to The Eternals, and we’ll see Iranian and Portuguese actors in leading roles.

It’s a wonderful thing to see all kinds of heroes in upcoming movies – rather than your typical Superman-types. A wider range of people will be able to see themselves on film, and know that they, too, can achieve amazing things.

About the author

Tom Smith

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