The Marvel universe has hit a point of popularity where it can practically do no wrong (we can probably attribute that to a certain amazing movie franchise driven by Robert Downey Jr.). One thing that’s still a bit of a sore spot for the conglomerate though is the question of diversity and representation. They might employ some of the best (and most attractive) actors on the planet, but it’s no secret that almost all of them are white.
Marvel and Disney have acknowledged their shortcomings in that department though, and they’re ready to make (slow but steady) changes. They’ve made leaps and bounds with their comic books in particular; the new Iron Man is a 15-year-old black girl (which we love). Movies-wise, they’ve added some more diverse characters, but never in starring roles–a Black Panther movie is set for 2018 though, so get excited.
It’s possible the Marvel universe is about to blow it all open. It was announced yesterday that Zendaya will be taking on the role of Mary Jane Watson in the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie, marking the first woman of colour to hold a leading role in a Marvel film. And it looks like people are pretty excited.
Finding out @Zendaya is playing MJ in Spider-Man is just about the best news I could have gotten EVER! She’s gonna kill it 🙌✨💕💖 SO EXCITED!!
— Noodlerella (@noodlerella) August 19, 2016
At the end of the day Zendaya will be getting paid and representing for girls all over and the ppl hating will be at home bored af.
— Geeks Of Color (@GeeksOfColor) August 19, 2016
I have nothing to add to the Zendaya as MJ “debate” other than “yay” & “they already cast her, shut up, you’re on the wrong side of history”
— Kate @ FlameCon 148 (@kateleth) August 19, 2016
This may not seem like a big deal–it’s not like she’s the first coloured person to be in a Marvel film–but the important part is what this means for the future of Marvel casting. Before now, movie characters were cast to look exactly like those in the comic books (again, we site RDJ as a perfect example) which, let’s be honest, were predominantly white.
Diversity in the movies, including the few black characters that were cast, came from the comics (which is about as diverse as it got). Here, Marvel has cast a biracial woman as a traditionally white character, opening the door to colour-blind casting. This can set a precedent for diversifying casting regardless of the comic book character’s race. This is a big deal!
The new movie will focus on a high-school-aged Peter Parker/Spider-Man and will star Tom Holland–from Captain America: Civil War–as the guy in tights. Zendaya’s Mary Jane will, naturally, be his love interest. Zendaya seems to be establishing herself as a more mature actress and star, so we’re excited to see what she can do in her biggest movie role to date. We’re rooting for you, Z!