It’s official, hunties: in next summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up” superstar, Zendaya will be playing the iconic caught-in-webby-love with Spidey-Man, Mary Jane Watson. Diehard fans have been long playing detective on who she would portray opposite British hunk, Tom Holland.
This is a groundbreaking casting choice and I’m going to tell you why.
Harvest Political Review has a mic-drop worthy exposé on “The Superhero Diversity Problem” (which you should totally read), and Muslim Reverie has an excellent piece, “Erasure of Women Of Color In Superhero Politics” (which you also should definitely read), but the truth of the matter is, I haven’t seen a leading woman of color in a superhero movie since 2004’s CatWoman with Halle Berry.
It’s a slippery slope, because on the one hand, we have the new Star Trek: Beyond, which features an extravagant, diverse, and complex cast (the Star Trek verse has always been remarkably and refreshingly open-minded):
But on the other, studio heads are continuing to whitewash characters in the superhero world:
Scarlett Witch in the comics is Romani, so she shouldn’t be white:
Probably one of the most buzzed about disappointments is Tilda Swinton cast in “Doctor Strange”:
And there’s even more instances with Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost In The Shell”:
In superhero movies where there is proper representation, like Zoe Saldana in “Guardians”, the only draw is she has green skin and is a non-human species:
Characters like Storm from “X-Men” were so important to me growing up and it’s safe to say that Berry was a huge let down.
And that’s not entirely her fault. Her role was so secondary compared to Jean Grey and Rogue, that the material didn’t give her more than a meer, non-fierce amount of throwaway lines. I personally think one of these two should’ve been cast:
Even in the latest “X-Men: Apocalypse”, we see Jubilee at a glance, but she doesn’t have any speaking lines:
All of these examples and more prove that the world has been, and, IS ready for more people of color in leading roles in Superhero movies. If we can have Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman coming out next year, we certainly have room to at least give the comics, and characters, actors/actresses that look/represent WHO they are intended to be/play.
If photos like this are important (and they are!), than it’s important why Zendaya was cast in a largely familiar and beloved character in a universal franchise like Spider-Man. The more we see ourselves represented on the big screen, the more love and understanding we will have in the real world.