Marvel Writers on Why it Took so Long for Diversity in the MCU

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios
September 21st, 2016

It’s no secret that there’s been an outcry for more diversity from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Audiences have often lamented that the cast of Marvel movies is mostly male and mostly Caucasian as the films have rolled out. It’s been a slow climb for Marvel to begin addressing that as they’ve added Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to the lineup, but with Black Panther and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) getting solo movies, the shape of the MCU is changing. Why did it take so long?

Several Marvel Studios and comic book writers teamed up for a panel at Long Beach Comic Con this weekend and addressed that during their talk. Participating in the panel was Agent Carter writer Brandon Easton. Agent Carter was the first official female-led project for Marvel, though the series was canceled after declining ratings in season two. It was Easton who addressed the audience question of why people of color and women didn’t get headlining spots in the MCU for so long.

Easton explained that, “There are things that go on behind the scenes, political and financial, which are ultimately the same thing, that the average consumer knows nothing about,” which sounds like it might have alluded to the same kinds of discussions that occurred that resulted in Iron Man 3 trimming down its female villain to a supporting role. Marvel executives, rather than Marvel writers, didn’t place a lot of faith in the marketing of female characters in merchandise, though over the last few years, fans have certainly requested more merchandise featuring characters like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Scarlet Witch, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Nebula (Karen Gillan).

Easton continued, “We had a lot of plans on the hopper… We had Black Panther, which we’re doing now, other projects that I can’t mention… We want to make those movies, but we answered to people who have different ideas. Even Kevin Feige answered to people who had different ideas at the time. But after ten years, we finally scraped them off our boots, and now you’re seeing those movies, you’re seeing Captain Marvel. Those fights have had rooms for a long time.”

Easton’s explanation only seems to further confirm the rumored tension between the television and cinematic sides of Marvel, which are controlled by two different entities now. The studio side, led by Kevin Feige, reports to Disney, the parent company behind Marvel Studios. The television side, is still part of Marvel Entertainment, despite the involvement of Marvel Studios, which means it reports to different executives in addition to its dealings with the network leading the show. Rumors have persisted that it’s down to executives and the likes of Ike Perlmutter, who is the CEO of Marvel Entertainment, for perpetuating the divide and stalling diversity within the MCU. While that may be true, Marvel television actually boasts more diversity than the films, and with less projects to date, so the tide might be turning in a positive direction for both sides of the company.

On the television front, Marvel has embraced diversity on a much larger scale. In Agents of SHIELD alone, half of its principal cast includes women and people of color. One third are also over the age of fifty. The only female led projects so far have been the previously mentioned Agent Carter and Netflix’s Jessica Jones. Luke Cage will become Marvel’s first project led by a black man. The larger MCU could learn a thing or two about how to create an inclusive cast from the writers of the series.

The next three movies on the big screen for Marvel are Doctor Strange, out in November, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, out in May, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, out in July. The latter might be the most diverse Marvel movie so far, boasting a huge cast of all different ages and ethnic backgrounds.

Agents of SHIELD is currently airing its season four on ABC on Tuesdays at 10PM. Luke Cage will be available to stream on Netflix starting September 30.