Friday, October 24, 2014

Marvel, DC, and the Diversity Arms Race

Yesterday a friend and I were joking around about DC and Marvel when she pointed out that while Marvel did just announce a whole bunch of new comics titles featuring women, DC just greenlit a bunch of solo movies featuring women and men of color. To which I added that DC has just announced a Static Shock live action television show, and then we both remembered that we're getting not only Agent Carter from Marvel, but also shows centered around Jessica Jones and the Heroes for Hire.

In other words, Marvel and DC appear to be in some kind of giant diversity arms race, and it's pretty much the best thing ever.

I've been noticing this for a while, but it took until yesterday for me to really realize what was going on. And that's because for a long time, Marvel's been sort of playing this game on its own while the executives over at DC decided whether or not they were going to engage. But they did engage, and with the announcement of the Wonder Woman movie, as well as casting men of color for Aquaman and Green Lantern, they shot back in a big way. The diversity war is on!

What's funny, though, is that I feel like most people aren't understanding why this is so awesome. If you go on tumblr you'll find a lot of posts taking sides. Yelling at Marvel for not greenlighting a single solo movie for a non-white male superhero. Arguing that all DC is going to do is screw up these characters that we love. We've gotten so used to diversity being used against us that it's hard to look up and see that the tide is changing. But it is. Celebrate!

No, seriously, celebrate with me! Because the tide really has changed. Both Marvel and DC are acknowledging that they need diverse characters and diverse storylines in order to sell their products. Not only that, but the social capital they can gain by announcing these projects has officially become more important than the social capital they could possibly gain by appealing to "mainstream comics fans". Because, as it turns out, mainstream comics fans like diversity too.

The thing to remember about the diversity arms race is that no matter who wins, we all benefit. There is no lose here. Marvel and DC are going to go after each other see who can greenlight more diverse projects first? Well that is officially my best day ever. 

In the game of diversity, everyone wins. It's not like the fact that DC is making a Wonder Woman movie is going to mean they stop making Batman movies. It's not like making Aquaman a Pacific Islander is going to mean Arrow gets cancelled. It's not like giving Peggy her own show means people will no longer care about Steve Rogers. It's actually the opposite. The more of this stuff we get, the more of it we can appreciate. The more we can find stuff to love, and the less we will all fall on one particular property and tear it to shreds for not accurately representing all of us all the time.

The more diverse media we get, the more we all benefit. I'll be honest, I don't give two craps about Aquaman normally. But am I going to watch Jason Momoa tear it up in that standalone movie? Heck yes I am!

It's easy to see this in a bad light, though. Because if we assume that there are limited resources, that there are only so many projects that Hollywood can greenlight, that there are only so many comics stores will sell, that there are only so many shows the networks can film, it can be easy to think that we can't actually have it all. That we can only have Batman or Wonder Woman, not both.

As it turns out, though, that is complete crap.

Take Sherlock Holmes adaptations, for example. Not only are there two currently running shows based on the crime novel series (BBC's Sherlock and CBS' Elementary), we've also got the Robert Downey Jr. films, the mockbuster films that go along with that (starring Gareth David Lloyd, as it happens), and a whole host of other properties using the Sherlock Holmes characters, ideas, and stories. And you know what? That's freaking great. Seriously. None of these shows or movies has suffered from the competition. Arguably they've all succeeded because of it. Because someone who watches Sherlock heard about Elementary and decided to give it a try. In the game of diversity, everybody wins.

This fall has been really awesome for me as a television lover. I mean, other years have had more female lead shows by the numbers, but this year has had an overwhelming number of shows coming on the air that are racially diverse, feature compelling female characters, and have the full support of their networks and studios. Shows like Selfie, which features an Asian-American man as the romantic lead, and Jane the Virgin, which features a predominantly Hispanic cast and a story centered around a young woman's sexual history, and even Forever, which centers on a white male lead, sure, but also includes a Hispanic leading woman as well as a diverse, compelling cast of secondary characters.

In other words, this year is a good year to be a person who likes diverse media. It's hard to remember that sometimes, if I'm honest. I spend so long staring at all the worst stuff that pop culture has to offer, that it's difficult to take a step back and realize, hey, you know what happened this year? Lucy, a female lead action movie, dominated the summer box office. Maleficent? Made a ton of money. Frozen is freaking universally beloved (much as I take issue with some of it), and Disney just announced that their next princess movie? It's gonna be Moana, about a Pacific Islander explorer princess.

I don't think the fight is over, but I do think the tide has turned. Look around, guys. We did it. There is so much good stuff happening. There are op-eds on major websites talking about the need for more diverse media. We're gonna get another Disney princess of color. Marvel and DC are in a diversity arms race.

So let's egg this thing on! Let's get Marvel and DC at each other's throats to prove once and for all who can make the most inclusive, diverse, compelling stories! Let's goad Marvel into finally giving us Black Widow and Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies. Let's taunt DC into making a Harley Quinn TV show, a Power Girl show, a Zatanna movie. Heck, let's get Sony and 20th Century Fox involved and make them give us Miles Morales on the big screen and a Storm solo picture. We finally have the social power to make a difference.

Everybody wins.


  1. I'm personally gonna try and hold out for a Young Avengers TV show. :D

  2. So let's egg this thing on! Let's get Marvel and DC at each other's throats to prove once and for all who can make the most inclusive, diverse, compelling stories!

    Sounds like a plan. I've love to see an Anima series (better than a film, I think).