**Warning – Spoilers Ahead**
After Marvel explored new territories with the hit series, WandaVision, expectations for their next Disney+ series, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, were high.
It’s important that Marvel are finally using their platform to create a dialogue on important and relevant issues
If you watched Endgame, you’ll know it ended with Captain America/Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) retiring from his role and leaving his shield to his good friend, The Falcon/Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie). From that moment, we could pretty much gather that Marvel were suggesting Sam would go on to be the next Captain America. However, the early episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier suggested to us that wouldn’t be possible for a more complex reason than expected; institutional racism.
A huge reason Black Panther was so successful was due to the fact that it proved to fans everywhere that superheroes could be of all colours. However, since then, it’s safe to say that the Avengers, along with the rest of the MCU characters, weren’t exactly representative of the wider world. After all, the four main Avengers – Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America – were all Caucasian.
outside the realm of Wakanda, there was a clear lack in ethnic superheroes
When the Black Panther film was released with a predominantly black cast and black director, it suggested that things were changing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not just in terms of promoting more diversity but also in regard to the themes that would be explored in their films and shows, as seen by WandaVision.
So, just the hint of the Falcon taking over as Captain America, was huge. Afterall, outside the realm of Wakanda, there was a clear lack in ethnic superheroes. Yes, we had War Machine/James Rhodes (played by Don Cheadle) and of course, the Avengers wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), but it wasn’t exactly as if these characters were the ones who children were eager to dress up as on Halloween.
Although the show was presented in the trailer as having a comedic and action packed “good guy vs bad guy” trope, it was clear that Marvel were keen to further explore some heavy issues. The topic of race was first presented in Episode 2, when we see the police interfering in a heated argument between Sam and Bucky/The Winter Solider (played by Sebastian Stan) to make sure Sam wasn’t “bothering” Bucky. This evident portrayal of racial profiling was somewhat downplayed in further episodes and not entirely addressed head on till later in the series.
We could see what direction Marvel was trying to take us when they introduced the newly government employed Captain America, a blue-eyed and blonde-haired man, by the name of John Walker. Walker subliminally represented an all-white America, where those of other races weren’t rewarded with the privilege of high rankings. But again, it wasn’t being directly implied that this was the reason these events had taken place until later on in the season when we were introduced to a key character in the series, Isaiah Bradley.
Both Isaiah’s story and now Sam’s represent a clear institutional racism that exists in the fictional world just as prominently as it does in reality
For context, Isaiah (played by Carl Lumbly) was a black veteran during the Korean War and was chosen by HYDRA to be a test subject for the Super-Soldier serum. However, unlike the rest of the MCU characters who received the serum, namely Steve Rogers, Isaiah was never hailed for the heroic acts he performed after his exposure, and even went on to be imprisoned for 30 years, after which he was simply erased from history and was left as just another innocent black man who had been failed and abused the government, in the name of the country which he served.
Both Isaiah’s story and now Sam’s represent a clear institutional racism that exists in the fictional world just as prominently as it does in reality. Although it (frustratingly) takes Sam a few episodes to realise that he has, like many before him, been used by the Avengers and by America as a whole as a ‘symbol’ of diversity, he finally understands the importance of his position and the ability to make change.
as a person of colour and a fan of MCU, I’m glad to see Marvel finally taking the plunge and addressing these key issues
In the series finale, he goes on to make a powerful monologue, stating; “I’m a black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know they’re millions of people who are going to hate me for it. Even now, here, I feel it. The stares, the judgement. And there’s nothing I can do to change it. Yet I’m still here. No super serum, no blonde hair or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.”
It’s important that Marvel are finally using their platform to create a dialogue on important and relevant issues, especially those that are particularly topical in current society. The series, fairly poignantly, ends with the revelation that Sam does in fact go on to take over as Captain America. But even then, it’s somewhat bittersweet to thing that even despite the evolution and diversification of American society, it took such a long and complex battle for him to be even awarded this title.
Nonetheless, as a person of colour and a fan of MCU, I’m glad to see Marvel finally taking the plunge and addressing these key issues and I hope they continue to do the same in their blockbusters, as opposed to limited series’ which may not have as much reach as previous productions have had.
In article images courtesy of via Instagram. No changes made to these images.
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