During the past three months, I’ve binged many movies. I can now say I’ve officially watched all of the current movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
My sister and I then moved on to the X-Men movies. Those movies are not the best, no, but we enjoy the characters just the same. This was also our first time watching the alternative timeline movies after the original trilogy.
While X-Men: First Class wasn’t the worst movie, there were some choices made by the film that left a bad aftertaste.
There is a montage where Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr track down young mutants to join their cause. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of non-white actors — Zoë Kravitz and Edi Gathegi — joining the cast of characters. I didn’t remember seeing any images of the movie during its promotion period that featured other ethnicities.
This movie came out in 2011, so I could have chalked it up to the years passing. However, I took a look at the trailers again recently to see if anything was shown of these two actors and I know why I didn’t remember them. Both of the actors barely had a few seconds of trailer time and after seeing the movie, I understood why.
Gathegi’s character Darwin was killed after being in only a couple of scenes. I presume his death was supposed to be a motivation for the other characters and solidifying the fact that their purpose would be to prevent a war, yet Darwin is mentioned perhaps once more before disappearing from the story. Kravitz’s character Angel came from a strip club — despite the multiple times these young mutants are referred to as kids, further perpetrating exotic and sexualized stereotypes of her ethnicity — and absconds to the villain side in the same scene that Darwin dies.
Like his actor, Darwin was black. Like her actor, Angel was half-black. The movie made the choice to kill off and villainize its two non-white heroes.
Maybe the characters didn’t have a defined race when the casting call was made. Maybe these were the best actors for their respective roles. Maybe it wasn’t intentional for the cast of heroes to all be white.
But even so, why wasn’t it intentional to have a more diverse cast?
X-Men: Apocalypse seemed to have done better in that department with the additions of Storm and Jubilee. They are two of the most iconic characters in the X-Men universe and it was nice to see them, but… neither were named in the movie.
The main audience of the X-Men movies are fans of the X-Men universe, of course, and Storm and Jubilee were recognizable immediately due to their styles and races. Yet, aside from the little screen time they both had, it was discerning to realize that not one other character calls them by name.
Jubilee was in very few scenes and perhaps a fellow student said her name, but she was in the movie so little that I missed it. Storm’s name was never uttered throughout the runtime.
These choices by the two films, while probably unintentional, erased the contributions of the characters in favor of the all-white cast. There is nothing wrong with the roster of heroes in the films — all were decent characters and actors regardless of race — except that it did not properly represent the people of the world. While I would like to think I would have noticed these slights in the films on my own, the united protests for Black Lives Matter throughout the world made me hyper-aware of this.
Representation has always been crucial in media and hopefully it continues to move forward until instances such as these in film do not leave such a bad aftertaste.