Commentary: Marvel Brings Separate but Equal to the Superhero Universe

Commentary: Marvel Brings Separate but Equal to the Superhero Universe

Sony hack reveals the franchise's racist, anti-LGBT policies.

Published June 22, 2015

On Monday, news leaked from the Marvel camp that the rumors of Ava DuVernay directing the studio's Black Panther movie are true, and would soon be announced publicly. While this would normally be cause for us to rejoice — and, believe me, we're thrilled — the timing of the leak may be nothing more than a lame attempt to distract us from a dirty little secret that slipped out Friday.

A contract between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios leaked in the now-infamous email hack, confirms what many have suspected for years: minorities of any stripes are not welcome in the Marvel universe. At least, not when it comes to the company's biggest franchises.

Gawker.com dug up the licensing agreement between Sony and Marvel in regards to the Spider-Man franchise, and, among a long list of requirements and restrictions are the points that the webbed hero must be male, and must be heterosexual. As for his alter-ego, Peter Parker, who lives in the real world, he must be a Caucasian, heterosexual male from a middle class background in Queens. 

BLACK SUPERHEROES IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE

Guess we now know why those fan campaigns to put Donald Glover or Michael B. Jordan in the Spidey suit went nowhere — Sony isn't legally allowed to cast them. Marvel did manage to break off a few crumbs for these two talented actors by offering Glover some voice work in the cartoon version of Spider-Man, and Jordan a role as the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four film. The company has also been making a show of diversifying by signing Chadwick Boseman to a multi-picture deal.

But this contract, if legit, proves that the company won't let people of color, LGBT folks or women anywhere near its most profitable, mainstream franchises. Even in a fictional world of make believe, anyone who is not a straight, white male is relegated to the sidelines.

Shame on you, Marvel. Did you think today's news — which still has not been confirmed — would make us forget about your whitewashed vision for Spider-Man? And we don't even know what the fine print is on your other big ticket franchises, like Iron Man and Thor.

So, while we're happy someone at Marvel headquarters is smart enough to recognize the talent that is Miss DuVernay and throw piles of money at her, we're not letting the company off the hook for their separate-but-equal philosophy. If you really want to diversify, burn that licensing agreement with its racist, anti-LGBT old-world ideology and get creative with your vision for the future.

In the meantime, we couldn't think of anyone better to shake things up at Marvel than Ava DuVernay. Watch our profile of the director, below:

(Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

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Written by Evelyn Diaz

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