If there’s one thing we as Star Wars uberfans have in common, it’s myopia.
To a degree this is pretty understandable. I’ve been guilty of it and odds are I’ll be guilty of it again in the future. Folks that are ultra-invested in Star Wars fandom kept the franchise alive during dormant periods between films. During those dormant periods, content that was released tended to be catered more towards invested fandom. Star Wars during these stretches felt like it was For Us rather than more casual fans or people who simply enjoyed the movies. In essence, we often feel like we’re owed something for Star Wars having a pulse through the mid eighties to late nineties and 2005-2012.
Today Marvel confirmed that Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock fame will indeed be portraying Doctor Strange in the 2016 film of the same name.
And we sigh. We sigh so heavily.
I have nothing personally against Cumberbatch and find him to be a talented actor but just what proportion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is made up of white dudes? Of the fourteen Marvel films focusing on a single hero that have been announced and/or released, only two are not about a white guy.
Two. Out of fourteen. And we had to wait six years for even that much.
A big reason so many people are so excited about the Black Panther and Captain Marvel films, besides them simply being great characters who deserve the full cinematic treatment, is because we have been waiting for years to see a film starring someone who is not a white dude. Yes, we’re finally getting a film about a character of color and a film about a woman and that is wonderful and that is progress. But Doctor Strange was an opportunity to even the scales a little more and make the MCU a little bit more diverse.
While Doctor Strange is typically portrayed as white in the comics, there is no reason why he has to be white–or even male–in an adaptation. Marvel’s previously cast actors of color as characters who were white in the comics, casting Idris Elba as Heimdall and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. This isn’t without precedent. Heck, Warner Brothers cast Jason Mamoa as the star of Aquaman a few months ago. If Aquaman can be played by a person of color, there is zero reason why Doctor Steven Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, can’t be as well.
Marvel had an opportunity to make things a little less overwhelmingly white-dude-ish, to stop focusing on just one sort of character the vast majority of the time, and Marvel didn’t take that opportunity. At this point, they’ve already built two phases of movies around films focusing on white male characters, setting up those movies and those characters as the foundation for all that comes after. I had hoped that they might try to bring a little more balance and diversity to their universe. I am disappointed.