Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson is set to become one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s key power players in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Disney+’s upcoming series that follows its titular Avengers as they keep fighting the good superhero fight. Sam’s newfound prominence tracks closely with the character’s path to becoming Captain America in Marvel’s comics, but it’s also something that Mackie himself has taken to heart when thinking about what it means to be a lead actor on a project.
In a recent conversation with Snowpiercer’s Daveed Diggs about their experiences working in the industry, Mackie described how, while shooting multiple Marvel films, he couldn’t help but notice how the overwhelming majority of the crew working behind the camera were white people.
“We have the power and the ability to ask those questions,” Mackie said. “It really bothered me that I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white.”
Mackie’s point was less about having to actually question why the films’ crews weren’t more diverse (that answer should be rather obvious), but rather about how, as a lead on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he’s now in a unique position that allows him to be able to openly present these kinds of questions to the studio with the assumption that his concerns would be taken seriously. Mackie went on to elaborate on the larger and more unsettling issue by pointing to Black Panther as the sole Marvel film to have a predominantly Black production crew—something he attributed to Black Panther being Marvel’s only film with a primary focus on Black characters.
“[Nate Moore] produced Black Panther. But then when you do Black Panther, you have a Black director, Black producer, a Black costume designer, a Black stunt choreographer,” Mackie said. “And I’m like, that’s more racist than anything else. Because if you only can hire the Black people for the Black movie, are you saying they’re not good enough when you have a mostly white cast?”
It’s beyond galling that nothing Mackie said is new, novel, or particularly unique to Marvel Studios and its parent company Disney, but he’s quite right to say it, and he should say it again. In a post-Black Panther world, it can be somewhat easy to forget that the early days of the MCU were virtually devoid of characters of color with particularly prominent roles aside from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and both Terrence Howard’s and Don Cheadle’s respective portrayals of James Rhodey.
That the MCU’s first roster of proper Avengers were literally all white people spoke volumes to the degree to which Marvel considered non-white representation on-screen a priority, and it’s really only just now that the studio’s beginning to get with the program and move forward with more projects centering characters of color and women. But at a time when brands and corporations are doing their damndest to convince the public that they believe in diversity, representation, and inclusion, putting Black and brown faces in front of cameras (read: presenting them as content to be consumed) isn’t nearly enough.
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