The release of the most recent Avengers movie has been buzzed about with great frequency. In accordance with the usual media rounds that a soon-to-be released movie makes, the main actors of the upcoming Avengers made an appearance on the morning talk shows. Each one of the actors reflected the historically demographic standard of the American hero – white and male. Of course, this is by no means a new revelation, as others have noted the “white savior” theme that tends to dominate the media. Still, once again, one would think that, as the American citizenry diversifies, so would the superhero.
One could contend, in fact, that it is because of the hegemonic notions regarding how the hero should look that there was both excitement and controversy surrounding the speculation of what many called the first “Black Bond.” Those who were hoping to see a paradigm shift in the action hero who has saved the world from coming to an end for multiple decades were disappointed when Idris Elba, the actor rumored to play James Bond in the near future, made it clear that he would not be assuming the role. His reason in part – he detests the label “Black Bond.” Understandably, the label, “Black Bond,” in of itself perpetuates the notion that a melanin-kissed Bond is unusual and not in accordance with the prevailing perceptions of James Bond’s physical appearance. Additionally, it significantly undermines any attempt at separating the constructed character from the expected physical appearance. Even those who have played James Bond in the past expressed opposition to Elba playing the character, utilizing flimsy, if not erroneous, excuses in an attempt to veil the true origins of their dissent.
Ultimately, the fact remains that moviegoers have been conditioned to expect the hero to fit the historically constructed
archetype. Even when the hero does not reflect the longstanding archetype, they may have to share the spotlight. Reflecting back on the first Beverly Hills Cop for example, after Eddie Murphy’s character tracks the necessary evidence and identifies the bad guy, it is in the final scene that Murphy’s character, along with the white, male police chief who had consistently discouraged Murphy from pursuing the case, both shoot and kill the murderous, kidnapping drug dealer.
Nonetheless, there may be a glimmer of hope in the diversification of the hero considering Denzel Washington’s recent portrayal in the conceptually revived Equalizer in which he, and he alone, eliminates the bad guy(s). In the meantime, as the U.S. demographics change, one can only hope that the heroes soon do so as well.