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Even after Black Panther, Marvel continues to overlook its superheroes of colour

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The poster for Avengers: Endgame did not originally feature star Danai Gurira’s name, proving just how far Hollywood has to go when it comes to representation.

When Black Panther premiered just over a year ago, many heralded it as a major cultural shift in pop culture representation.

Here, finally, was a blockbuster superhero movie starring a primarily black cast allowing future generations of children to see themselves on screen in a set of powerful, ass-kicking heroes that saved the world. The movie made an enormous amount of money, broke box office records, was nominated for a slew of awards and became the first superhero movie to be named a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars.

And yet in the first poster for Avengers: Endgame only one Wakandan superhero features in the image. And her name isn’t even included in prime position on that poster.

Warning: Some light spoilering for Avengers: Infinity War is ahead. In fairness to Marvel, Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the last of the Wakandan warriors left standing after Thanos did the awful deed, snapped his fingers and wiped out half of the world’s population, superhero or otherwise. (We are going to refer to this event forthwith as The Snapture.)

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)? Dead. Shuri (British rising star Letitia Wright)? Dead. Nakkiah (Lupita Nyong’o)? Well, she wasn’t actually in Avengers: Infinity War, but let’s assume she’s dead. Wiped out by the mere snap of Thanos’ fingers. T’Challa’s loyal and fierce right hand woman Okoye, the leader of his female-only personal protection force known as the Dora Milaje, is the only Wakandan left alive, therefore she is the only character from Black Panther on the poster.

We get it. You’ll notice that other fan favourites killed in The Snapture don’t appear on the poster either, like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Chris Pratt’s Star Lord or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange. 

Fear not, all your favourites wiped out by The Snapture (OK fine, we’ll stop now) will probably return over the course of the movie. Placing our cynical conspiracy theorist hats firmly on our heads, we’re just going to say that it would be extremely unlikely for all the beloved characters of Black Panther to stay dead before they got to make a sequel, given the popularity of that movie.

But back to Okoye and Danai Gurira for a second. Gurira’s Okoye is the only female superhero of colour on that Avengers: Endgame poster. War Machine (Don Cheadle) is the only male superhero of colour. Okoye is also one of only four women who feature in the image alongside Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

And yet unlike every single other person who appears on that poster, including two Hollywood Chrises and Bradley Cooper, whose face isn’t even there (he voices foul-mouthed racoon Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy), Gurira’s name does not appear in the main block of credits at the top of the poster. Instead, she is relegated to the teeny tiny bottom block of text alongside actors who don’t even appear on the poster, like Doctor Strange’s Benedict Wong and Iron Man’s Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau.

And the fans weren’t happy about it. 

Movie billing and celebrity crediting is an enigmatic art form involving a lot of backstage wheeling and dealing by Hollywood agents jostling for their stars to have ultimate power. We don’t know what was going on behind the scenes that led to this decision to erase Gurira’s name from the poster.

But this oversight seemed particularly pointed, given not only the critical and financial success of Black Panther but the fact that, despite all the inroads towards representation made by that particular movie, Okoye is the only female superhero of colour to appear on the poster.

Thankfully, Marvel didn’t need much convincing to correct their mistake. After the social media groundswell grew into a movement, the studio reissued the poster with Gurira’s name instated alongside her fellow superheros Brie Larson and Karen Gillan. They also apologised for leaving her off in the first place.

Yes, Marvel, Gurira deserves to have her name in lights, and we’re glad that this error was rectified quickly. 

But to paraphrase Okoye’s own line from Avengers: Infinity War – the most hilarious joke in the whole movie – why wasn’t she up there all this time? 

Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas in the US and UK on 26 April. 

Images: Marvel

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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