Captain Marvel and Black Panther–– Progressivism: A Then and Now

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With the release of Captain Marvel, the conversation about characters needing representation and screen time continue. Why has it taken so long to deliver the importance of characters like Captain Marvel and Black Panther? Why has Stan Lee’s work, hailed for being progressive and revolutionary for the 60s, now looked at critically as tokenism?

Movie adaptations of decades-old works have a very clear weight of expectation, challenging the movie industry to be similarly progressive as when the comics were initially been released–– if not more so. In either case, Marvel Studios is tasked with translating the impact of black and women heroes of the 1960s to the impact they would have in 2019. The reality is, we currently live in an era where representation–– from any media, is looked at through a very little lens and analyzed critically, and unfortunately, in Marvel’s case, deemed as marketing ploys to fill Disney’s pockets.

Let’s examine a more everyday example. Commercials involving lesbian and gay couples were a big deal to me when I was a younger, still questioning child, but in retrospect, brands utilized identity for money grabs–– and still do! This isn’t to say lesbian moms and gay dads shouldn’t exist in the realm of commercial breaks, or that they shouldn’t be treated with the same normalcy as heterosexual parents, but it is to say that this isn’t the height of justice. It is a band-aid at best, over the larger scale injury of oppression and erasing us from society.

Instead of writing off movie successes as our modern era being a post-oppressive society, we should be utilizing Captain Marvel and Black Panther as starting grounds for us to bootstrap essential conversations we should be having about liberation. We need to discuss how we can be more progressive individuals now, compared to what progressivism was then.

By Danielle Duemesi
Danielle is the founder of
NetworkInk and an illustrator based in New York City