Marvel’s newest inclusive pro diversity move just seems, odd. Veteran comics writer Brian Michael Bendis recently announced and shared an image of Marvel’s newest recast. 15-year-old MIT student Riri Williams will be putting on the armor in an upcoming Iron Man series.
Diversifying characters is not exactly new for Marvel; Captain America, Thor, and Ms. Marvel have all received recasts to less whitewashed characters, and that’s a good thing in moderation. There’s a careful balance that must be struck so as not to fall into over-representation when trying to fix under-representation. If too many of your characters begin to represent a real world minority, there is a genuine risk that writers will fall back on stereotyping to write for them.
This isn’t due to any actual bias or -ism on the part of the writers, it’s a simple factor of how the admittedly lazy human brain works. Groups we see as outside of our own we tend to homogenize. This is only because it’s easier for the brain to think in self identifying terms about who we aren’t rather than the volumes and volumes of unique experiences , views, and beliefs that make us individuals. When it comes to groups, our brains do the same thing.
We know that our own particular local circle of friends and acquaintances run a full spectrum. However, for groups and cultures outside of our day to day experiences, it’s simply less costly for our neurons to see “them” as homogeneous, until proven otherwise by our own experiences.
This is why the character of Riri Williams, super genius 15 year old MIT student (who is nothing like Doogie Howser M.D, we swear) gives me pause. Is Marvel creating characters that are so much removed that writing for them in any realistic fashion will become impossible?
Don’t mistake me here. I’m interested to see where this new character goes and will not reject her out of hand. Having said that, without a great story, conflict, and background that make her more than a guest star… I’ll be sorely disappointed.