Recently, Hasbro and Marvel both announced a new change in their classic lineups. Iron Man, a moniker previously held by Tony Stark, will become Iron Woman at the end of Civil War II, and Mrs. White, a character in the classic Clue franchise, will be replaced by a character named Dr. Orchid, a biologist who specializes in plant toxicology.
We can’t discuss these characters without mentioning the fact that neither of them are white. This is, of course, a positive thing, but it also gives angry fans of the original characters a chance to complain about “forcing diversity.” Let’s unpack this. When a favorite character dies or goes away, it’s understandable that fans will be sad. However, what is bigger than the sadness for a character is a love of the story. If a story is any good, it evolves from death and loss. This is why we keep watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead long after our favorite characters die. So, when the same scenario is presented–even when the characters don’t die–why is there such a visceral reaction?
Frankly, the answer is often either racism or sexism. I love Clue and Mrs. White, and I’m sad that she’s gone, but I’m interested to see what this new character can bring. Now, Clue doesn’t have the same amount of character development that a comic would have, so there isn’t much that the fans need to know about the character or be introduced to other than her brief backstory. However, for comics, we will be able to learn a lot about Riri as well as Tony Stark. Who is Riri and what does she bring to the Marvel Universe? How does Tony react to someone else being Iron Man?
I hate to make the discussion about women revolve around men and their needs, but I think its applicable here. Tony has become insanely popular since the movies came out, and I think comic fans would benefit from seeing him in a different light. There’s a new era of Marvel superheroes: one that is much more diverse than when Iron Man first hit the stands. This is a purposeful and smart move on Marvel’s part. The world is different, the fans are different, and the stories should evolve to reflect that.
Franchises also cannot stop at having a single diverse character. This is most applicable when talking about Marvel. As much as I love her, we cannot be done after having Kamala Khan become Ms Marvel or after Miles Morales became Spider-Man. Including more is not “political correctness” or being a social justice warrior, it’s making more interesting, diverse characters who can add more to the universe.
White stories, male stories, and/or straight stories are not the only ones out there. Having the same character isn’t just detrimental to the story, it’s detrimental to the fans as well. Any franchise worth its salt will want everyone to see themselves in or look up to one or more of its characters, and this means deviating from what has unfortunately become the norm. Including diversity to be more diverse is only a bad thing when it’s the only aspect of a character. When authentic stories are created, the fans will know. Hopefully, with the new Ghostbusters, Marvel characters, and even Dr. Orchid, franchises will see the value in hiring diverse creative teams and making more diverse characters.