Film Forward

Robert Downey Jr. Calls For More Diversity In Marvel Movies In A Passionate Speech

"The whole idea is to make space for others to succeed, and exceed our expectations."

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

As the release of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War nears, you can feel the excitement of moviegoers growing stronger and stronger. However, while the heroes who we've come to know in the 10 years since the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe seem to be limitless in their powers, there's one limit that the films seem to have: a lack of diversity. 

While newer films like runaway success Black Panther and future films are definitely great strides, their original hero Robert Downey Jr. thinks more can be done, and he said so during a recent funny and heartfelt speech at the Infinity War premiere.

As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Downey had a lot to say ahead of the premiere of the movie. He lauded the film's directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and joked with his large team of castmates. He even reflected on the 10-year ride he's had thus far as the leading man of the MCU. Amid all the good-natured ribbing and praise, Downey also took time to address the address the fact that, for the most part, the studio's films have been largely centered on White men both in front of and behind the camera — an issue brought up in a recent Mic article that pointed out that two-thirds of Marvel movies' top-billed stars have been White men, and that only four people of color (and just one woman) have written for or directed an MCU film so far.

With Black Panther becoming a blockbuster and Captain Marvel — which has a female lead and is co-directed by Anna Bowden — on the horizon, those numbers will soon change. "Now at least half a directing team is female," Downey told the gathered crowd at the premiere. "Making these movies is so taxing that it is clearly a woman's job. It's essentially gestation. But we don't know how to do that."

He then focused on Black Panther, saying, "Wakanda rules the day and rightfully so. By the way, Wakanda forever! I can do that as an honorary black man: Tropic Thunder, 2008! This is the MCU, right in front of you. It's all about fighting for equality. The whole idea is to make space for others to succeed, and exceed our expectations."

Downey's sentiments echo the recent shift toward inclusion in Hollywood, with the studios striving for more diverse representation both in front of and behind the camera to reflect the world we all live in. Since films, especially those that depict extraordinary heroes with fantastical powers, show an idealized world, it's only right that they be representative of all as much as possible. Downey closed his speech with a similar thought.

"[The movies] are inviting us to surrender and love and be of service," Downey said. "They are metaphors for how our world should be — or could be one day, if we fight for it."

Cover image: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

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