There’s been a lot going on in Hollywood – the #MeToo movement, the #TimesUp initiative, and an attempt to diversify the representation of women and people of color in films (on screen and behind the scenes) across the board. Whether or not these issues have been turned into action or have actually affected the way women and people of color are treated, hired, and represented on screen remains to be seen, but it helps to know that one of the people at the head of a billion-dollar Marvel franchise is a woman who “believes in people dreaming.” Victoria Alonso has been the Head of Physical Production at Marvel Studios since 2015, so every film since the first Iron Man has been under her watch, and if you’re keeping track, that’s a lot of movies!
Superhero mythologies are many things to many people across all walks of life and it’s not surprising considering the ever relevant themes like: the desire to belong, dissatisfaction with cultural norms, love, and the relationship between science and magic as a way to confront the ills of society. They represent the best of humanity, but even in all their splendor they’ve failed to represent people of color and complex female characters on screen for decades – until now. The release of Black Panther has been the most successful film by a Black director featuring a largely Black cast ever – it’s already made over $900 million! It’s another groundbreaking notch in Alonso’s belt and as she told HipLatina, “It was a bit of a spiritual experience. It was something that, as a filmmaker, happens once or twice in your career and I’m glad that it’s happened for me once. It’s a movie that means so much to so many and it was a triumph to be able to do it.”
Alonso cites the importance of drawing on diverse experiences as one of the sources of her strength in Marvel’s production. “I think being able to have been born and growing up in a different country, I think it brings a different perspective sometimes to different topics. I think if you grew up in a very peaceful town in Ohio you probably had a very different lifestyle than I did growing up in a dictatorship in Argentina, so sometimes those things come up depending on what stories we’re telling in the way women have been treated or represented in culture – I think that’s something that comes up sometimes, and not just because I am a woman, but a woman of a different country.” This of course lends to the subject of immigrants, DACA, TPS and the heated social and political debate that has paved the way for fierce anti-immigrant sentiments. When HipLatina asked about the Marvel universe’s potential to tackle those topics it was pretty clear that the cinematic universe tries to deal with current events with the universality of its characters: “we try to stay agnostic when it come to politics because our viewers come from all walks of life and we speak to all people, but we speak to the universal things like love and family and friendship and freedom. And I’m sure [that] 100 percent applies to all dreamers, but we don’t call it ‘this is about dreamers’ we call it ‘this is about people.’ And perhaps it will be important for other folks to see dreamers as people.”
Black Panther is in theaters now and Thor: Ragnarok is available digitally and on DVD.