Whether you love or hate them, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the gold standard of shared universes. With 28 movies to date, each story is told by different actors, writers, and directors. Yet they all fit together perfectly, culminating in an epic phase-finale. In that space, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man became one of the most popular superheroes in modern times, leading the franchise for 11 years before his sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame. Iron Man 3 even spawned additions like the All Hail the King One-Shot. But now, eight years later, Disney has decided to edit the spin-off for its use of a racial slur.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Marvel One-Shots were a series of direct-to-video short films set within (or inspired by) the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released between 2011 and 2014, they were included as special features on the Blu-ray and digital distribution releases. The mini-movies had a run time of no more than 15 minutes and were designed as self-contained stories, proving a back story for characters or events introduced in the films. All Hail the King starred Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery and was set after the events of Iron Man 3.
While the movies and television series continue to enjoy phenomenal success, the One-Shots have been abandoned by Marvel Studios. However, the existing releases have made their way onto Disney’s streaming service, where a few eagle-eyed fans spotted the edit in the Iron Man 3 One-Shot. The Trevor Slattery-led short sees the villain in prison where the inmates either honor his celebrity, or question if he was the real Mandarin. This newly discovered change to the mini-movie happens around the 2:15 mark, where a racial slur has been removed.
In the original dialogue of the scene between the Iron Man 3 villain and other inmates, one of the characters begins a greeting with the phrase, “Hey, cracker! What’s up?” This derogatory term is used as a racial insult directed toward people of Caucasian descent and is deemed offensive by some. So in the new version, the character simply says, “Hey! What’s Up?” While some may see the edit as a welcome change, the move may be setting a dangerous precedent for the studio. Is it a good idea to go back and make edits to things that were fine at one point, but are no longer acceptable today?
How far is too far? Because within the same conversation the Iron Man 3 baddie uses the word “bitch” – which can also be seen as offensive. If enough people complain, will they remove that too? Or perhaps the entire One-Shot will be deemed unsuitable? Streaming makes it much easier to censor content than ever before. Disney even made slight alterations to lessen the violence in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And when they changed their minds again, it was edited back in.
Could the Iron Man 3 spin-off’s censorship be the beginning of a larger plan to scrub content of anything worthy of uproar? While some things are completely unacceptable, seeing them is also a great way to learn by tracking the progress of humanity through the telling of different stories. It’s how we gain insight into different countries and cultures and see just how much we have progressed as a society. Like photographs, films and series are a snapshot in time. But lately, studios have tasked themselves with leading viewers into a more “woke” future by attempting to right the wrongs of all social evils to remedy the problem of unconscious bias.