The discussion about Marvel, Phase 4, and diversity continues. Recently, The Hollywood Reporter took a closer look at the hiring process for the new Blade movie. In their article, they mentioned that there was a six-month hiring process before they found the talent for their script. Actor Mahershala Ali, who will be playing the title character, was directly involved in the long search. It was said that during this process, only Black writers were seriously considered. This was part of Marvel’s new focus on diversity moving forward with future films.
To some extent, there has always been a conversation around diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some point out that the lack of diversity has been one of the most problematic elements in the franchise. Others say that Phase 4 is promoting a politically correct agenda, and that’s problematic. The argument continues.
This disagreement isn’t just focused on Marvel. It’s a Hollywood wide discussion. CBS recently committed to developing projects specifically from creators who are Black, Indigenous, or BIPOC. The commitment to more diverse writer’s rooms has been a focus over the past several years. The co-chair for the Committee of Black Writers for the Writers Guild of America West issued a public statement calling for Hollywood to hire more Black writers to tell Black stories. The Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity (TTIE) called for Hollywood to hire more Black writers “not only when creating Black characters and crafting Black stories, but for all stories.”
With a focus on Marvel’s new Blade movie specifically, audiences have been pointing out that past Blade projects all had white creators working on their stories. This seems to imply that focusing on hiring a Black writer for this project is an insult to how white writers have told these stories in the past. It’s also widely been called racist against white people.
The outcries against diverse hiring practices seem likely to continue for a long time as studios like Marvel continue to make progressive choices toward more diverse stories. It took Marvel a long time to make a movie like Black Panther part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once they did, the project was a huge success. Black Panther pulled in $1.344 billion at the box office. With successes like that behind them, studios may be more willing to listen to demands for Black writers to tell Black stories. The Black Panther movie had a Black writer and director in Ryan Coogler.
For Blade, Marvel found their scriptwriter in Stacy Osei-Kuffour. Previously, she has been a New York playwright. For film, she worked on the Watchmen series for HBO. This means she has superhero credentials behind her, which is likely one of the things that made her stand out the most for this project. She also worked on Hulu’s Pen15, Amazon’s Hunters, and won a Writer’s Guild of America Award for best new series. So, she is definitely a qualified Black woman writer. She will be the first Black woman to write a script for Marvel. Recently, the studio hired their first Black woman director in Nia DaCosta for Captain Marvel 2.
Will the controversy around hiring Black writers to tell Black stories influence Marvel’s decisions moving forward? That will likely have a lot to do with how well their titles perform. Black Panther was a success. The team behind the new Blade project are likely aware of the pressure on them as studios watch to see how the story resonates with audiences.