The recently released DC live-action venture Blue Beetle has managed to amaze viewers worldwide by presenting a pretty simplistic yet inventive superhero origin tale of the eponymous character. There are multiple points done right in the movie that need to be appreciated, but undeniably the best aspect was the intricately family-oriented narrative and an honest, relatable representation of Latinidad. Through the teenage lead, Jaime Reyes, and his Mexican family, director Angel Manuel Soto tried to delineate the living experience of the Latino communities as a marginalized section in a first-world country. If you loved the cultural representation and family-oriented issues DC’s latest superhero flick addressed, you’ll surely like the ones we would like to suggest you check out.
Black Panther (2018)
It is impossible to talk about cultural representation in superhero movies without mentioning the MCU’s 2018 release, Black Panther. Created by the legendary duo Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Black Panther was the first African-American superhero in the history of comics literature to have his own series. The titular character, aka T’Challa, is the king of a technologically advanced African nation called Wakanda, and wielding a powerful suit of armor made of vibranium (a near-indestructible metal only found in Wakanda), he operates as the nation’s protector, Black Panther. Understandably, the live-action introduction of a character of such significance needed adequate treatment, and director Ryan Coogler, as they say, understood the assignment perfectly.
Beyond the story, overarching MCU narrative, and world-building, Black Panther turned out to be a celebration of black culture and a pioneer in the representation of diverse cultural identities. Right from costume design to set design and theme, the influence of black culture iconography was perceivable all through the movie. Much like how “Blue Beetle” showcased the tragic reality faced by the Latino community in first-world countries, Black Panther touched on a similar topic through the perspective of the antagonist of the movie, Eric Killmonger, who wanted to wage war against white imperialists after witnessing the injustice the black community has suffered worldwide.
Even the ancestral plane of Wakanda, where T’Challa meets with his father and reconciles, is similar to the afterlife scenario where Jaime sees the vision of his father Alberto, and his encouragement helps him to fully accept his responsibility as the Blue Beetle.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Released last year as a direct sequel to Black Panther, the tragic situation Wakanda Forever had to face was coping with the demise of actor Chadwick Boseman, who solidified his position in the MCU by portraying the eponymous superhero in a number of ventures. As a result, a heartfelt memorial that enunciated the grief and pain, both in real life and in film, was craftily created by returning director Ryan Coogler. Another important aspect of Wakanda Forever was how it traced the cultural identity of the Mesoamerican community through the submarine Talokan community, who, much like the denizens of Wakanda, are adept in the use of vibranium and prefer to live in seclusion.
In the movie, the opportunistic aggressors in the form of neo-colonial nations waiting to strike Wakanda at its weakest were similar to how Blue Beetle showcased the way first-world imperialists weakened and plundered Latin America by inciting warfare, as shown through the memory of Ignacio Carapax. Just like its predecessor, Wakanda Forever included a significant number of people of color both in front of and behind the camera—a policy that has been followed in Blue Beetle as well.
Shang Chi And The Legend Of Ten Rings (2021)
Props should be given to the MCU due to the fact they tried to raise the important issue of cultural representation way before other franchises decided to dip their feet in the proverbial subject matter, and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is another example of that effort. Despite churning out martial arts-based content for decades, executives in Hollywood did not believe in the potential of an Asian superhero movie to gain an audience of its own, but with the introduction of Shang Chi, things finally changed for the better. Right from a close-to-accurate chronicle of the Asian-American living experience, using Mandarin Chinese as the secondary language of the movie and Wushu-inspired dance sequences and themes, to the use of mystical Wuxian lore and tropes in the central narrative, Shang Chi beautifully represented the Asian cultural roots through its colorful, vibrant spectacle. If you liked how the Latino cultural spectrum was highlighted in Blue Beetle, Shang Chi should be right up your alley.
Ms. Marvel (2022)
Except for the huge slip-up in the last two episodes where the makers clearly dropped the ball, as a series, the MCU’s Ms. Marvel managed to perfectly showcase the lived experience of the South Asian Muslim community in the States through the eponymous character, aka Kamala Khan, and her family. Just like how Jaime’s life and motivation are shaped through his upbringing in a closely knitted immigrant family, their culture, and their belief system, Kamala faces new challenges as a daughter in an immigrant Pakistani family living in New Jersey. She faces new challenges while striking a balance between her personal motivation and desires and her cultural roots, religious beliefs, and overbearing family ties.
The significance of the series can be summed up by the fact that even Indian or Pakistani mainstream movies or content could not portray the horror of partition in as vivid a way as Ms. Marvel managed to do. In its own way, the series has handled sensitive topics like the international crisis of refugees, the conflict between the neighboring nations of India and Pakistan, Islamophobia in first-world countries, and the dilution of cultural identity in the motherland and outside of it. The chief drawback is, however, that, much like the source material, the series also sees the world from a bubble crafted in a first-world nation and tends to get the universality wrong in a few major areas. Nevertheless, there is an undefinable similarity to both the South Asian and Latino communities’ experience in extended family ties—decorated with boisterousness, sentimentality, burdens, and broken dreams and aspirations. This is why if you enjoyed Blue Beetle, the world of Kamala Khan will feel pretty welcoming as well.
Irrespective of their origin, superheroes have transcended the shadow lines that divided our world decades ago in the pages of comics, inspiring generations of readers and making them able to dream of a better world where equality, brotherhood, and love prosper. When Blue Beetle and the aforementioned movies and series uphold those ideals through characters belonging to ethnicities across the world, a huge number of fans like us can feel represented in the best possible way. Let us hope creators continue to push any restrictive boundaries that shackle the possibilities, and in hopeless times like this, the dream of a better world perseveres.