Doc McStuffins and Minority Representation (Also the new Ms. Marvel)

If that isn’t a title that excites you, I don’t know what to say. I can only bring so much razzle dazzle before you people have to do some of the work yourselves. Put some effort in, is all I’m saying.

As one of those ‘Urban’ people you sometimes hear about in music videos, or 1/5th of a sitcom cast, I’ve been lead to some rather interesting places when it comes to judging whether a character is ‘good’ or not. Note the air-quotes over good, because at the end of the day, we can only make our judgments based on so much information. 

So who is the (relatively) new topic running around? Marvel is creating a new Ms. Marvel. For those who don’t know the old Ms. Marvel (and that is a lot of you), she is one of the most powerful earthbound heroes in the Marvel universe (the one with Spider-man and Wolverine, not the one with Batman and Superman, for those who needed that). She flies, can shoot lasers, and for those who are into that sort of thing, has a bodacious booty.

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I’ve been a comics fan for a few years, and before that I mostly knew characters through video games and cartoons. Carol, wasn’t in cartoons. Though she still played an important role. While we never hear much about this, Rogue got her powers of flight and super strength after perma-stealing them from poor Carol (but she got better). 

Who cares though, that is old, blond bombshell Carol. We have a new Ms. Marvel, and she is… not blond.

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Also a muslim, for what it is worth. You would imagine, as some sort of angry atheist, I would hate that, but it doesn’t really blip on my radar. The folks of the internet though, they have mixed feelings whenever a hero suddenly gets a fresh, new, ethnic start. There is a lot of talk of pandering, and trying to pull in audiences (as if that one is a bad thing), and of being too political. I don’t know, I just think she has a lame set of powers. 

What is important though, is that there is a slight diversification. Some people disagree, and it is easy to see why. I’ll explain my view though.

See, if you are of a minority group (women, ethnic, sexuality), you get used to seeing people who don’t look anything like you in the media. The biggest names in DC are Superman, Wonderwoman, and Batman, and unless you happen to be an amazon or an alien, ethnic minorities don’t see themselves in those characters. Which is why teams usually have at least some diversification in their ranks. Cyborg is now an original Justice League member, Luke Cage has been a fixture of the Avengers for years now. The deeper you dig, the more you find, women like Storm, Wasp, Powergirl, ethnic folks like Jubilee, Forge, Falcon. If you want to see yourself in a hero based on a similar background, you are bound to find someone… but that doesn’t always solve the problem, because we don’t just pick our favorite heroes based on the color of their skin, or what is between their legs. I don’t care that Cyborg is Black, he is a lame hero. I don’t like Falcon, and I don’t really like Luke Cage. I think the biggest name Black hero I like is Jon Stewart of the Green Lanterns (and even he is a little lame). 

So what is the big deal? If people just choose their favorites, despite who/what they are, why bother making minority heroes at all? Because characters also work as role models to kids. So whether they register it or not, children see and absorb how people like them are shown in media. My nephew may like Spider-man as his favorite hero, but that doesn’t mean he won’t notice that Spider-man has to beat up more Black street thugs than White. So when the young Black girl looks at a comic or cartoon and has no one (Bumblebee? I guess), her mind will notice that. So when a young arab looks at a comic or cartoon and has… Dust from the new X-men? The pickings get slim, and could be missed completely if they aren’t into the right series.

White kids? Especially White males, heck son, just throw a dart and they have options of all sort. Want to be a doctor? Medical, psychologist, or what? You want to be a magical doctor? I think we have a few of those. 

So that brings me to Doc McStuffins, and I realize I’ve been typing a lot so I’ll be brief. If you don’t know Doc McStuffins, she is a disney character for a kids show, and she heals her little stuffed animals by investigating their problem, and taking advice from her mother (who is also a doctor). She is also a little Black girl, but that is inconsequential to the plot of things. Having spent a large amount of my time in toy stores lately, I can tell you that Doc Mcstuffins is hot stuff, she has a section of toys rivaling the disney princesses. She is such a cool little media icon, from being a doctor (no princess iconography here), to her practical adventures about investigating problems rationally, to of course being what the kids call a minority ‘two-fer’. Ten out of ten, would let my niece watch you again.

Sure, Doc McStuffins is inconsequentially a minority, as in the fact that she is Black has no effect on her in character, but that opens her up to being appreciated by a wider audience (plenty of non-Black kids buying her merch). It takes a good mix, I would say, of characters whose minority aspects mean a lot to them (Luke Cage got his powers in prison, after being arrested for gang activity), and characters whose aspects don’t do much at all (Did you know Kitty Pryde is Jewish?), so that we can both include those whose lives are heavily influenced by their ethnicity/gender/sexuality/religion, and uplift the public image of different ethnicities/genders/sexualities/religions to the public.

So how do I feel about the new Ms. Marvel? I think she will do fine, we could use a more liberal Muslim in the comics world, and her interactions will be interesting. How fast and loose does she play her faith? What hardships does she face between hero life and normal life? How will she interact with the Marvel worlds growing roster of teen heroes? I guess we will see, and hopefully someone out there is paying attention.

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