Should we be worried? Or, is Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige a genius?
Marvel Studio recently announced the addition of a new star to one of their upcoming films. Xochitl Gomez, who’s mostly known for starring in Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club, was recently announced to be joining Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But according to Deadline, Marvel did not comment on what exact role Gomez would be playing. For movie news and comic book fans, however, there’s already a strong rumor in the works.
Before this announcement, it was believed that Doctor Strange 2 would introduce bisexual teen superhero America Chavez, aka Miss America. Because of that, many believe Xochitl Gomez will be playing Chavez in this upcoming film. If these rumors and suspicions are true, this is exciting news. We’ll get the introduction of a popular queer comic book hero. Even better, her queerness is inherently authentic and not pandering in order to seem representative.
Though, there are some who are concerned by this casting. Frankly, 14-year-old Xochitl Gomez does not look much like the older, typically brown or darker-skinned, and curvy America Chavez. As entertainment reporter Grace Randolph of Beyond the Trailer put it, “I’m concerned because now that I’ve seen who they’ve cast as America Chavez, I don’t know that you’re gonna get the representation that you’re hoping for. I don’t know if Kevin Feige can do the Young Avengers the way they’re meant to be done… I never suspected he was gonna Disney Channel them because they’re the most un-Disney Channel team ever created.”
On one hand, there’s definitely room to be concerned. It seems that Marvel Studios is skewing closer to “pre-teen” than “teen” when it comes to casting its next generation of actors. With casting leaks about Wiccan and Speed revealing that WandaVision will depict them as only children and not teens to Gomez’s casting, it looks like the Young Avengers will be very young when they enter the MCU. With many LGBTQ Marvel fans waiting to see these characters be the messy, sexual, and mature beings that we know in the comics, getting younger versions of that would be disappointing.
But what if their age was specifically why they were cast? And not simply for “Disney Channeling” the characters. What if Marvel Studios is introducing these characters as pre-teens and early teens in order for us to watch them grow up and mature throughout the years? Of course, our perspective maybe be skewed by Hollywood’s typical practice of casting 24-year-old actors for 14-year-old characters. Then let’s face it, child actors are the bane of Hollywood. The suits and creatives over at Netflix’s Stranger Things are constantly pressed for time because of the fact that their main cast is made up of teenagers who quickly grow and change. With the MCU being a seemingly endless parade of movies with YEARS left to come, the Young Avengers wouldn’t stay teenagers for every long. So, why not play into that?
Introducing these characters as younger kids allows us to see them grow and experience these firsts. Wiccan and Hulkling discovering their sexualities and love. America Chavez growing up into the muscular, booty-shorts wearing hero we all love. And with the characters needing time to be authentically introduced separately, they’ll already be the appropriate ages when the Young Avengers actually team-up.
Of course, there’s still some room for concern. Will the MCU actually approach mature storylines like exploring sexualities in their movies? While Marvel Studios has shared its desire to represent dynamic stories and characters more, these movies still have to make money off of conservative areas like Middle-America and China. And, frankly, when has the MCU ever explored sexuality or even romance for its straight characters? Usually, you get an awkward kiss or two and then move on. Who knows how they’d handle an authentic group of queer teen superheroes who frequently talk about making out with aliens.
But all of this is speculation for now. While movie and comic book fans are fairly sure Xochitl Gomez is playing America Chavez, it hasn’t been confirmed. And we don’t know what she, the Doctor Strange 2 movie, or Marvel studios will do with the character. We’ll have to wait and see when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness releases in 2022.