Millennials today are calling out for diversity and fair character representations across all forms of media. This generation of viewers is concerned about the lack of minority group representation among characters, as well as the inclusion of current social issues in storylines. For example, while racial inequality, gun control and mental health issues have been widely debated and discussed in mainstream media, there is one millennial audience with a strong voice for inclusion that may surprise you: comic book fans!
First, it’s important to note that comic book fandom is not as niche as it once was. Many people now identify themselves as comic fans, with 72% of Millennials indicating they consume comic book content all the time or very often. In fact, only a small percentage of Millennials would not consider themselves fans of comic book content at all, as shown in the graph below:
Since Marvel created their cinematic universe in 2008, many have seen the potential for comic book movies to be a driving force to spark discussion of social and political issues. It’s no wonder that many fans are beginning to expect comic book film and TV adaptation content to reflect social changes and causes that fans are advocating for on their own. In fact, nearly two-fifths of Millennial respondents wish there were more female heroes (38%) and one-third (34%) request a more diverse set of superheroes. Comic book fans are already aware of plot themes and characters that represent current social issues including Racial Equality (56%), Gender Equality (51%), Environmental Protection (40%), Domestic Abuse Prevention (35%), and LGBTQ Rights (35%). And these same fans want even more:
In addition to wanting current and socially relevant plotlines, Millennials are also vocal about the kind of superheroes who will portray these issues. Which are the existing characters that viewers care about and want to see spotlighted in mainstream media? Here’s how some Millennials responded:
“Captain Planet is one that I can think of. I feel like he deserves his own movie because it’s a popular cartoon show. They are trying to save the earth from pollution. I guess in that sense you can say that I feel the connection with the characters because I too care for the earth and our environment.” – Female, 30
“Ever since the first Avengers movie came out, all I’ve wanted was Black Widow movie. Actually, most people in the community have wanted a Black Widow movie since then. It took like five years for us to get a female superhero movie at all, albeit Wonder Woman is pretty fantastic.” – Female, 25
“I grew up watching Static Shock when I was in elementary school. Whenever I got home, it would show on TV and I always got immersed into the series. I think the situations he dealt with as a young black super hero made me relate to him.” – Male, 19
“I would love to see a movie based on either Gwenpool or Spider-Girl. I think girls need more superheroes of the women variety to give them something to look up to. I think both of these are much underplayed roles in the superhero movies and maybe not even seen at all.” – Female, 33
Films like “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther” have already started to show how superhero films can be about social issues and still crush at the box-office; the latter now ranks 10th in the highest grossing movies of all time and it’s still climbing. On the smaller screens, popular Netflix shows like “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher” have shed light on issues like rape and PTSD and have gained quite a following. Some Millennials acknowledge the risk of having beloved characters tackle social issues and the effect on their popularity. According to our findings, 16% of Millennials believe that comic book content is becoming too politically correct and 8% believe social causes have no place in the fantasy world of comics.
However, 33% of Millennials believe there should be more risk taking with diverse characters and topics and 20% believe the genre has come a long way and are happy with their progress so far. So clearly, regardless of risk, Millennials have stronger beliefs in inclusion and having more diverse stories be told.
If we assume that comic books and comic book media will continue to advance plot lines and character development that is reflective of current socio-political issues, can we also assume that fans will continue to support these changes? If we examine our Millennial findings we can see that there will be a heavy amount of support for this trend and many might start to see comic book fans as advocates for diversity and inclusion.