As Lainey mentioned previously, the Avengers Campus at Disneyland opened last night. Even still halfway stuck in a pandemic, Marvel manages to put on a show, and this is an interesting moment for them because not only is Kevin Feige now appearing alongside Disney’s finally fully-fledged new CEO, Bob Chapek (aka Bob II), but the first-gen stars who made Marvel what it is today are, for the most part, gone. It is SUPER interesting to me that they now consider Paul Rudd one of their marquee stars to appear at an event like this, as Ant-Man isn’t exactly the most popular Avenger. I think it has to do with Rudd’s overall popularity—literally who doesn’t like him at least a little?—and maybe also that the Ant-Man movies are the closest thing to a family-friendly, Disney-esque franchise Marvel has (at least until they revive Big Hero 6 in some fashion).
Another big moment for testing the new guys is when Anthony Mackie appears, shield case in hand, to announce the new Captain America character at Disneyland. It’s his Captain America, Sam Wilson in the Falcon-Cap suit we saw at the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I didn’t love the series overall, but the significance of having a Black Captain America, especially now, with everything that has gone on in the public consciousness over the last year in re: America, policing, Blackness, and representation, cannot be understated. Little kids are going to be rushing to high-five the new Cap at Disney parks, some will be making memories with a Cap who looks like them, others will be making memories with a Cap that does not look like them but that they love nonetheless. Whenever something like this happens, someone will inevitably rush to say, “Why does this matter, isn’t it more important that kids have REAL heroes to model, only REAL people count!” It’s a specific knee-jerk reaction a certain type of person always has, to discredit the presence and impact of a pop culture figure that no longer aligns with their concept of what counts as “pop culture”.
Of course, it is important for kids to have real people, living AND historical, to look up to. Of course, we can and should do a better job of sharing those stories. But kids need fictional heroes, too, that can be inserted into imaginative play and become part of the stories those kids tell themselves about who gets to save the world, fly the spaceship, be a space wizard, and so on. So, yes, cheesy as it is, it matters that kids will be seeing a Black Captain America around the Disney parks, just like it mattered when they added Black Widow, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther to character line-up, and it will matter when they add Shang-Chi after that movie comes out. There shouldn’t be a limit on what kids can imagine and one way to keep those boundaries wide open is to keep expanding the roster of fictional heroes kids can pretend to be while running around the playground.
If you’re into extreme Marvel nerdery, you can watch the whole unveiling here, but the Anthony Mackie part is below. He does seem genuinely moved to be repping Cap this way.