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Marvel’s Eternals: Inclusion and Representation

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

Hollywood heavy-hitter, Marvel Studios, has released yet another high-grossing cinematic marvel. Eternals opened at box offices with $71 million in North America. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eternals overperformed overseas, where it debuted to $90.7 million for a global start of $161.7 million, the second-biggest global launch of the pandemic era behind Universal’s F9 ($163 million). Despite its revenue, Eternals didn’t fare well among critics, earning a 48% score on Rotten Tomatoes, an 57% on Metacritic, and a B CinemaScore by audiences.

While critics aren’t pleased with the storyline and character development, audiences are praising this Marvel film for its level of inclusion and representation within the superhero universe. Following the recent social movements, we have notably seen more representation within the entertainment industry. Marvel’s casting choices of the celestial superheroes in Eternals is a big step in the right direction and here’s why!

1. Chloe Zhao as Director

She is a Chinese-born filmmaker who gained recognition for her film Nomadland in 2020. She earned four Academy Award nominations for the film and won both Best Picture and Best Director. Afterwhich, she became the second woman in history to win Best Director and the first woman of color to win the category. She also became the sixth woman to win multiple Academy Awards within the same year. Besides directing her first MCU film, Zhao also contributed to writing Eternals. Zhao said to Entertainment Weekly, “We're trying to challenge the genre itself,” and she did just that with her approach to broaden casting representation.

2. Lauren Ridloff as Makkari

This character is the first hearing-impaired superhero in the MCU. Makkari, who in the comics is a hearing white man, was cast as Ridloff, a hearing-impaired woman of color. Ridloff has a diverse resume, having begun her career as a teacher, then started in film as a consultant. Now she is most notably known for her role as Connie in AMC’s The Walking Dead, and now she is the first hearing-impaired superhero to grace screens across the globe!

3. Phastos and LGBTQ+

Played by Bryan Tyree Henry, Phastos is the first superhero to be depicted as queer in an MCU film. Henry got his start as a stage actor performing in musicals and appearing on Broadway. He has proven himself as a versatile performer, excelling in comedic and dramatic roles. Henry does not disappoint as he steps into the shoes of Phastos in Eternals.

4. Don Lee as Gilgamesh

Lee has mentioned that he pursued the role to be an inspiration to the younger generation as the first Korean superhero, and he succeeded! Lee’s role in the zombie film Train to Busan propelled him to international popularity in 2017, for which he won a Best Supporting Actor award. Lee was able put his boxing background to good use as he brought Gilgamesh to life.

Along with these notable characters, Zhao also includes Sprite, played by Lia McHugh, as the youngest of our heroes at 12 years old. She casts Gemma Chan as Sersi, the lead role, and leader of the Eternals, and also casts Selma Hayak as Ajak, changing the character from a male in the comics.

Chloe Zhao's Eternals has undoubtedly been a beacon for many of today's youth as they look to the screen and see heroes who look like them and who they can relate with. Marvel's latest film is an excellent example of the social growth our society has experienced and the positive change being enacted within the entertainment industry.

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