The Rise of the Asian Heroes
The times have certainly been a’changing in the geek world over the last year when it comes to diversity in the media. Is it perfect? Of course not but there have been some steps forward. As I read through Silk #1 last week, it occurred to me that we’re finally getting to see some more Asian women take center stage. Given that this is a fashion and cosplay blog, it should be no surprise that we’re both Asian women. (Okay, so I’m just half Asian but it counts.) Representation is something that we both care very much about and that we are very much aware of a distinct lack of when it comes to the stories that we love. That’s why seeing more leading Asian women in the media means so much to me and why I had to write about how important their inclusion is.
Star Wars and Marvel are two of my top fandoms and it thrills me that we now have Sabine Wren, Cindy Moon, Skye, and Melinda May out there. Sabine is a 16 year old Mandalorian who’s one of the rebels on the Ghost along with being an artist. Cindy Moon was bit by the same radioactive spider as Peter Parker and after years of being in a bunker (don’t ask) she’s helping the people of New York now as the superhero named Silk. Melinda May and Skye are both agents of what’s left of SHIELD in this post-Hydra MCU world. In other words, we’re finally getting more capable ladies who are much more than a stereotype in leading roles who happen be or (in the case of Sabine where there is no Asia) look Asian which is something we desperately need.
There are plenty of people who will shrug their inclusion off. I suspect that many of those people will also be white males who have never struggled with representation. But consider this: before May and Skye? The only Asian of note in the MCU was Hogun. Agents of SHIELD debuted with a main cast that was 33% Asian female. Before Sabine? I can’t think of any Asian characters at all who were more than background/glorified extras much less leads. And I can’t even remember the last Asian Marvel superheroine to have her own ongoing title before Silk. (The only thing jumping to mind is a 4 issue limited series staring Psylocke which is a little problematic. DC Comics, of course, had Cassandra Cain as Batgirl before she passed on the mantle and then later disappeared from the DC universe.) As a bi-racial woman, seeing Skye on my television screen every week is beyond inspiring to me now that she’s been confirmed as being Quake.
It’s not just for purely selfish reasons that seeing more Asian ladies in my fandoms is a good thing. It’s for all of the little girls and the teenagers who can finally watch a TV show or flip open a comic and have a much better chance of seeing someone who looks like her. Maybe May or Cindy will become her hero and help her realize that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Maybe Skye will encourage one teenage girl to learn more about computers or maybe Sabine will encourage another to embrace her love for creating art.
It’s my hope that this is a trend that will continue and that we’ll one day get to the a point where “Psylocke” isn’t the first character lots of people think of when asked to name an Asian superheroine and to a point where the casual fan can name more than just Sabine. We’re far from a perfect diversity world but it gives me hope when I see Marvel and Lucasfilm make additions like these.
(As a note, I recognize that it probably would have been more correct to say ‘East Asian’ instead of just ‘Asian’ as I realize that countries like India are most definitely a part of Asia.)