A few weeks ago, a speech by the Marvel character Havok in UNCANNY AVENGERS stirred up a lot of animosity for it’s seemingly downplaying of cultural/ethnic pride in favor of homogeneity. The scene, written by Rick Remender, could be taken as a Havok wanting the general public to see mutants as humans first instead of some outside species, but he refers to the word “mutant’ as “the m-word,” drawing obvious comparisons to “the n-word” as a stand-in for “nigger.”
Mutants have very frequently been used as a metaphor for minorities of all types in America and persecuted minorities in general. The shame put on “mutant”(long used as a general qualifier such as “straight,” “gay,” or “tall”), makes it seem as Havok hates to be recognized for what he is and hopes people just accept him as a baseline normal, a practice known in reality as “passing.”
This situation could just be a case of a writer being unaware of how his work could be taken by others. Remender is a white male and his experience as such means he wouldn’t have to face the challenges of a minority in society. But instead of acknowledging his difference of perspective, Remender chose instead to dismiss anyone who had a problem with the connotations of his work and denied the minority metaphor of mutants he himself brought up in interviews before the series debuted.
At the time, I asked Remender via Twitter about his lack of ethnically diverse characters and this was the conversation:
I held off sharing this, thinking the way I asked may have come off as an attack. Now, I can see Remender’s rebuttals are flimsy excuses at best. He makes the assumption that I not only didn’t read his Doctor Voodoo series, but also that I haven’t read ANY series starring a POC character. Nevermind how he addresses me in his first reply, but Remender fails to address why POC characters aren’t present in the books I name. He chooses instead to blame the popularity of white characters and offer up the culturally diverse characters he has created, all of which are villains and one group that are robots.
The main point I came away with from this discussion is how Remender believes since he tried a POC starring book once, and it failed, there’s no market in them at all. DOCTOR VOODOO, mind you, was scheduled for cancellation by Marvel before the release of the first issue.