Why we're super excited about the latest Marvel casting announcement
This week, X-Men: Apocalypse director Bryan Singer announced via Instagram and Twitter that Jubilee (aka Jubilation Lee) will be played by Lana Condor in the 2016 film — and we are so ready to see her in action.
The announcement confirms that Jubilee will be back for another X-Men movie (she had cameos in three of the franchise’s other films, as played by Katrina Florence and Kea Wong). However small a role it may be, the fact that there’s going to be a live action Asian-American superhero coming to the big screen again is significant.
While Marvel’s comics have only become increasingly diverse over time (hello, female Thor and all-women Avengers!), their films remain overwhelmingly white and male. As Andrew Wheller of ComicsAlliance once pointed out, “If Marvel makes Thor 3 [its first 2017 release], it will have made ten movies headlined by blond white men named Chris before it makes one movie headlined by someone who isn’t even white.” (Those three Chris-es are Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, and Christ Hemsworth, FYI.) As much as we love all three of the Chris-es (I’ve never had to pluralize Chris before, but I’m just going to go with it), we welcome the addition of some diversity.
Obviously, Jubilee isn’t even close to a headliner (she was, however, a prominent sidekick in the animated X-Men series of the ’90s) — but having her in this latest film is certainly a step in the right direction. To give some background about the character, Jubilee first appeared in 1989 in Uncanny X-Men #244. The Chinese-American daughter of immigrant parents, Jubilee became an orphan after her parents were murdered by hitmen, and soon after she escaped the orphanage she was sent to, she discovered her power: the ability to generate firework-like energy plasmoids. She was the youngest of the X-Men in the ’90s — just a teenager! — and once had her own self-titled series, but it only lasted six issues.
There aren’t a ton of Asian-American superheroes to begin with (while Googling “Asian-American superheroes” to further back up this claim, when I got to “super” it recommended “supermarkets”), particularly those who don’t heavily rely on offensive stereotypes — and there are even fewer Asian-American women superheroes. Of course there are some kickass exceptions, but overall, characters like Jubilee are few and far between.
The X-Men franchise has always been incredibly diverse — the original comics were partially a metaphor about the 1960s civil rights movement, according to creator Stan Lee — and it is essential we don’t leave that idea behind when converting the comics to the screen. Young Asian-American girls deserve representation and a superhero to look up to, too. That Jubilee’s character would get a casting shout-out from Singer has us totally excited and holding out hope that maybe she’ll even have a few lines in the new film (or at least get to show off some of those pyrotechnics). Hopefully, Marvel’s movies will start to reflect the amazing diversity of their comic books soon, and this announcement will be just one of many that has us fangirling out.