During a “Superhero Science” panel Saturday afternoon at SXSW, Joe Robert Cole — who co-wrote Marvel’s “Black Panther” with director Ryan Coogler — proposed that the Trump administration and the #MeToo movement might have altered what theater-goers want in their blockbuster heroes.
Responding to a question on whether superheroes’ values reflect or shape the culture, Cole said: “Think about where we are now, with this very vapid, unintelligent president and our world is crackling on the edges because of that. Think back to Tony Stark, him being douchey and being okay. If that character, Stark, was created in a movie today, I wonder if the response would be like, ‘Oh, it’s cool that he’s douchey and disrespectful to women … That’s fine.’ I think we’re at a different place. I think it’s a better place.”
Nicole Perlman, co-writer of “Captain Marvel” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” added that superhero cultural concerns extend worldwide.
“[At] one of the franchises that I’ve helped on — which Joe, you will know — there’s a whole thing about which countries you can’t have be the bad guys because they buy a lot of movie tickets,” she said.
Robert Downey, Jr. played Stark in the $2.4 billion-dollar, three-film “Iron Man” franchise (the most recent film, in 2013, was the highest-earner). Since its February 16 release, “Black Panther” has already grossed over $1 billion worldwide, and 2019 Oscar campaign plans are underway.
Cole’s co-panelists also included USC physics professor and “Thor: Ragnarok” science advisor Clifford Johnson. The moderator, Rick Loverd, is program director of The Science & Entertainment Exchange, at the National Academy of Science, which has provided film and television professionals with more than 2,300 answers to queries on engineering, medicine, and technology.