Does Marvel Cinematic Universe Have an Ageism Problem?
Why is The Ancient One in Doctor Strange not actually ancient? And why is Aunt May so young?
Disney and Marvel Studios are facing quite a lot of challenges in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now. However, fans don’t seem to be showing mercy. A recent Reddit discussion brought up an intriguing tendency in the MCU that might just boil down to age bias.
The Reddit user pointed out how classic Marvel characters who are old in comics get youthified in the MCU.
First character that comes to mind is Peter Parker's beloved Aunt May. In the original Spider-Man comics, Aunt May has always been depicted as an elderly lady, complete with white hair and a frail frame. She's the loving but old-fashioned caretaker who's often concerned about Peter's well-being.
In the MCU, Marisa Tomei's portrayal of Aunt May in the Spider-Man movies is a far cry from the elderly figure we're used to. But is that really a bad thing? Probably not, given that it was the third live-action adaptation of the friendly neighborhood.
Plus, as one Reddit user pointed out: “A high schooler having an aunt in her late 50s/early 60s makes more sense to me than having an aunt in her 70s or 80s.”
The Ancient One is another example. In the comics, The Ancient One was an old man who trained Doctor Strange in the mystic arts. He looked like a typical ancient wizard, long white beard and all. However, the MCU introduced us to a very different Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton.
Not only did the character become gender-swapped, but they also appeared much younger than the comic book version. While it is a big departure from the original character, Tilda Swinton’s portrayal effortlessly convinces us it was the right choice.
Agatha Harkness is another example. If you watched WandaVision, you definitely remember Agatha as the sly and mysterious neighbor played by Kathryn Hahn. In the comics, Agatha Harkness is an old witch with a traditional witchy look — think long, white hair and old-fashioned garb.
Taking a closer look at these examples, it’s safe to assume that the age of these characters was changed for creative reasons. Marvel wanted to steer clear of clichés and tired character tropes. And can we really blame them for it?