Zoe Saldana is part of the Marvel team, and she’s in Avengers: Infinity War. I keep forgetting that, honestly, that Infinity War includes every single person from the Marvel Comics Universe thus far. To promote the film, Zoe covers PorterEdit magazine (net-a-porter.com’s in-house magazine). You can see the full editorial here, with the whole interview. Zoe talks about racism within and outside of Hollywood and how sci-fi/action films are ghettoized within the industry. Some highlights:
How sci-fi is/comic-book films are ghettoized in Hollywood: “I’ve been in rooms with people in this industry who are great at what they do, but they’re absolutely elitist and they look down at movies like the Marvel films or actors like myself. They think we’re selling out in some way. Every time they speak I feel so disappointed in them, because whenever you see pictures of people in this industry who donate their time to children in need, it’s these actors that live in the world that you feel is selling out. It’s these actors that understand the role that they play inspires a five-year-old who has one dying wish to meet a superhero. That actor takes time out of their life and sits down with that five-year-old and says, ‘I see you, I hear you, and you matter.’ Those elitists should be a little more cognizant about what playing a superhero means to a young child. Because you’re not just dissing me, you’re dissing what that child considers important in their world. I feel so proud to be living in space, to be playing green and blue aliens, to inspire, primarily, the younger generations. I remember what it was like to be young and to feel completely excluded out of the mainstream conversation of life because I was just little and unimportant and ‘other’.”
Her mixed ethnicity: “Every time I read a script, even if it was a period piece, I read it thinking that I was going to go after the lead role. It wasn’t until I would come across the introduction of a supporting ethnic role that I realized, ‘Oh’. I wasn’t even allowed to try to get that main role, because ‘they want to go traditional on the part’. I would hang up on that conversation from my agents, thinking, ‘What about me is non-traditional’? It was a very hard pill to swallow… In my country, where I pledged allegiance every day since I was five, to be told when I’m out there trying to pursue my American dream that I was not a traditional American was very hurtful. I will never accept that I am not a traditional anything. I come from where I come from, I can’t change that, and you come from where you come from. But if you tell me that where you come from is the only right place, and therefore I don’t fit that traditional mold, let’s just establish, very clearly, that you are the one who’s wrong. Because everything about me and where I come from is just as right.”
The lack of magazine covers & exposure for women of color: “It stopped mattering after a while… It was something I was acutely aware of. And it was always, like, why? When I’m doing everything that they consider right, why am I not on these covers?” I do understand that it’s a business, that they have a lot of issues to sell. Magazines, even though they’re run by male corporations, they’re being carried by females. When females are raised in a female traditional box, they will only gravitate towards certain female traditional things and they will exclude things that feel masculine. I feel like the action genre, for many of these editors, feels rather masculine, and I’m just going to say it like that for their benefit, because I’ve also seen a lot of females that are in action-driven films be on the covers of their magazines.” Suddenly, Saldana looks tired and says, “I think it has a lot to do with race…. ‘Color doesn’t sell’ – they hide behind that excuse. But in reality, if you are in a position of leadership, that means that you have the responsibility to guide the narrative and re-shape it and put it on the right track. When you’re not setting that trend, then you are no different than the shackles that are binding you.”
Re: elitism towards the sci-fi/superhero films… I understand what she’s saying and I agree that those films are looked down on in Hollywood. But do they deserve to be looked down on, to a certain extent? Granted, she’s part of the Marvel team and Marvel spends a lot of money and time “getting it right.” But please, the current DC Comic Universe is in shambles and I’ll continue to look down my nose at the Batfleck and all of that mess (minus Wonder Woman). As for women of color “not selling” on magazine covers – that mindset still exists on so many levels of print media. Crimes against women of color don’t make the front page of newspapers, women of color rarely make the covers of fashion magazines, and gossip about women of color rarely make the covers of tabloids. Ugh.