Eternals has the most brilliantly diverse cast of any MCU movie thus far, which also makes it the most true to life.
In The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, the ‘scenic Irishman’ is described as ‘talkative, boastful, unreliable, drinker, belligerent (though cowardly) and chronically careless’. This archetype, which dates back to before Shakespeare and still exists today, is designed to perpetuate the idea that the Irish are drunkards on the brink of premature death or goblins with an accent that represents no real place. Or both.
Last night, while watching Eternals with my dad and my brother, I thought I was hearing things. In a world where true Irishman Jamie Dornan is instructed by an American director to avoid his Irish accent for an egregious golden accent, it is rare to see characters from the Emerald Isle treated with due reverence. And yet here we are, watching a blockbuster Marvel movie on the big screen, with Dublin man Barry Keoghan chatting shit like he’s out for a pint with the boys.
I do not mean to claim that Ireland is an unknown country out of the butt of nowhere that is universally detested by the rest of the world. We are in the EU; in April 2021, we had the third highest GDP per capita in the world; When I’m abroad, only some of the people I know are rude for no reason.
Still, it is extremely rare to see a faithful Irish character in fiction made outside of Ireland. Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell are occasionally allowed to keep their natural Hollywood accent, though it’s hard to think of many others who are given the same freedom. Most of the “Irish” characters in great movies are Americans whose great-great-grandfather came to Ellis Island on a coffin ship 175 years ago. It may not seem like it to anyone who doesn’t see Irish characters from an Irish perspective, but outside of Sean MacGuire de Red Dead Redemption 2, decent and mainstream representations are few, far between, and often forgotten.
Another thing that people might not recognize, which largely stems from an intentionally historiographical UK history curriculum, is the historical lens through which the Irish were traditionally viewed. On a letter to his wife, a clergyman and friend of Charles Darwin Charles Kingsley once wrote: “I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw [in Ireland] … I don’t think it’s our fault… Seeing white chimpanzees is scary; if they were black, one would not feel it so much ”. As recently as the 1960s, establishments in England hung signs that read: “There are no Irish, no blacks, no dogs.” Further west, HP Lovecraft, famous for his tolerance, wrote about the fight against the “mythical Republic of Ireland” with propaganda, before labeling the former Irish Taoiseach Éamon de Valera as “mestizo” and demanding that “disgruntled Irishmen” be “eliminated or strangled in some way.”
It’s easy to dismiss these statements as irrelevant due to the fact that they come from the 19th and 20th centuries. Earlier this year, however, the UK’s Pontins family adventure park was discovered to have a list of ‘unwanted guests’ on its intranet. According to a BBC report, the list included more than 40 names, most of which were Irish or all of them, while staff received specific instructions to decline or cancel bookings made by people with Irish accents or last names.
With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that anyone in Ireland who watches Eternals is likely to feel at least a little comfort and national pride the first time they hear Druig speak. Until yesterday, I never considered the possibility that there was an Irish hero in the MCU. And yet there he is, 29-year-old Barry Keoghan from Summerhill, in the heart of Dublin, standing alongside Kumail Nanjiani and Salma Hayek like a hero trying to save the world.
Speaking of which, it’s important to look at Nanjiani, Hayek, and the rest of the cast as well. Although Druig stood out for me personally, the overall Eternals lineup is diverse, varied, and refreshingly realistic in a way that few if any other superhero movies have been to date. Among its highest-billed cast are people of Pakistani, Mexican, South Korean and Indian descent. There are deaf characters played by deaf actors. There are people of color. There are gay people. The film is directed by a Chinese woman. It’s the quintessential superhero movie because it’s arguably the first to affirm the universal truth that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, from diverse cultures and heritages, with distinct perspectives and identities. Earlier this week, Salma Hayek said she cried the first time she saw herself as Ajak on the big screen. This consideration and truth is not just something that Eternals does well, it is something that it essentializes in the future.
To prove it, it’s worth noting that Druig isn’t even my favorite character, as Kingo says at one point in the movie, “Druig sucks.” He has some funny scenes and is possibly the most philosophical and conscientious of all. group, but also faces Gilgamesh, Makkari and Phastos, characters played by the South Korean-American Don Lee, the deaf Mexican-African-American Lauren Ridloff and the African-American Brian Tyree Henry, respectively. saying I saw this movie and automatically loved it because it had one (1) Irish actor who was allowed to speak with the proper accent.
Instead, I am arguing the importance of seeing people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds portrayed as heroes to aspire to. Regardless of where you are in the world, you must be given a way to naturally access these stories. We’ve all seen 50 shades of a 6’4 ”white male speaking the Queen’s English or barking to the Beverly Hills beat. When you look at Iron Man from 2008, half of the landing page on IMDb is made up of white men; a significant amount of the remaining slots are for white women or non-white actors playing bad guys. This is true throughout the MCU, where only three characters of color, Black Panther, Falcon, and Shang-Chi, have been named in the titles of all 29 Marvel projects to date. Two of them are from this year, which shows how white the MCU has been for most of its existence.
Eternals, on the other hand, has six white men on her count of 18. One only appears in a mid-credit scene; one is a bad boy; one is an alien; And I can’t for the life of me remember who the other one played. Unlike Iron Man, six of the 11 Eternals are not white. Of the remaining five, two are neither English nor American. It is an improvement in terms of numbers, but also in terms of respect and truth. Superheroes, if they really existed, wouldn’t all come from the same block of Manhattan.
The superheroes would come from Dublin, Delhi and Damascus. They came from Beijing, Buenos Aires and Baghdad; Tokyo, Tripoli and Tunisia; Perth, Pristina and Port-au-Prince. Marvel casting actors from different parts of the world are not engaging in a waking agenda or indulging a non-existent diversity criteria. On the contrary, Marvel casting actors from different parts of the world is Marvel finally realizing that a world outside of America exists as something other than dressing up that needs to be saved.