The Problem with America Chavez’s Casting

The+Problem+with+America+Chavez%E2%80%99s+Casting

T Lopez, Opinion Editor

“Miss America: Interdimensional Kicker of Butt”

    I still remember being 11-years-old wandering the library for a new comic to read. I found a title called The Young Avengers and was immediately hooked. The character that stood out to me most was America Chavez.

    Growing up, the only Latina superhero I saw was White Tiger in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Seeing another Latina superhero felt like such a rush. America was tough with super cool powers, such as flight, super-strength, invulnerability, and her amazing star portal powers. She even had someone as big as Loki respecting her.

I was ecstatic to see her solo comic come out soon after The Young Avengers ended, as she was Marvel’s first queer woman to lead a solo comic. She was even being written by a queer Latinx author, Gabby Rivera. Despite some writing choices, I was obsessed. She was a proud Puerto Rican raised by Central and Southern American families in New York. 

When I first heard she was going to be introduced into the MCU for Multiverse of Madness, I was extremely excited, but that excitement turned bittersweet when I saw who they cast.

Throughout the years that America Chavez has been in comics, games, and animated shows, she’s been shown to have fairly dark skin and curly hair. She is part of the limited representation that dark-skinned Latinos and Afro-Latinos have. 

That being said, when I saw they cast a fairer-skinned Mexican girl with straight hair, Xochitl Gomez, my excitement turned to disappointment. She looked nothing like the hero I read about for so long. I will admit, America has had shifting appearances depending on the artist, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that casting a lighter-skinned actress to portray her feels wrong.

Gomez seems like a very sweet person and a great actress, so I have no hate or ill-intent towards her. I wish her all the best in her career.

As happy as I am to see someone of Mexican indigenous descent getting a spotlight, it shouldn’t have come at the cost of the representation of darker skin Latinos and Afro-Latinos. Representation matters, but that doesn’t mean Latinos are interchangeable. American media always portrays Latinos as just one shade of light tan, Mexican, and as something bad. Even though America is a superhero, it feels like her on-screen portrayal is falling back into old tropes. 

Another thing I noticed that felt off was her jacket design. There’s a Calavera on the bottom of her jacket. Calaveras are typically used for Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico. America Chavez is not Mexican; she’s Puerto Rican. 

I understand they might have wanted to give something to America’s design to let Xochitl represent her culture, but once again, it just takes away more representation that could’ve been given to the many underrepresented Central and Southern Americans.

Additionally, how young they cast America concerned me. America is about 16 in her very first appearance, but in her biggest moments, she’s around 17-19. She’s a young adult in her solo comics. She attends college, has her own van she calls home, and has a flirty friendship with her best friend Kate Bishop. 

I hope the younger casting isn’t used as an excuse to keep her queerness more subtle. America has always been open about being a lesbian and that part of her identity is just as important to representing unrepresented people.

Many people (including myself) love to point out how important and impactful representation can be, which makes this hurt more. Proper representation doesn’t mean getting the next best thing you can find. I understand casting the role for a comic character is difficult, but this casting feels nowhere close to the source material. America Chavez is unfortunately yet another addition to Marvel’s questionable casting choices for Latinx characters.