All white male superheroes, in addition to whatever neat gadgets or super strength they’ve already got, have a superpower in common: invisibility.
Now, you may be thinking, “White male superheroes aren’t invisible! I see them in, well, every blockbuster superhero movie!”
You’re right. White male superheroes are everywhere. It’s their whiteness and their maleness that’s invisible.
When superheroes are not white men, their identities become part of the story. Take for example Black Widow from the Avengers. Twice in that movie, a villain underestimates her because she’s a woman, and she uses that to her advantage, playing up her supposed weakness until they reveal more than they mean to. Her femaleness is an important part of her character, to the point that if you tried to gender-flip her, her story wouldn’t make sense anymore. The only way people would underestimate a male Black Widow the same way they underestimate the real Black Widow would be if he were a feminine man – and that’s not much different.
But the same thing is true of white male superheroes. If you race- or gender-switched them, their stories would be fundamentally altered. It’s just much harder to see, because the white man is the Default Person. Their stories don’t point out the ways in which they’re defined by their identities, but it’s there. I can prove it. Continue reading