ENTERTAINMENT
05/08/2017 05:50 pm ET

A Reminder That Nearly All On-Screen Superheroes Look Like Chris Pine

Summer blockbusters mean two things: superheroes and guys named Chris.

May typically marks the start of summer blockbuster season and lately that means two things: Get ready for some superhero movies, and get ready to mix up some Chrises. 

One such Chris, Chris Pine, took the stage to host “Saturday Night Live” this weekend with a clear message: Although there are many men like him, he is, in fact, unique. 

And as far as classically handsome hero types in recent Hollywood blockbusters go, he’s definitely got the first part right. 

Unfortunately for him, however, Pine bears a strong resemblance to the white, male stars of other comic-book adaptions, and, through a coincidence that says a lot about the state of on-screen diversity, they also share a first name. Although individually talented human beings, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth all too easily illustrate the continuing problem of on-screen representation ― particularly among superhero movies.

On Saturday night, “SNL” cast members gleefully confused the four Chrises, who star in various Marvel and DC Comics franchise installments, throughout Pine’s opening monologue. 

(”Thank you, Thor,” Leslie Jones says after snapping a selfie. Thor, an “Avengers” character, is played by Hemsworth.)

While their other look-alikes are taking a break for the moment, you’ve likely seen Pratt, who recently embarked on a press tour for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” now in theaters. Pine’s “Wonder Woman” is out June 2. As the actor, who also plays Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” movies, pointed out himself, superheroes, like Star-Lord, all have the same look ― white, male and as inoffensive as possible. Or, as Kate McKinnon phrased it, “you’re all kind of scruffy and squinty and jacked but in a sweet way.”

A change in optics hoped for by fans of “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot ― who is, yes, a woman ― seems to be coming at a glacial pace keenly illustrated by the way that film languished in various stages of production from the 1980s. Given our knowledge of how on-screen representation affects viewers’ self-worth, the pace is unfortunate. A few other breaks from the norm will arrive over the next three years: “Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman, will be out in 2018, “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson, in 2019, and a stand-alone Cyborg film in 2020. 

At least it’s something. For decades, superhero movies have served as a genre that celebrates white male achievement like no other, emblematic of the widespread Hollywood diversity issues that inspired #OscarsSoWhite. Studios may have wizened up to public perception, featuring women and people of color in roles that get less screen time in films such as “Deadpool,” “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.” But you’ll notice the figures at the front of promotional posters are not women, black actors, Asian actors, gay actors or anyone beyond people who’d feel easily at home in the Chris Quartet. 

Or this Venn diagram:

While the Oscars offered wider diversity in its nominations this year, it’s the most pervasive, biggest moneymaking titles ― the movies that won’t take home prestigious awards but will nonetheless be known to every household in America by September ― that seem to need the most work.

Most recent statistics on representation among film leads continue to find gross inequality; 2015’s top films showed minorities underrepresented 3 to 1 and women underrepresented 2 to 1, according to the UCLA’s Bunche Center. The problem is even worse among the people leading production of top films: the study found that their directors continue to skew white (90 percent) and male (92 percent). Among the people ultimately responsible for getting these movies made and shipped out to massive screens nationwide ― studio executives ― the majority are, again, white men.

This summer’s “Wonder Woman” will offer some respite from the onslaught of white guys in movies wearing shiny, tight-fitting suits, who look like white guys in directors’ chairs wearing T-shirts, who look like white guys in board rooms wearing normal suits. (And it’s directed by one Patty Jenkins! Huzzah!)

But it remains symbolic that Pine is seen promoting the film on the set of “SNL”― not Wonder Woman herself.

For now, we’re still living in the Age of the Many Chrises. 

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