Zoe Saldana: Hollywood elitists ‘look down’ on superhero films & MCU actors

Brad Pitt arrives for the "Okja" premiere in New York City

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 sidelined within the industry. Some highlights:

How sci-fi is/comic-book films are sidelined 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.”

[From PorterEdit]

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.

Campari Red Diaries' World Premiere of 'The Legend of Red Hand' - Arrivals

Cover courtesy of PorterEdit, additional photos courtesy of WENN.

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10 Responses to “Zoe Saldana: Hollywood elitists ‘look down’ on superhero films & MCU actors”

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  1. Thoma says:

    I love her, she has been in so many major scifi movies and she should have been on all the covers but yea, the industry is racist. Just saw her in I Kill Giants and she was wonderful. It seems like she is the reigning sci-fi queen.

  2. Erinn says:

    I mean – I don’t think they should be looked down upon for what they are. They’re entertaining and high grossing. But they’re not “great” movies with some exceptions. For the most part it’s just about churning out as many as you can and making as much money as you can.

    Should that be rewarded? Not really. I mean – it’s already been rewarded with the revenue it’s bringing in. But I also don’t think a movie like Black Panther should get less credit for it’s awesomeness JUST because it’s a superhero movie. If a superhero movie is going above and beyond and really doing a great job – they deserve all the praise and awards they can get.

    But if it’s just more of the same – why should it be overhyped? Unless something groundbreaking or different is happening we shouldn’t be giving it infinite praise. Just because Zoe Saldana can sit through makeup for hours and come out to play a green lady doesn’t mean she should be considered just as amazing as someone who’s acting in a movie that deserves ALL the awards.

    Honestly, I didn’t really like Guardians of the Galaxy. Everyone hyped it up so much that when I watched it at home, I kept waiting for something more amazing than what I got. The jokes weren’t anything fantastic for a comedy. Pratt’s character was a douche, Saldana’s character was meh for the most part. I ultimately only liked Rocket and Groot at the end of the day. It wasn’t a BAD movie. But it was – to me – only an moderately good one.

    AND THAT’S OKAY. I don’t HAVE to love it. And it doesn’t HAVE to be ground breaking to deliver something amusing to a lot of people. It did it’s job perfectly fine. And I get that she feels like they’re looked down on for being superhero movies – but I mean, what does she expect? They’re good summer blockbusters. That’s all I seem to see lately though, ads for the next superhero flick. At some point it’s going to exhaust its self. And quite honestly – these movies are looked down upon a lot less than all the people who were into these topics BEFORE this wave of movies. It’s ‘cool’ to be into superheros now. It’s ‘cool’ to be into comics now. But the people who lived and breathed this stuff used to get crapped on so much for it – and still do to a degree. Superhero movies ARE mainstream at this point – so yes, it’s great for kids to look up to a kick ass hero – but it’s not like pointing out that her acting ability is ‘fine’ is going to ruin those kids days.

    • cecond says:

      Totally agreed! Like, can we talk about how if a character in a Marvel movie strings together a semi-coherent clever sentence the response is like, WHERE IS THE OSCAR FOR BEST SCREENPLAY. Please, relax. I think her conversation about race and representation is way more important than like, whether or not we should be nicer to actors who want to play essentially cops and robbers.

      Also agreed about Guardians. I’m over douchey superhero bros and let’s be real, that’s half of Marvel’s bread and butter.

  3. cecond says:

    Yeah, honestly, I feel like the stigma against Marvel is justified lol. I totally agree that representation matters and giving back to kids is really important, but like, how many shitty ass Marvel movies have they churned out? I loved Black Panther, I liked Thor Ragnarok, there are decent superhero movies, but I find these are exceptions, not the rule and the bar is SO low. The budgets are ridiculous and the source material is comic books. For children. (I’m aware there are complex graphic novels for adults, I do not believe the majority of superhero comics fall into that category.) Like, I love the Harry Potters series but I also acknowledge they are children’s books. You’re not getting an Oscar for playing a sexy alien superhero.

  4. Case says:

    I mean, from a filmmaking perspective they should be looked down upon — they’re all cash grabs that are churned out what, at least three times a year by Disney-owned Marvel? I mean, I’m saying this having rewatched a lot of the films in anticipation for Infinity War. I like them a lot. They’re entertaining, there are some great actors in them, some of the individual films are actually quite well-written, but they’re not the peak of filmmaking. There are a few exceptions, but most of them, for me, aren’t even the peak of popcorn flicks.

    That said — Zoe is completely right in that these films’ value lies in what it provides fans. They’re fun, they’re light, they’re a source of escapism, and they give kids a lot of inspiration. Not just in the “be like a superhero” sense, but creatively, too — these are such vast worlds that have been created, and can inspire kids to write, draw, etc. Sometimes a movie is just entertaining, and that’s enough. Not every film needs to be an Oscar contender.

  5. SM says:

    I am not a superhero movie fan, I feel like only two Marvel movies were up my ally, Thor Ragnarok and Black Panther though I still watch them with different expectation that any other movie I enjoy. Needless to say, both done by minority directors. However, I stoped looking down on siperhero movies just like I stoped looking down on people for their taste in pop music, bevmcause honestly, it’s art and entertainment and to each their own. It does not make anyone more shallow or starter. And you have to enbrace the fact that for kids these stories about superheroes mean a lot and by looking down on them means disregarding the people who enjoy them. However, I think that we still van judge a bad soperhero movie, such as made by DC and specifically Batffleck. I tried to get though some superman remake that was on TV the other day and I just could not get though the self importance and torture. Ugh. Kids deserve better, in fact considering their investment – they deserve the best.

  6. 42istheanswer says:

    Zoe Saldana seems like a lovely person and her point about WOC was pretty spot on.

    In regards to “elitists” looking down on superhero films, however, she has drunk the Kool Aid. Superhero films, be they Marvel or DC, deserve to be looked down on. They’re all, without a single exception, intellectually vacant, including those that get hailed as culturally significant : Wonder Woman’s thesis on war was so utterly simplistic it bordered on the laughable and Black Panther’s take on global racism and the transgenerational effects of colonialism/slavery was utterly voided by its comically US-centered point of view.

    Now, I don’t have anything against them being stupid fun (or against any kind of stupid fun, for that matter). What I do have a major problem with is the fact that those blockbusters are the only films many people watch. And Marvel and DC most certainly try to keep it that way by churning out a new superhero movie every three months and ensuring, through their (extortionist) deals with movie theatres, that they get maximum availability to the detriment of other, more complex films.
    I think of it like food. Junk food is loads of fun and there’s nothing bad with eating a bit of it once in a while as long as one’s diet is otherwise healthy and nutritious. However, when one eats solely junk food (in great part because that’s all that’s available), there’s a massive issue. And junk food peddlers don’t get my sympathy.

  7. Hikaru says:

    I think this is bothering her so much because she herself feels a certain way about her own work and about her own skills when in a roomful of other HW actors. After all, a lot of “serious actors” take part in these movies occasionally just to have some fun being camp and make money and they don’t view it as “below them”. It’s not that serious.

    As for the race comments, I am glad her thinking has evolved past ~I don’t believe in people of color we are all pink~ and ~why should I complain when we have a black president~ that she used to stand for a couple of years ago.

  8. DesertReal says:

    She’s right.
    If a genre isn’t your jam, then you avoid it, correct?
    For whatever reason, when it comes to this, some can’t leave it at that.
    People seem to get so caught up in hating and bashing this particular genre, in a way that’s almost ridiculous.
    It’s the dismissive condescending adult version of kids calling something they don’t like, “stupid” or “dumb.”
    One can say Elizabethtown was an elementary Before Sunrise, but trying to compare a traditional action movie (like Taken or the Die Hard saga) with The Matrix, doesn’t make sense. Just like how Interstellar was a dramatic romantic science fiction, but you wouldn’t try to compare it to Shopgirl, a dramatic romantic comedy, because that’s insane.
    In different genres, you look for different things, because there are different playing fields for each.