The much anticipated "Suicide Squad," a villainous take on the classic superhero movie, opens in theaters on August 5th. Despite some early negative reviews, the third film in the DC Extended Universe franchise is still poised to open at around $140 million and has already broken Fandango's pre-sale ticket record for August.
Part of the hype could be due to the movie's star-studded ensemble cast. "Suicide Squad" boasts talented names such as Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis. Talent aside, there is something unique about the cast of this flick -- they are racially and ethnically diverse. In fact, compared to other high-grossing superhero ensemble casts, "Suicide Squad" is the most diverse cast yet.
Using data from Box Office Mojo and Ethnicelebs, PrettyFamous -- an entertainment research site powered by Graphiq -- analyzed data to determine the racial and ethnic composition of other high-grossing superhero ensemble casts. They aimed to see how these films stacked up against "Suicide Squad" in terms of cast diversity.
As visualized above, "Suicide Squad" outpaces other superhero casts by a large margin. Of the main characters, 41.66 percent are a racial or ethnic minority. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population in 2015 was 61.6% white (not including Hispanics or Latinos). By this measure, the world of "Suicide Squad" mirrors the racial and ethnic diversity of today's U.S. society. Superhero films often have millions of viewers, so a diverse cast of characters has the potential to change the standard of whitewashed blockbusters for the audience.
Accurate portrayals of America's make-up are few and far between in the film industry. The closest contender is Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy," whose cast is one third minority. On the other end of the spectrum, the cast of "Iron Man 3" is 11.11 percent minority, with Don Cheadle as the only African American cast member. "The Avengers" is even lower at 8.3 percent, the movie's only minority actor is Samuel L. Jackson.
Hollywood often receives criticism for casting white actors and actresses as characters that should be played by minorities. Matt Damon is currently under fire for his leading role in the upcoming production "The Great Wall," a film rooted in Chinese history. Emma Stone received similar backlash for playing the Hawaiian and Asian character Allison Ng in the romantic comedy "Aloha."
"Suicide Squad" challenges the whitewashed Hollywood stereotype. Amanda Waller, a black character in the original comic, is played by African American actress Viola Davis, and Katana, a Japanese character in the comic, is portrayed by Asian actress Karen Fukuhara. Additionally, the character Deadshot, portrayed by Will Smith, is not black in the original comic, a reverse switch that is relatively unheard of. The film is also fairly gender diverse. Four of the main characters are women, a welcome departure from the usually male-dominated superhero genre.
The film industry still has a long way to go in terms of representation of all races and ethnicities in the media -- but "Suicide Squad" has potential to help move future superhero blockbusters from fantasy to reality.