Whether we want to admit to it or not, most of us have a soft spot for superhero characters for who they are, what they do, as well as the messages they vehicle through their heroic actions and moving speeches. They speak right and do good (except maybe for Homelander and Hancock).
Heavyweights in the entertainment industry since the mid-1900s, DC and Marvel are some of the best storytellers in history, at first through comics then cinema. Appealing to a large audience of adults and children alike, the companies are known for creating fantastical mythical universes filled with powerful fictional characters for people to look up to, aspire towards, and seek representation from. And it’s the latter that we’ll be dissecting today.
Marvel recently announced it is welcoming a new character into its universe. According to reports, the American cultural engine is bringing its first Israeli superhero back, with Unorthodox actress Shira Haas cast as Ruth Bat-Seraph, also known as “Sabra,” in the next Captain America movie. The blue-capped character is a former Mossad spy who developed out-of-this-world powers such as lightning speed as well as the ability to fly.
Naturally, the not-so-exciting news was met with backlash across social media platforms, with several users rushing to their keyboards to voice their growing discontent and anger with Marvel’s decision, accusing the company of normalizing and whitewashing illegal Israeli occupation.
It’s undeniable that culture is indeed an efficient tool that holds weight and impact in politics, and Marvel’s reintroduction of the controversial character is an example. Take Superman, for instance. Often thought of as the world’s first superhero, Superman is the embodiment of America’s patriotism. The same applies for Captain America, who also epitomizes that.
Meanwhile, the rest of Marvel’s catalogue, each in its own way, all nod back to the company’s evident origins and image it wants to be associated with. Although explicit agreements between authors and government bodies are yet to be confirmed, it’s obvious how one entity can be of great help to the other, though sometimes one can also hinder another’s purpose, with culture always playing the central role in which path the dynamic will follow.
The reach a movie or comic can have is titanic, with the instant ability to shape people’s perspectives and alter their opinions. So much so, that back in the 50s, members of the media and the FBI alike expressed their anxieties towards comic book publishers for allegedly having “friendly attitudes” towards communist principles.
With this in mind, we can only imagine how distressing and harmful Sabra’s re-introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be. Read on for what Twitter had to say.
ok look i love marvel. ive watched every movie. every tv show. read almost all the comics. collected marvel toys even. but their israeli “superhero” is not it.
— salma (@ewsalma) September 13, 2022
obviously the israeli superhero sounds terrible but the whole marvel cinematic universe started in 2008 with american tony stark going to afghanistan and killing a bunch of muslim coded “terrorists” so if anything its a return to form
— Caleb (@c_z_z_) September 12, 2022
Seeing all the nerds excited about Sabra in the MCU because she’s a mutant…. She also works for Mossad. 😐 Like, I have absolutely zero hope they won’t do an imperialism propaganda (and apartheid apologia) with her in a franchise that already has a huge problem in this area.
— 🇵🇷 Kri 🏳️⚧️ (@vampirestildawn) September 10, 2022
Apparently ‘Sabra’ is a term used to refer to Jews born in historic Palestine (correct me if I’m wrong). It is also the name of the neighborhood in Beirut where Israeli forces oversaw the massacre of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra & Shatila Massacre in 1982. https://t.co/PevrnulixH
— Yumna (@yumna_patel) September 11, 2022