‘Eternals’ Respects Our Intersectional Identities — & That’s Why It Shines

Lead Photo: Marvel/Disney
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Marvel fans, myself included, rejoiced and celebrated the studio’s first lead Asian superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings when it was released. It was a moment of excitement, of finally seeing ourselves represented on the big screen, and in arguably the biggest movie franchise right now. This pivotal moment, and subsequently how well the film performed at the box office, proved that Asian leads and our stories are worth investing in. Months later, Marvel’s newest film, Eternals, helmed by Academy Award-winning director Chloé Zhao, proves to be their most ambitiously diverse film yet.

When I wrote about Shang-Chi, I praised the film for how much it helped me connect with my Asian roots. Growing up in an Asian household in Latin America had made me feel “othered.” Shang-Chi spoke to the Asian side of my intersectional identity, one that I had dreamed of seeing on the big screen ever since I was young. And while it helped mend a gap between me and my identity, the film wasn’t able to represent me in my entirety. 

Enter Chloé Zhao, who manages to deliver on every front when it comes to this movie. 

The beauty of Eternals isn’t just the breathtaking cinematography or the jaw-dropping fight sequences, but rather its deep connection to humanity. Zhao devotes herself to making sure the film is full of organic representation, from having a kind and empathetic Asian woman as the protagonist, played by Gemma Chan, and a strong and nurturing Latine woman as the leader of the Eternals, played by Salma Hayek. 

Zhao’s commitment to diversity doesn’t stop there, as she continues to explore intersectionality through Makkari, Marvel’s first deaf superhero, played by Lauren Ridloff, who perfectly embodies the complexities of intersectionality as she’s a deaf, Afro-Latine woman. Furthermore, Zhao introduces Marvel’s first openly gay superhero to the big screen, Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, in an effort to show that everyone’s story matters. 

Eternals accurately represents just how diverse humanity actually is. And our heroes diversity allows them to do just that. What’s even more impressive, is that the film’s representation is present all the way throughout the film by having tough conversations about mental health, what toxic and healthy relationships look like, and what it means to be human. Zhao even manages to showcase Asian men with Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani, and Gilgamesh, played by Don Lee, demonstrating that Asian men can have a range of personalities, motivations, and even body types. 

Ultimately, Eternals proves that anyone can be a superhero, it doesn’t matter what we look like, who we choose to love, and the disabilities we have. Our differences aren’t divisive, but rather can bring us closer together. And while Zhao’s film will not be for everyone, it doesn’t have to be. 

This movie will resonate with the people that need it the most, like me. Because every last bit of who I am, from my cultural upbringing to what I look like and my sexuality, are all represented in this film. And that is why this film, this story, and these characters matter so much — because every human being out there deserves to have every facet of their identity validated and represented in the heroes they love.