Jewish Misrepresentation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe


Representation in Hollywood is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Whether it is race, ethnicity, sexuality, etc, it is important that everyone has someone on television or on the big screen to whom they can relate to. It is especially important for large franchises to represent their diverse and wide audience. 

In recent years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expanded representation of many groups and minorities. This includes Black Panther, featuring a predominantly black cast and superheroes, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, portrays Asian leads set in China, and “Ms. Marvel”, follows Kamala Khan, a female Muslim teenage superhero. And yet, representation for the Jewish community remains lacking. 

For instance, the MCU had an opportunity to showcase a powerful, female, Romani, Jewish superhero, the Scarlet Witch, but chose to alter her storyline and Jewish heritage. The Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is first shown in the end credit scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This Character continues to make appearances in the Avengers movies as well as her own Disney+ show, “WandaVision ”, released in January 2021. 

In the Marvel comic books, the Scarlet Witch is the daughter of Magneto, a villain who gains his powers when he is experimented on as a child in the Holocaust. However, in the MCU, the Scarlet Witch is born in Sokovia, a fictional country to alternate non-Jewish parents. Her powers in the movie are a result of experimentations performed by Hydra, a villainous organization. 

Photo Courtesy: Marvel Studios

The MCU didn’t stop at the removal of her Jewish origin. In Captain America: Civil War, a set photo from Scarlet Witch’s room shown in the movie prominently displays three crosses above her bed. This shows that the MCU disregards Scarlet Witch’s Judaism and overtly changes her religious affiliation to Christianity.   

The MCU strips Scarlet Witch’s religious background even though it is vital to the character, and for the Jewish fans who thought they’d see representation of them through her. The comic book writers used the Holocaust, a horrific event in Jewish history, to develop strong and resilient superheroes, sending a beautiful and empowering message of hope. 

Every under-represented group deserves an MCU where they actually exist. Representation of these particular characters as the Jews they were intended to be conveys the resilience rooted in the Jewish community. This is in the comic books, and this shows how they care and stand for the Jewish community, but the MCU took that away from Jews. “It would have been nice to know that one of my favorite characters is Jewish,” a Jewish Marvel fan states. 

Another case of Jewish misrepresentation in the MCU is in their Disney+ show, Moon Knight, released in March 2022. This six-episode series follows Marc Spector/Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac. Spector became a mercenary for the Egyptian deity, Khonshu, and has dissociative identity disorder. 

The character Moon Knight is Jewish in the comic books and is recognized as Jewish in the series. This makes him the first Jewish superhero in the MCU. Unfortunately, the representation is so dismal, one questions why even make the character Jewish at all. “They minimized it to only a few minutes of the whole series and mostly showed him involved in the ancient Egyptian religion,” an anonymous Jewish Marvel fan states. 

On a positive note, Spector wears a Star of David necklace throughout the series. During the scene for his younger brother’s funeral a Jewish ceremony and customs are portrayed, and men wearing yarmulkes, a Jewish head covering. These are very simple and welcome ways to represent Judaism.

Photo Courtesy: Marvel Studios

However, in the fifth episode, Marc and his family are mourning once again, but this time for his mother. Marc doesn’t know how to deal with this loss, so he refuses to enter the ceremony. Later in the same scene, he is shown drinking a beer and walking away. He then bursts into tears and falls to the ground, while simultaneously throwing his yarmulke down. 

This is significant because in Judaism, dropping one’s yarmulke is incredibly disrespectful. It is unlikely to see a Jew who would forcefully throw their yarmulke down. The whole scene signifies Spector’s abandonment of his religion. So again, why even mention his Judaism, if he is just going to throw it away? “The only reason they made him Jewish was to claim that they have representation for Jews, and not because they actually care,” an anonymous Jewish Marvel fan claims.

Jewish people have constantly tried to be properly acknowledged in Hollywood, or any industry for that matter. But even with all their attempts, they are still being ignored and misrepresented. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is just one example of this. The Jewish religion is more than just a menorah hiding in the background, or a couple of men wearing yarmulkes, and the Jewish people deserve more. More representation, more acceptance, and more respect.