America Chavez brings Latina and LGBTQ representation to MCU

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With her witty humor, charm and fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence, the character of America Chavez in the latest “Doctor Strange” franchise film is already stealing hearts as an LGBTQ and Latinx addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Played by Xochitl Gomez, America tries to defeat an unexpected evil in the new Sam Raimi-directed “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” At the Thursday premiere at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, fans arrived dressed in Scarlet Witch crowns, magical cloaks, “WandaVision”-inspired cosplay and the occasional Spider-Man suit — but it was America who left the biggest impression.

“I feel empowered and inspired by characters like her,” audience member Lance Parilla said, adding that he planned on watching the movie again the next day. “It’s not just because of her heritage as a Latina, but also what she represents: She represents not just me, but my fellow LGBTQs.”

Fans watch actor Xochitl Gomez, who plays America Chavez in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” introduce the film at the El Capitan Theatre on Thursday.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Many others apparently agree. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” started the weekend with $90 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales by end of day Friday, according to studio estimates, plus $139.3 million internationally. The $90 million was enough to be the seventh biggest domestic opening day in history.

At the Thursday premiere, Gomez appeared on the El Capitan stage, as did Victoria Alonso, president of physical and post-production, visual effects and animation production at Marvel Studios.

Three people speak from the El Capitan stage at the Hollywood premiere of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Marvel executive Victoria Alonso, left, America Chavez actor Xochitl Gomez and an unidentified person speak from the El Capitan stage at the Thursday premiere of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s been very well known [that] I don’t like superheroes,” Alonso said sarcastically to the audience. “But what I do love is what they mean to you.”

For Megan Hill, who came to watch as an early 13th birthday gift, a Latina who identifies with the LGBTQ community is the kind of representation she’s been searching for.

“She’s a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and a lot of people are hating on her. But I’m a part of that, and I think that’s amazing,” Megan said. “For her to be a main character, I think is just great. Because a lot of young girls will definitely look up to her. And I know it’s something I’ve been missing my entire life. And I’m just happy now that I get it.”

Saudi Arabia was among the countries that have banned the “Doctor Strange” sequel because of its queer character, and Gomez — whose multiverse-traveling teen sits at the center of the movie — has been harassed on social media.

John Ramirez, 38, wears a Doctor Strange costume to the premiere of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

John Ramirez, 38, at the El Capitan premiere of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

In the face of that negativity, the premiere drew supporters including John Ramirez, who cosplayed as Doctor Strange and who at the start of the pandemic in 2020 used El Capitan’s marquee to propose to his now-wife.

“It’s great that everybody gets representation, because I just think that that’s how movies always should be. We should all be included,” Ramirez said. “I did hear about her scene with her parents and stuff on screen and how that was sort of an issue. … I’m glad that it was done really good justice.”

The USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative surveyed 1,300 top box office films from 2007 to 2019, analyzing the inclusion of Hispanic/Latino characters and persons on screen and behind the camera. In 2019, only 7% of films cast a Hispanic/Latino lead or co-lead actor. Across the 13-year span of the survey, the number dropped to 3.5%.

The character of America resists stereotypes — the spicy Latina, the gangster, the housekeeper. El Capitan moviegoers noted America’s authenticity and how her character came off as the typical kid who lives down the block.

Jessie Abarques at the Thursday premiere of the new "Doctor Strange" movie at the El Capitan.

Moviegoer Jessie Abarques, at the El Capitan on Thursday, said Xochitl Gomez plays her role authentically. “I really actually believed she was just a kid off the street,” he said. She had “the whole aura down.”

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

“I really actually believed she was just a kid off the street,” said moviegoer Jessie Abarques, who added that Gomez had “the whole aura down.”

Jazmin Sedano, 18, arrived at the premiere head to toe in her Scarlet Witch costume, accompanied by her mother and her little brother, who dressed as Spider-Man — because Spider-Man was “the one who broke the multiverse,” after all.

Sedano pointed out how America switched languages throughout the film.

“Especially for Marvel, I love how they still put in Mexican culture, so she says some words in Spanish,” Sedano said. “And it’s like how when we get mad or a little bit anxious, we switch to Spanish. So I feel like that was really cool.”

Jazmin Sedano, 18, wearing her Scarlet Witch costume for the premiere of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Jazmin Sedano, 18, who wore a Scarlet Witch costume to the premiere, said she liked the inclusion of some Spanish in the new movie.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Scarlet Witch cosplayer Karin Worley was drawn not just to America’s personality, character and superpowers, but also to the parallels with the Marvel character of Wanda Maximoff.

“Wanda probably would be in a much different place if someone had actually taken the time to believe in her,” Worley said. Every time someone loves Wanda, that person gets taken away, she said. “It’s kind of just wild seeing the parallels between the two of them, because in a different world, they could have been each other.”

A woman in a red Scarlet Witch costume poses at the premiere of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Moviegoer and cosplayer Karin Worley, 23, at the El Capitan Theatre on Thursday.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

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Originally published at www.latimes.com

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