Presentation on Marvel Films to Offer Insights

Founder of AACAE returns for discussions on race & pop culture on Nov. 17

For this year’s Campus & Community Dialogue on Race, Humboldt State University has invited the founder of the African-American Center for Academic Excellence (AACAE) John Johnson, Ph.D back to give a presentation.

Receiving his bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Penn State University, a master’s degree in Educational Psychology at Ball State University and his doctorate in Social Psychology from UC Santa Cruz, Johnson was the founder of the AACAE at HSU. After leaving HSU in 2017, Johnson moved on to become the Director for the Centers for Diversity and Inclusion at California State University, Sacramento.

For his return, Johnson plans on using the Marvel Cinematic Universe, often referred to as the MCU, to start a dialogue. Titled “MARVEL-ous Times on Campus: Race(bending), Whitewashing, and Representation”

You’ll never be able to watch the MCU the same way again.

John Johnson

Johnson said that “this is about what the MCU represents, and less about the MCU itself.” Johnson explained that he has always been an avid fan of the Marvel films and from a young age expressed an interest in the comics.

“I have been a fan of comics and animation for as long as I can remember,” Johnson said. “When I was younger I had thought about learning how to animate.”

In regards to the MCU, Johnson said that he’s been a fan since the first film, 2008’s “Iron Man”, but it was “Black Panther” that made a lasting impression, and helped push the idea that the MCU would be a good vehicle to open dialogues on race and representation.

“There’s only one film that I’ve seen six times in the theater, and that’s “Black Panther”,” Johnson said. “The release of it was both a worrying and exciting time. Whether the movie was a success or a flop, I knew that this was going to be a film that was going to be something worth talking about.”

His hope with this presentation is that he can talk to students about the way that the characters are presented matters, and why sometimes the way they get introduced misses the mark. With superhero films only increasing in popularity, Johnson explained that these looks at pop culture are almost unavoidable.

“The way that these stories are told, have been told and what they are doing in the future… there is content that you can pull from to tell these stories,” Johnson said. 

“It’s an honor and it’s exciting to talk about this more. The level of interest has grown and I haven’t been able to really discuss something like this since “Endgame” came out,” Johnson said. 

While Johnson did want to keep the substance of his talk under wraps, stating only that it will focus on the current and future plans for the MCU, he promised students who come to the presentation that they will not be disappointed.

“You’ll never be able to watch the MCU the same way again,” Johnson said.
Johnson will be presenting at 5pm on Thursday, Nov. 7 in the Kate Buchanan Room.

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