The American media franchise Marvel, best known for its iconic superheroes and action-packed films, has entered 2020 introducing a new team of superheroes. The new squad of heroes features a team of gender-fluid twin siblings, Snowflake and Safespace. Though the addition of non-binary heroes may initially seem like a win for the LGBTQ+ community, many fans are actually disappointed and offended.
They would, in theory, represent a huge step in the right direction of inclusivity in mass media as the first gender-fluid Marvel superhero. However, many fans have criticized the execution of a character that is supposed to be representing a historically persecuted group of people.
Similarly, fans are also upset about Snowflake’s twin sibling counterpart, Safespace, who is not gender fluid but acts as a sort of protector.
The names ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Safespace’ have been the primary dispute. As many fans pointed out that “snowflake” has been previously used as right-wing web slang to imply that members of the LGBTQ+ community are overly-sensitive.
In other words, “snowflake” in itself is a derogatory label used to bully gender fluid people.
When questioned about the blatantly tone-deaf naming of this character, Marvel director Daniel Kibbelsmith expressed that the two superheroes wear their “derogatory” namesakes as a “badge of honor.” He saw the name “Snowflake” as a way to take back hateful labels and empower the LGBTQ+ community.
Interestingly enough, both Kibbelsmith and the other creators of these characters are both cis-gender, white and male. Fans pointed out that it is not the directors’ place to “reclaim” marginalized words or titles, as they were not used against them in the first place.
The lack of a diverse group of writers that included queer and people of different ethnic backgrounds can perhaps account for the ignorance in the creation of Snowflake and his twin.
This then extends to Kibbelsmith’s choice to name Snowflake’s counterpart “Safespace,” whose power is to create a protective force field around allies. A “safe space” would typically signify a place where marginalized people can gather and express how they feel without judgment.
However, fans saw this as a continuation of the directors’ ignorance towards LGBTQ+ marginalization.
Director Kibbelsmith said, “Safespace is a big, burly, sort of stereotypical jock. He can create force fields, but he can only trigger them if he’s protecting somebody else.”
Snowflake’s relation to “Safespace” directly plays into the stigmatization that marginalized groups- such as non-binary people and people of color, of which Snowflake identifies as both- need protection or saving because they are weak.
Safespace is a “big jock” who protects Snowflake, who would then be seen as a victim.
Interestingly enough, this goes hand in hand with the name “Snowflake” having a weak, sensitive connotation. In reiterating that it is not a cis-gender, white male’s place to reclaim a label that was never used towards them. It is also not their place to “save” targeted groups.
Fans also were displeased with the design of the heroes, namely the costume colors and body types of the twins. Snowflake and Safespace’s uniforms are contrasting binary colors, blue and pink, that have historically denoted either the male or female gender.
Fans pointed out that making Snowflake’s uniform blue and Safespace’s pink is another misguided and lazy attempt at highlighting heteronormative and marginalizing issues.
Not only does the swapping of expected gendered colors not drive home the message of inclusivity that viewers want to see, but many are worried that Snowflake is not unique or distinguishable enough to adequately represent their gender fluidity and make a mark in Marvel history.
On top of that, fans feel Snowflake has yet to have any backstory, individual qualities, or characteristic features to build them as their own character outside of their gender identity.
While it is important for a character like Snowflake to be proud of their identity, it is also essential to recognize an era where gender is not a person’s only attribute.
Though it is 2020, it seems as though residual ignorance and a lack of creative inclusivity still have left fans feeling like they aren’t being represented in their comic book and movie screen heroes.
Marvel has introduced Snowflake and their twin Safespace to the New Warriors. But it seems as though the execution of these characters is seriously flawed. And maybe doing more harm than good.
In the future, fans hope to see a more diverse set of people at the writer’s table to help inform and educate others in creating gender-fluid characters. As well as characters who can stand as individuals outside of their gender identity.