If you’re a Marvel fan, chances are you have a strong opinion on Riri Williams a.k.a. Ironheart. I haven’t seen so much polarization within one fanbase, since my Zatara/Katang shipping war days. Quite simply there are hordes of people who believe she’s worst of the worst, while the opposing side proudly defends Riri’s honor (as they should). You’re probably thinking ‘Stacey you’re overreacting as always!‘ if that was the case when googling Riri Williams I wouldn’t see ‘Why is Riri Williams so hated?‘ and ‘Is Riri Williams a good character?‘. Since news broke about her in 2016, alleged ‘fans’ have been foaming at the mouth at Marvel’s decision on the young hero; some even going as far to believe she’ll be a stain on Iron Man’s legacy (commence eye-rolling). So let’s have a much needed conversation about Ironheart, the unnecessary criticisms she faces, and discuss if her greatest threat is misogynoir.
Now in case you’re unfamiliar, Riri Williams is a fifteen year old genius who enrolls at MIT. A huge admirer of Iron Man she builds her own version of his iconic suit in her dorm; this gains the attention of the goatee legend himself and he endorses her as his successor. But before Riri could even capture her first bad guy, the internet wasn’t having it. Some ‘fans’ called her a ‘thug’ or a ‘thief’, while others pointed out that we don’t need another ‘smart black girl’ because we have Shuri. I’m still digesting these comments. Yes, Riri stole the parts to make her first suit, but she’s definitely not a party of one. Marvel’s Starlord killed everyone who could’ve become the next Starlord just to ensure his position as Starlord. Not to be outdone Terry McGinnis star of Batman Beyond, stole the iconic prototype Batman suit from Bruce Wayne. Yet Riri Williams is held to a different set of rules, not surprising at all.
Due to Riri’s high IQ, she’s often grouped with our favorite brainiacs within the MCU, so I’m not shocked at the Shuri comparisons. However, the troubling attitude that is ‘we have one smart black girl we don’t need another’ is far bigger than comics. Frankly what that says is we don’t want actual inclusion, we want trickle-down representation; one at a time when the majority is ready. With a huge gender and race gap in STEM fields, we need more representation of characters like Shuri, Riri, and alike. Because they remind people, there is more than enough room for one smart black girl.
I’m hopeful that Disney+’s Ironheart series starring Domique Thorne is just what this hero needs. Ironheart was created by Brian Michael Bendis with great intentions, but the earlier editions of Riri didn’t do her complete justice. Marvel utilizing Eve Ewing, an African-American sociologist, poet, author, and artist, to revamp the character with Kevin Libranda. Ultimately reflecting the women Bendis wanted to represent. As a black woman, Riri is judged harsher by many, deemed inadequate before even given a chance due to the color of skin and her gender. If we gave her contemporaries Miles Morales and Kate Bishop a chance, can’t we give Riri a fair chance?