Why is Marvel Being Accused of Antisemitism?

Thomas Brown
6 min readSep 22, 2019

Rumors of a race-change prompt a backlash, charges of racism and antisemitism.

One of Marvel Comic’s most iconic and well-known characters is the Jewish Holocaust survivor Erik Lensherr, also known as the Mutant villain Magneto. To date, two different actors have portrayed him on screen. Sir Ian McKellen, an openly gay elderly Englishman, played an older iteration of Magneto in five films, beginning in the year 2000. Michael Fassbender, an Irish-German actor, played a younger version of the character in four films, starting in 2011’s X-Men: First Class.

Two screen versions of Magneto. Left: Ian McKellen. Right: Michael Fassbender. Courtesy Fox Studios

Marvel Studios has spent the last eleven years expanding their superhero franchise into the most expansive and diverse cinematic universe Hollywood has ever seen. They have very successfully folded new and largely unknown characters from the comic page onto the screen. Until recently, Magneto was off-limits for Marvel Studios, as the film rights to the character rested with Fox. Now, following a successful merger between Fox and Marvel’s parent company Disney, there are plans to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) further, including Magneto.

This will necessitate a relaunch of the character to comport with the timeline and tenor that the MCU has built over the course of twenty-three, very successful movies. Dozens of superheros and supporting characters have been imported from the comics to the theater, each adapted and modified on the way. While similar in their identities, origins, and storylines the MCU superheros are not the same as they were in their original comic source material.

Much of the time the MCU characters have been ‘updated’ to fit with life in the 21st century as opposed to the mid-20th century when they debuted in the comics. This in itself is not anything new. Comic publishers have regularly revamped characters big and small for decades; origins have been changed, names reinvented, powers up- or down-graded, heroes have become villains, and villains turned into heroes. Characters have been aged and de-aged, religious identities become more or less pronounced, and previously straight heroes discovered to be gay.

Rumors surfaced this week that MCU Magneto will no longer be a German Jew but rather a black man. In the…