Problem With Sabra

Marvel brings a new superhero into the cinematic universe

In the past few weeks, Marvel has been under fire for bringing a new superhero into their cinematic universe. The character “Sabra” is a mutant who serves as an agent for the Israeli secret service, and is set to appear in the upcoming Captain America series “Captain America: The New Order.” Aside from the controversies with Sabra herself, many have claimed that her character promotes Zionism.

Ariana Magafas

For historical context, The Israeli army illegally occupied the land of Palestine in 1967, and to this day it is still suffering from violence at the hands of Israeli soldiers. When a franchise as influential as Marvel advertises a character that endorses the Israeli army, it can come across as tone-deaf, especially with the events of the past year. In late April, Masjid Al-Aqsa became a warzone when Israeli Police forces took over the area and killed dozens of Palestinians at a holy site. The violence continued throughout the summer months as numerous attacks and bombings occurred in Gaza.

Aside from the history of the territories behind the character, the name Sabra in itself has triggered a response from Palestinian Marvel fans. To Israeli Jews, the name “Sabra” simply means someone who is born in Israel.  However, to Palestinians, Sabra is a direct reference to a massacre in which Israeli soldiers invaded a refugee camp and brutally murdered the refugees for 43 hours. Therefore, the name “Sabra”is not historically appropriate or considerate of the heavy background.

Following the uproar that Sabra caused,  Marvel issued a statement to the New York Times saying; “While our characters and stories are inspired by the comics, they are always freshly imagined for the screen and today’s audience, and the filmmakers are taking a new approach with the character Sabra who was first introduced in the comics over 40 years ago.” Although Marvel pledges to re-design Sabra to fit a modern perspective , they fail to recognize the hurt they have caused to the Palestinian community. In an effort to be inclusive and representative of Palestine on the big screen, it seems that the franchise did not adequately research a topic that affects millions of people, even today.

This recent contention brings light to the overall discussion of Marvel’s “wokeness.” Representation in the media is a significant concern for all minority groups, seeing how it is a confidence booster to see someone who looks like you on the big screen. Representation is crucial to divert from the path of a historically white and western narrative. However, is the representation worth it if it isn’t presented accurately? This is a call to not only Marvel but all directors, writers, actors, etc. Do your research. There is more to the history of representation than physical appearance.