By Matthew Escosia
Captain Marvel appears in ‘Avengers: Endgame’
In the upcoming ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ the remaining heroes will be joined by someone that could have enough strength to help defeat the big baddie Thanos. And this is not just “someone” Marvel Studios pulled out from their comic book serials, it’s Captain Marvel, the first female hero to have a stand-alone feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As a hero who may have a big role in saving the universe, is it apt that Captain Marvel is carrying the “Marvel” name out and proud? Why not?! However, it’s been known that this kind of representation wasn’t always the case in the past.
Marvel or comic-book movies, in general, is inherently male-centric. The most popular and proven bankable characters like Spider-Man or Batman posit a physically threatening figure1 that identifies with the vision of a hero that eventually saves the day.
This is clearly a big reason why content creators would prefer putting the male characters on the forefront. Going for something that’s already tested to produce positive results is an obvious bet.
Female representation in pop culture is having its long-overdue prominence lately, with major brands like Star Wars2 (D’Cunha, 2016) following the move by having them on the forefront. Marvel Studios is keeping up with the trend lately and more recently with ‘Captain Marvel.’
‘Captain Marvel,’ especially with how its story was injected for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, could’ve been released years back. In fact, on the four phases of this franchise, the film can sneak into Phase 1 without destroying continuity.
Marvel, the studio, is relentless in how they handle their key heroes. The treatment isn’t much different with Captain Marvel, who is now being labeled as the most powerful out of the bunch. But we have come a long way up to this point.
A total of 21 movies in and 11 years of franchise-building, the female heroes weren’t there up until the third movie, ‘Iron Man 2’ with Black Widow/ Natasha Romanoff. Romanoff is a former spy and has the body for combat. Her earlier moments would have her objectified by Tony Stark for being pretty and physically fit.
This type of humor would continue with Hope Van Dyne or The Wasp from the ‘Ant-Man’ movies. In the first ‘Ant-Man’ movie, Hope’s opportunity for heroic moments would be blocked by Ant-Man/ Scott Lang himself. It wasn’t until the ending of that movie where we get to utilize her for a bit. Her second appearance for ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ had a complete reversal from the predecessor having Hope the upper-hand from her male counterparts.
Other female protagonists like Scarlet Witch from ‘Avengers’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’s Gamora are proven to be powerful, but they are just side-stepped by the big boys from their team. There are compelling conflicts surrounding their characters, just don’t expect the girls will resolve their own problems in these movies.
How about the less capable female characters like Pepper Potts or Jane Foster? Well, they are reduced to romantic tokens3 (Sarah, 2016), obviously.
However, the studio’s rebranding strays away from this. The girls, at the big climactic showdown, would save the boys from the villains. Pepper Potts somehow earned extremist powers in ‘Iron Man 3,’ making her an invincible threat to Aldrich Killian, the villainous Mandarin.
‘Black Panther’ perfectly embodies this, by going for a more feministic route in addition to its promotion of the minority. On that film, the titular Black Panther will be beaten to near-death and will be physically present shorter than usual. He will be dependent on her female companions, rather than the other way around.
As for Captain Marvel in her first feature, strength is never an issue (Steele, 2019). There’s something fulfilling on how the film handled its action sequences, which is almost identical to how they handle the male-centric titles. Still effective, and yes, the gender-swap makes a powerful difference.
Marvel movies, especially to where it is heading now, is more progressive than ever. The studio had to keep up, and they are following the trail. The history of their female heroes has gone from being mere faces of a manic pixie dream girl to hard-hitting bad-asses capable of saving the world.
In an interview, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige emphasized that Captain Marvel will become the face of the MCU, and her first solo outing will be inspiring a new league of heroes in the future. Does this entail more female heroes? The film’s box-office numbers are positively saying so.
1. Kaplan, T., Miller, M., Rauch, J. (2016) Gender Differences in Movie Superheroes’ Roles, Appearances, and Violence. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No. 10. doi:10.7264/N3HX19ZK
2. D’Cunha, Z. (2016). The Force re-aligns: How the role of women in Star Wars has evolved. Retrieved from: https://www.firstpost.com/living/the-feminism-is-strong-with-this-one-star-wars-the-force-awakens-reinforces-gender-balance-in-pop-culture-2568062.html
3. Myles, S. (2016). How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Erases Women. Retrieved from: https://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/marvel-cinematic-universe-erases-women/
4. Steele, A. (2019). How Captain Marvel became a feminist Marvel film. Retrieved from: https:\culturess.com\2019\02\13\how-captain-marvel-became-a-feminist-marvel-film