And Marvel, get your head outta your ass, please.
Like plenty of comic book fans, I am an opinionated, stubborn individual, and I have a very set idea in mind of what I want from geek media. So when I say a female superhero movie, I don’t mean I want any female superhero on-screen being featured. I mean Captain Marvel, and at this point I am not going to take a substitute.
Brie Larson as Captain Marvel / Marvel Studios
When Marvel made their announcement for “Phase 3,” or the third wave of superhero movies set to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU), I and an ungodly number of other fans were beyond thrilled to see Captain Marvel announced, taking a place alongside Black Panther, Infinity War, and The Inhumans — all of these are huge steps for the representation that plenty of not-just-straight-white-male geeks crave.
And no, the announcement wasn’t for the original Captain Marvel but for Carol Danvers, the woman who took over for the original Captain Marvel somewhere along the line around the ’70s. For those not as grossly versed in comic-ology as I am, the story is pretty simple: Mar-Vel was an alien with crazy-awesome superpowers, but his comic series stopped selling well after the ’60s sci-fi boom started to taper off. Mar-Vel transfers his powers to Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot and all-around badass, and later in the ’70s, Carol Danvers takes the title of Ms. Marvel, and her comics sell very well. Since then, Carol Danvers has had many selling series and many personas — Warbird, Binary and most recently Captain Marvel, finally taking the title from Mar-Vel completely. She’s been an X-Man, an Avenger and is currently waging the second Civil War in the comics.
Basically, she’s the go-to female superhero for Marvel to finally grace the big screen with.
My excitement, of course, started dying down a few months later, when Marvel announced that the Captain Marvel film is being pushed back in production from July 2018 to November 2018. This was to make production room for Spider-Man: Homecoming, which of course is a cash cow Marvel wants to milk ASAP.
Spider-Man: Homecoming / Marvel Studios
I was almost going to forgive it, mostly because it’s only a few months, and that means Captain Marvel will still be out before the first installment of Infinity War — the culmination of the MCU — which guarantees Carol a role. But then, of course, production was pushed back again, this time to March 2019. This is almost a full year away from the initial announcement and ruins the dream of seeing Carol join the Avengers for Infinity War.
If this were any other superhero, the fuss I’d make would be minimal at best. But this is Carol Danvers; this is Captain Marvel, and this is supposed to be the first female superhero title character in the illustrious MCU. This is what I and other women, girls, geeks and moviegoers need. We need a woman to have the power, the budget, the marketing and the care that have been going to exclusively white male characters for 11 years.
Let me reiterate: it’s been 11 years since the MCU began with Iron Man. It will have been 13 years before we see the first woman superhero as our titular character. How can this studio find it okay to go 11 years without showing one of their many incredible female characters the same treatment? Further delaying their promise is not only bad; it’s unforgivable. How long can they cruise by without putting genuine effort into real equal representation?
(Apparently over 11 years.)
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron / Marvel Studios
I am not the only fan who wants this. Not by a long shot. There’s been a continual outcry for a Black Widow solo film — the character who’s made more cameos in other heroes’ movies than anyone else. But Black Widow seems to be always the support and never the star. The huge retaliation was met with nothing. Less than nothing, actually, considering one of her last roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron featured a glimpse at her backstory and character development, then was boiled down to a love story of her trying to tame the Hulk.
Of course one can’t talk about disappointing female roles in Marvel movies without discussing Ant-Man and the Wasp, the movie Captain Marvel was pushed aside for. When I say ‘disappointing,’ I mean the Wasp spent her time as a main character of the previous film proving that she’s a more capable protagonist than Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man but doesn’t don the suit because her father told her not to. By the title (and the end credits: spoilers) we can see that the Wasp will have a role in her own costume beside Ant-Man, and that means she will technically be the first titular female superhero in the MCU.
But with a title like Ant-Man and the Wasp, ‘titular character’ is a technical term. After making us wait 11 years for a female superhero to be featured, audiences can’t be weaned into it with second-fiddle sidekicks. It’s time to go big or go home.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman / DC Entertainment
To elaborate on disappointing roles of women in superhero movies, we of course have to look at Wonder Woman — not Marvel and not released yet at the time of this writing, so I’ll keep this brief. I don’t trust DC to make superhero films that are good. After Suicide Squad (don’t talk to me about Harley Quinn) and Batman v Superman, few fans have faith that DC can make as good a movie as Marvel can. The Wonder Woman trailers look like more of the same, except we can clearly see a featured love story. I won’t be surprised if Wonder Woman isn’t as developed of a character in her own movie as her love interest played by Chris Pine, considering what we’re being promised.
The kicker is that we have concrete evidence that Marvel is capable of creating an incredible product from a titular female superhero, AKA Jessica Jones (real fans know what I did there). Not only did this Netflix Original Marvel show have a great reception, but the critical feminist lens revealed a giant leap in the right direction. This was a show that featured a complex female character who survived and overcame abuse and not only provided representation but a powerful metaphor.
Does Marvel Studios think the Netflix show was playing it safe, giving their vast female audience something while not committing to the big screen?
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones / Netflix
It’s no secret Marvel is afraid a female superhero won’t pull the same vast merchandising budget their male superheroes do — the general fear is that girls don’t buy as many toys as boys do, and boys aren’t going to buy toys of women action figures. Of course, this can’t be proven, because there are virtually no action figures of women in the first place.
To debunk this, recent studies show clearly that women are about half of comic book consumers. They’re also about half of gamers and definitely about half of moviegoers, likely because they’re also half of the population.
Showing Captain Marvel the same respect as other Marvel characters shouldn’t be restricted by fear of sales. It should be executed immediately, without delays, not just because it’ll be a damn good movie but because it will show women and girls that they too deserve to see themselves as superheroes.
Little girls need the idols little boys have been getting en masse for 11 long years. They deserve more than to just hope for a Black Widow cameo or to see a disappointing love story that tells them they’re only as good as their men.
Little girls, women, boys — everyone needs Captain Marvel to finally save them from the male-centric monotony Marvel has been getting away with for too long.