How Women Have Evolved in Marvel: Part 2

Yesterday I wrote a post looking at how women were portrayed in the MCU for the first five years of the franchise and it’s a rather dismal realization at how uninteresting most of the women were. They were mostly sappy love interests who only furthered their male counterpart’s stories and even Black Widow was depicted mostly as eye candy rather than being a powerful hero in her own right. So today it’s Part 2 of this evolution analysis and I’m super excited to see how the last five years in the MCU has ultimately changed the way women are treated in this franchise. Enjoy!

(This is a longread.)

2014

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Black Widow starred in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and for the first time we got to see her in a brighter light as she didn’t have powerful personalities like Tony Stark drowning out her grandeur. And even though she playfully flirted with Steve Rogers for the majority of the movie it didn’t feel out of place. In fact, it felt perfectly natural in the context of their relationship and helped establish a friendship between the two characters that hadn’t been as visible in The Avengers. This was the first time I realized how exactly awesome Black Widow and thankfully her coolness hasn’t diminished since.

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The Winter Soldier also established a new female agent in the MCU in the form of Agent 13. Hints were definitely provided that she and Steve had an attraction towards each other but thankfully that was never utilized into the film as a crutch for unnecessary romance. And I loved that she could handle her own in a fight as well. She wasn’t some damsel-in-distress that Steve Rogers had to save at all in the film.

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Guardians of the Galaxy introduced to the MCU the first female hero of color with Gamora. Gamora is clearly a great character as she was established as a trained assassin of Thanos but unfortunately she never reached the potential that she could have. Throughout the movie we see her utilized into the film mainly as Star-Lord’s love interest and she never seemed to move far beyond that mold.

2015

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Up to the point of Avengers: Age of Ultron Natasha Romanoff was doing perfectly fine without the aspect of romance in her personal story. Yes, she flirted with Tony in Iron Man 2 and Captain America in The Winter Soldier but those weren’t full-blown love stories. The fact that Joss Whedon decided to make her and Bruce Banner have a romantic relationship is one of the few bad decisions in the MCU. It was a poor use of her character that wasn’t needed and has thankfully been dissolved over the years.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron debuted the arrival of Scarlet Witch and she was positively awesome. Unlike most of the other female characters before her she came into the movie with a dark side. She was regarded as a villain for one half of the film but when her conscience overtook her she decided to side with the heroes in the long run. We got to see her transform from a woman unsure of herself to an Avenger ready to give her life for others and that’s why she’s clearly one of Marvel’s most compelling heroes.

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Claudia Kim played the role of Dr. Helen Cho, becoming the first Asian female character to make an appearance in the MCU. Thankfully she didn’t die in Avengers: Age of Ultron so maybe we’ll see her again in the future taking her technology to the next level.

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Woo, Hope van Dyne! On the outside she looked like the typical attractive assistant but in actuality she was a trained combatant with more impressive skills than the film’s main protagonist, Scott Lang. In fact, she was the one who taught him the skills he has now. I loved her in Ant-Man and it was destined for her to become the superhero that she is today.

2016

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In Captain America: Civil War Black Widow had changed since last we saw her. She felt hardened, more empathetic for the suffering of others, and she decided to make decisions off of her own instincts rather than let petty politics dictate her life. Gone was the idea that she needed to flirt or be involved in a romantic relationship for her to be interesting and she was allowed to be an awesome, butt-kicking, spy-turned-Avenger leader.

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Scarlet Witch’s story unfortunately became smaller as situations around her grew larger and more complex. She was mainly established in the film for subtle romance between her and Vision as their relationship blossomed but I do like that we got to see her make decisions on her own rather than allowing her feelings for the dashing robot blind her to her duties.

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Agent 13 returned in Civil War with a new identity, Sharon Carter, which was a shocking fact considering that I had no idea she was Peggy Carter’s grandniece or something like that. (What’s up with Steve Rogers and those Carter women?) She could’ve been an interesting addition to the movie but unfortunately she was utilized into the film as simply a tool for romance rather substance. I mean, that kiss between her and Steve did not have to happen but oh well. *shrug*

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Well-known actress Marisa Tomei played the role of the infamous Aunt May but the hilarious thing about this version of the motherly character is that she was actually pretty. Aunt May has always been an old grandma type and the fact that they got Marisa Tomei to play this role is very unique and funny indeed. Especially seeing Tony’s infatuation with her. Lol. He’s a mess.

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In Doctor Strange the typical love interest narrative was reignited with Rachel McAdams’s Dr. Palmer. She didn’t provide anything to the film besides the cliché origin story romantic aspect and thankfully the writers let her go before she became another Jane Foster.

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The reason why I loved The Ancient One so much in Doctor Strange is partly because she is a woman. The role was always portrayed by a male character but to have her, this woman, be this wise, all-knowing sorcerer was simply awesome. And even though she died she still set the idea that rules could be changed in the MCU.

2017

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Gamora could easily be one of the coolest and most complex characters the MCU has but the writers for some reason never got the guts to expand her story beyond the role of Peter Quill’s love interest. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 she is never given the opportunity to be as cool as she can clearly be and for the most part all she ever thinks or talks about in the movie is Star-Lord. That’s an ultimate waste of a great character.

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Mantis is only the second female superhero of color up to this point and she was great. She’s silly, sweet, and the perfect addition to the wacky Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduced us to another forgettable female villain in the form of the golden ruler, Ayesha. While she didn’t provide much to the film other than to be a thorn in the Guardians’ sides her role moving forward will undoubtedly increase, as it was seen in the post-credits scene that she is creating a new being in one of her birther pods who is most likely going to be Adam Warlock, one of Marvel’s most well-known superheroes. Exciting.

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There’s no such thing as a Spider-Man movie without a love interest for Peter and Liz was the Mary Jane of this film. The fact that she was placed into the movie to provide that iconic aspect of romance for Spider-Man is perfectly sensible in the context of his story and I’m totally fine with her role in the film.

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Zendaya’s MJ was a perfect addition to the movie as well. She was constantly grumpy but only near the end of the film do we realize that she’s had a crush on Peter the whole time. Lol. Maybe her nickname MJ actually stands for Mary Jane and she’ll return in Spider-Man: Far From Home as Peter Parker’s official love interest. This will be a great change of pace from the usual Mary Janes that have appeared in recent Spider-Man cartoons and movies and I think it would be great.

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Aunt May is perfect in the motherly role that she plays in Spider-Man: Homecoming. She doesn’t play a massive part in the film but she’s the stabilizer in Peter Parker’s outrageous daily activities and that’s why she’s great.

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Thor: Ragnarok helped change the script of how women are portrayed in the MCU as Taika Waititi decided to switch things up a bit. Valkyrie, who in the comics was a blond-haired, blue-eyed Asgardian, was instead played by the wonderful actress, Tessa Thompson who ended up portraying this character so perfectly. She’s also the first major LGBTQ character to arrive in the MCU as she has been identified as bisexual. I mainly loved that she wasn’t used as a romance crutch for the film. Yeah, Thor flirted with her occasionally but their relationship never turned romantic and I LOVED that. Girlpower!

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And Thor: Ragnarok introduced the first major female villain to the MCU of the evil goddess of death, Hela. Cate Blanchett (who is one of my favorite actresses) brought a legitimate menace to this character and really posed as a seemingly invincible threat against Thor and co. I mean, she cut out Thor’s eye. Ouch. Hela proved that women can be just as villainous and intimidating as the big boys. Once again, girlpower. 🙂

2018

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2018 has been a GREAT year in the way women have been presented in these Marvel films, starting with Black Panther. We get to see this beautiful, benevolent, strong queen of Wakanda in Queen Mother Ramonda who is just as capable at fighting as the powerful female warriors around her.

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Shuri isn’t just a Wakandan princess who sits in her castle and watches as her brother goes to save the world. She’s a whiz Wakandan scientist who actually heads all of Wakanda’s technological advancements and isn’t afraid to participate in a fight as well. She’s already smarter than world-renowned scientist Bruce Banner as a teenager, which was evident in Avengers: Infinity War, and I’m sure she’d give Tony Stark a run for his money as well. I can’t wait to see more of her story unfold in the future.

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Nakia wasn’t the typical Marvel love interest. For one, she was treated as King T’Challa’s equal throughout the film. She never feigns to speak her mind to him and she never falters in what she believes is right. Her influence rubbed off on him and helped him decide to open Wakanda to the world. She also was never utilized into the film as a damsel-in-distress. She’s just as capable a warrior as he is and that’s a beautiful thing.

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The general of Wakanda could’ve easily gone to the role of a man but that’s why Black Panther is such an amazing film, as it highlights women in such positions of power and strength. General Okoye is the epidemy of strength and beauty in my opinion. She carries herself with such a love for her people and her nation and she will do anything to protect it. Through Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War she never feigns from being the incredible warrior that she is and she is never treated second to others. Okoye is undoubtedly my favorite heroine in the MCU.

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And it isn’t just these four women who are beautiful warriors and leaders in their own right but we get to see the largest presence of powerful women in any of the MCU films through the Wakandan warrior group, the Dora Milaje. I haven’t seen this many fabulous women since Wonder Woman. Ultimate girlpower!!!

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Black Widow returned in Avengers: Infinity War even more hardened than last we saw her. Through the years as a fugitive she’s become a different person. Her hair has been dyed blond and gone is the makeup providing her a positively rugged exterior. She’s also more armored, a sign that this Black Widow is now a warrior more than anything else. Even though she didn’t get a heavy storyline this time around I’m sure more of her story will be revealed in Avengers 4.

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Scarlet Witch is utilized heavily in Infinity War as she is set to protect the man she loves. We get to see her handle herself efficiently in fights time and time again and we get to see her grow. If she returns we’ll get to see her as an even tougher heroine moving forward and that’s always exciting.

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Gamora is a wonderful heroine who clearly deserved more than she was provided in the MCU. With her unfortunate demise it’s unclear whether she’ll return or not in future Marvel films but I hope she does so she can personally run her sword through Thanos’s heart.

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Mantis’s role lessens in Infinity War but her sweet weirdness is the best part of her unforgettable personality.

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Wasp ended up becoming the first female superhero to have her name in a title for a Marvel film and she definitely delivered. Throughout the majority of Ant-Man she was upset because she wasn’t given the chance to be the hero that she knew she could be. But when she was finally released out of her constraints it was a beautiful thing to watch. Wasp was an awesome heroine and I hope to see her return soon.

Even Michelle Pfeiffer plays a wonderful role in Ant-Man and the Wasp, showcasing that even old heroines still got it.

As you can see, yesterday’s analysis of the women in the MCU was very dismal compared to this list of awesomeness the MCU has provided female moviegoers in the past five years. Yesterday there were only five women to talk about and three of those women were damsel-in-distress love interests. Today this list has included 20 women! 13 of which are superheroes, 10 of the twenty ladies provided in this post are women of color, and nearly all of them 100% cool. That’s a BIG difference compared to the first five MCU years’ portrayal of women.

And next year we’re getting a Captain Marvel movie which I am beyond excited to see. Women rule! 🙂

I thank you for reading this post and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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