As I delve deep into this piece let me be honest with you; I may be a bit biased because I am a Captain Marvel fan…but my love for this ultra-powerful wrecking machine of a superhero did not come about immediately.
I didn’t know who this character was or what to expect in 2018. As the marketing for the titular hero’s first film started to ramp up I was beginning to feel like I wouldn’t like Brie Larson’s interpretation to the newest addition to the Marvel Studios family.
As I sat in my theater with my family and watched Captain Marvel unfold I understood that I was watching something that was, ultimately, a mediocre superhero movie. However, as Carol Danvers embraces her full power and takes on a Kree fleet led by Ronan himself I remember my heart swelling with admiration and a grin spreading on my face. In my mind, for the first time I understood why so many boys loved Superman.
To see a female superhero flying through the air and possessing so much raw power was breathtaking and honestly, at times, it still gets to my emotions a little bit getting to see a hero like this in an actual movie. That’s how much I’ve grown a fondness for this character.
Fast forward a few weeks later and I’m sitting in the theater watching Avengers: Endgame. Suddenly, a character that I already was beginning to like had gotten an aesthetic upgrade (the short haircut) and instantly, I was a fan. Brie Larson felt so powerful, so sure of herself, and even though we didn’t get much to dig into with her character after one movie and a small role in Endgame I was a legitimate fan.
I’ve become so much of a Captain Marvel fan that I have grown quite protective of the character and I try to share my love of the hero now and then; as if my simple tweets or blog posts can find Brie Larson through the airwaves and maybe make her day as she has made mine so many times.
Oftentimes I hear the disgruntled groans and searing vitriol of the Marvel fans who find Captain Marvel to be less than adequate as the potential new face of the MCU. And every time I see a fan share how much they can’t stand her I am, every time, baffled.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Her first movie is one of the lower-tier Marvel movies in quality and her character’s emotional depth is pretty much non-existent…but that’s wherein lies the problem of these fans’ reasons for hating Captain Marvel so much.
Some fans can’t understand why she’s the most powerful Avenger nor how she got her powers so quickly, even though her debut film clearly stated WHY she’s so powerful and HOW she can handle the brunt of her powers so effortlessly. Well, let me remind you of the WHY and the HOW of the situation.
- She’s powerful because she, already being an exceptional human being since she was a respected Air Force pilot, was able to absorb the power of the Tesseract, or more bluntly, the POWER STONE, an Infinity Stone that can wipe out worlds. Secondly, due to surviving such an accident, she was taken back to the Kree World, Hala, where she was given Kree blood, making her as strong as the likes of Ronan (remember when Ronan got hit by a ship in Guardians of the Galaxy and survived his own ship’s plummet into Xandar and didn’t die?! Yeah, she’s that strong too!)
- And she was able to handle her upgraded power because she already had the power to begin with. This origin story was supposed to be different because it featured the hero with her powers at the beginning of the movie instead of treating her like Spider-Man and making us watch her understand and adapt to her powers. And we did see her struggle a bit with her newfound power after just obtaining it while fighting her fellow Kree teammates.
These fans like to call Captain Marvel a Mary Sue (if you don’t know, that’s a female character who seems to lack flaws and weaknesses) but they don’t seem to have a problem with male characters who have the same sense of unyielding goodness or power. But I will stray away from the Mary Sue argument and stick to the most important observation I noticed.
Some fans don’t like Captain Marvel because she seems to be too powerful too fast. Well, did these same fans have a problem with Scott Lang when he became Ant-Man; a man who went to jail for some criminal activity and had no Avengers-level skills whatsoever? He, of all people, got the job!
He learns how to be Ant-Man in a few days, then fights Falcon, fights Yellow Jacket, and thus is smart enough to come back from the quantum realm, all while being a pretty regular dude with no experience in the superhero department whatsoever. Had the genders have been flipped, with Ant-Man being a woman and Hope being a man there would’ve been a barrage of outrage from certain fans saying, “How could she be Ant-Man and not Hope? How is she able to learn all of these skills so quickly? Why was she the one that Hank Pym picked to wear the Ant-Man suit? Why, why, why?”
Instead, people loved the character and the movie (and so do I, don’t get me wrong) without much talk about how unrealistic it is. I see the sexism for what it is. I’ve also heard that some fans don’t like Captain Marvel because she doesn’t “smile enough.”
First off, she does smile plenty of times in both Captain Marvel and Endgame. Secondly, as a woman, that hits my angry button in so many ways. A woman hates being told to smile more. It is so demeaning. Plus, last time I checked, there were plenty of other Marvel heroines who don’t smile a lot.
I’m talking Black Widow,
and Gamora, just to name a few. But what they do have in common? They’re hot so we don’t hear these fans piping up and telling them to smile. No. They’re too busy looking at their cleavage or the women’s figures in their tight costumes. And there’s also an argument that she has no depth. Well, folks, just look at the track record of nearly all of the Marvel heroes.
- Thor was not cool after his first movie, or the second, or the third, or even the fourth. It wasn’t until Thor: Ragnarok that Thor began to shine. Even Chris Hemsworth was getting tired of playing the character until Taika Waititi spruced him up and gave him a sense of humor.
- Captain America also started in the not-that-cool-or-likable department. Over the years The First Avenger has become one of my favorite movies but when watching it a few years ago, I didn’t like it at all. On top of that, Steve Rogers didn’t get cool until Captain America: The Winter Soldier which was a movie that pretyt much blew everybody out of the water.
- It took Hawkeye three movies to get a storyline that gave his character depth and meaning.
I mean, the list can go on and on. There are only a few heroes who were immediate fan-favorites, that being Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, there are a bunch of other characters who needed some tweaking first.
Captain Marvel will get cooler folks. You just have to be patient first.
But here’s the thing that we must remember. These fans who speak so loudly about their despisal of Captain Marvel are a minority. Lest we forget, Captain Marvel was the first Marvel Studios origin story to make over a billion dollars at the box-office. So yeah, it wasn’t the best movie in the world, but it drove people to the movie theaters and made people at least mildly happy. A character that is not likable to some extent cannot, I repeat, CANNOT have a film that makes over a billion dollars. It’s just not possible.
Captain Marvel is an important character, not just to the MCU, but to the real world. Little girls will grow up and see this incredible heroine who doesn’t back down in the face of adversity; who isn’t forced to wear impractical clothing simply designed to sexualize her body, who doesn’t have to smile or conform to the norms of past female characters in superhero films, and can be just as powerful, if not even more powerful, than the male superheroes who for years have been able to save the day without being questioned for being awesome. She is my Superman and I can’t wait to see Captain Marvel 2 as she must fight to save the world (or maybe even the galaxy) once more.
I thank you for reading and I hope you have a Marvel-ous day.
Captain Marvel: An Evaluation of Sexism was originally written for the pop culture site thefutureoftheforce.com
6 thoughts on “Captain Marvel: An Evaluation of Sexism”
Wait what? Sorry, not confused. I’m an old comic reader, so all of my fuzzy memories are from the 1970’s. We originally had Mar-Vell the Kerr warrior, and Carol Danvers was a colleague. She was the first Ms. Marvel when an explosion fused her DNA with Mar’Vell. Personally I wasn’t a fan of them casting Annette Benning as the original but it’s Hollywood and they can do as they like. For me it would have been a nice nod to the original if they had cast as originally written. That said, there is some really dark and best left alone back story that I hope they don’t bring up. I enjoyed the movie, watched it a couple of times now. I think they tried to cram too much into one film, my thought it would have been better if it was 30-45 minutes longer. Brie Larson played the roll well, but I’m a bit troubled by the creative license she demanded and was given of the character. It never goes well when an actor puts too much of their own ideal of how the character should be. I’m curious about the next film for the character.
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Even going over to the marvel page to read the history I see that there are a few things they’ve tweaked. Probably a lot of inconsistencies from the late 70’s when they had all the other incarnations Carol Danvers had. I had all 64? Original Captain Marvel comics many years ago. I wish I had kept them. Even after reading the marvel web sites lore behind her, it actually does a disservice to the character to have her just jump from Kree warrior who doesn’t remember her past, to 1990s introduction.
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I’m very excited for the next movie! I hope it’s good like Captain America: The Winter Soldier was. That would be awesome!
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Yeah… well, I don’t really have much to add. We’ve still got too many Neanderthals in the sci fi fandom, who only want to act out either power fantasies through male characters or “I could get with that” fantasies with female ones. I don’t even think Brie Larson isn’t attractive. She’s just not highlighting it as a major part of her character. Sure, it wasn’t the greatest movie – I mean, what’s the best Marvel origin movie ever, and why is it Iron Man? 🙃 – but I thought it was perfectly fine and watchable. I enjoyed it. I’m glad I watched it. The part where she comes into her power and discovers who she is waskinda awesome. And then the Flerkin happened. And then it ended.
Ok, I only “didn’t have much to add” only as compared to my usual verbose standards.
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I think it would be really cool if when the X-Men are introduced, Rogue gets her actual comic book origin and saps Carol Danvers’ powers away from her to get them for herself. Ultimately, I know nothing about Carol from the comics, and I can’t separate her character from the mediocrity of the origin movie. The Skrulls and Nick Fury weren’t handled any better than she was in the movie. Unfortunately, the movie is so forgettable, I couldn’t explain what her origin was now if you held a gun to my head. I don’t recall it being told very clearly in the movie.
It’s an interesting point about her not dressing in as sexy a manner as most other female heroes. At the same time, I don’t know if that’s a major factor in how her character was received. Certainly, we’ve had other major female characters in sci-fi like Princess Leia, Ripley from Aliens and Sarah Conner who usually didn’t dress that sexy or even smile all that much, but were very well-received by fans. I just think if you’re dealing with an overpowered character, you need to work extra hard to make them relatable to the audience on a personal level. Superman has a lot of power, but he has emotional vulnerability. His heart can be broken if he loses the people he loves. Wonder Woman had the same emotional vulnerability in her very well-received movie. Captain Marvel didn’t have those kind of significant character relationships developed in her movie that could have humanized her more.
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