Captain Marvel and Feminism

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Jun 10, 2019
Captain Marvel and Feminism

Women are naturally drawn to cultural depictions of a strong woman, as the world we live in is a mess of gender biases and social injustice. Women, in particular, fall prey into this patriarchal society, and decades of fighting for it merely caused dents – which is downright frustrating. Why can these men not get it?! Despite everything, the movement lives on, and women and their allies turn to other ways of expressing this huge plight, through vessels like books, art, and film. Captain Marvel is the latest addition to the collection. There is no doubt about the success and attention that Captain Marvel has garnered, especially since she played a special role on feminism . There are mixed reactions, though, both on either side of the coin and the depiction of feminism itself. Here are some of the moments where Captain Marvel nailed it, and moments where it just fell short:

Where Captain Marvel and Her Role on Feminism Nailed It

Captain Marvel

I Dream A Dream of Equal Job Opportunities

Okay, we got to admit that seeing female leads is cool. Captain Marvel herself was a pilot, along with Maria Rambeau, her co-pilot of color, who is also a single mother. There was also Captain Marvel’s old boss, Mar-Vell, a scientist, and who was a strong woman like her. We know that being a pilot and a scientist in the real-world context is mostly dominated by men, and to see women excelling in an otherwise stereotyped job is amazing. It makes you think of all the other women erased from history who have actually contributed to our advancement, overshadowed by their male colleagues. In this aspect, Captain Marvel and her role on feminism gave the limelight to women who wish to excel in fields dominated by men and encourages them to just go for it.

Not A Piece of Meat

Another trend we have noticed on female heroes? She is not just strong, she also needs to be THAT kind of gorgeous, and THAT kind of sexy. While we are not undermining Brie Larson’s beauty in any way (she is beautiful), the movie did not have any moments going out of the way just to show off her pretty face and hot body. Her outfits were formfitting, yes, but they barely showed any skin. Perhaps the reason for her costume being designed as it is falls to the same reason why every hero’s costume was built that way. There were no uses of the male gaze, meaning no camera panning around her to make the audience feel like she’s irresistible. It’s quite refreshing to realize that the production didn’t treat her like a piece of sexual object, made solely to satisfy men. 

I Don’t Need A Man

Now, we are not saying that having a love interest weakens a woman in anyway. Captain Marvel’s story was just written like that, and this is the reality for percentage of women in the world. Some are just not interested in the idea of love whatsoever, much less the concept of becoming a mother. Having Captain Marvel with no romance side story didn’t make her character less interesting, and it is good that the movie decided to focus on her growth and her strength, as well as her true purpose to the universe. Captain Marvel having a love interest in the near future is fine, but her story now has inspired a lot of women who feel trapped in the pressures of finding a partner, to make them feel “ complete ”. Feminism is about celebrating the woman, and giving light to all her struggles, which includes this issue – no doubt the absence of romance has inspired countless of others. This is definitely one topic you would want to include in your film review of Captain Marvel.

Where Captain Marvel and Her Role on Feminism Fell Short

Captain Marvel and her story

I Am Better Than Him

As much as Captain Marvel and her role on feminism shed light to the issue, the movie and her story line glossed over feminism in general. This part is problematic to many other films trying to glorify a woman, so much so that they forget the actual meaning of feminism. There is much too limelight given on the concept that “ girls can be like boys”, and they depicted femininity as something you need to overcome and overpower to become better - because I can do what men can do, right ? But no, that is not how it works. In reality, femininity should  be seen as another type of power, a right that cannot be equated to that of a man’s, but rather a right in itself. It should stand alone, because when we refuse to let it, it devalues feminine power. Some scenes, particularly Captain Marvel and Yon-Rogg’s final showdown, shows a bit of taunting, almost like a dose if in-your-face feel of Anything You Can Do, I Can Definitely Do Better. This sets back feminism way back.

But This Is How My Struggles Really Look Like

Unfortunately, Captain Marvel and her role on feminism fell short once again when it came to depicting real-world sexism. The movie repeatedly places her in that very context, but her answer to it is just flat – she is just too cool to be affected by it. That is an ideal situation, no doubt, but in the real world, women cannot just stare her assaulter down. Not everyone is as cool and strong as Captain Marvel, and these scenes just amounted to emptiness. Sure, a number of women seeing it unfold will feel a sense of pride seeing her standing up to someone, but, that’s the thing, it is not just the reality for most of them.

I Am Captain Marvel and I Do Have A Story

Once again, the movie was good – no amount of argument can devalue its success. However, Captain Marvel’s story centered on her status as one of the prominent women protagonists in the MCU. It was released just before Avengers: Endgame, giving the people behind Marvel a boost of confidence for finally making a movie on a female lead – it is almost as if they want to be patted on the back for the progressive step on representation. Captain Marvel, as a female superhero, should have been shown as a character and a person, not just some strong woman. It proved to be difficult, especially with the way the plot was set up, to attribute any real traits and convictions to Captain Marvel and her role on feminism. This goes to other female superheroes, as they’re only ever shown as strong, cool, and can do what boys can do!

But one thing is clear - it generated enough buzz on the internet, even going beyond. Take for example those angry men, who just cannot grasp the idea of respecting women and treating them like human beings and turned to the internet to “ protest ”. Remember that scene where Captain Marvel found herself face-to-face with a man trying to get her to smile? Then she broke his arm and stole his motorbike. Yeah, men outraged at that, calling her a “bully”, a “criminal”, and that she should not be celebrated. You bet that these angry men are the same men nursing hurts whenever they hear the powerful “men are trash”.  Why is this important? As much as Captain Marvel failed on some important points on feminism, it created an outrage, meaning that it has done something - other article critiques would agree. 

Really, everything wrong with the film roots back to the industry as there have been sparks of research probabilities in that area, and the pressures of living up to modern feminism and female superheroes breaking their backs. Brie Larson was wonderful, and the fact remains that women and little girls were inspired by Captain Marvel and her role on feminism – you cannot deny its impact. Imagine all the Captain Marvel costumes on Halloween, finally non-sexualized. We are not quite there yet, but soon with all these strong female leads (Wonder Woman, the Wakanda women) finally getting what they deserve, that huge gender disparity on film will finally come to a close.

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