What does Captain Marvel mean for Women?

Charlie Harrington

“Captain Marvel provides a role-model of female empowerment for young girls, as we should acknowledge that the superhero genre is ultimately marketed towards children.”

Even before its release, Captain Marvel was a topic of widespread controversy on the internet as certain groups have called for boycotts of the female-led superhero film. Dozens of YouTube videos have emerged in recent weeks with titles such as ‘BRIE LARSON’S UGLY SJW ATTITUDE IS KILLING CAPTAIN MARVEL BEFORE IT EVEN ARRIVES’ and ‘MODERN FEMINISM IS RUINING THE MCU’. Brie Larson has been openly vocal about sexism and racism within Hollywood, criticising the culture of film criticism which is dominated by white males. This has sparked outrage, with prominent conservative individuals like Ben Shapiro weighing in to claim that she has alienated her chief audience with her comments. Within Shapiro’s comments is a very telling agenda, however, as he claims that even the existence of a female-led superhero movie is “outside the box”. YouTube has since changed the search algorithm to hide these videos, which had been appearing at the top of searches for ‘Captain Marvel’.

Trolls also flocked to the Rotten Tomatoes site to leave negative reviews and ratings, which resulted in the film having a 34% ‘Liked It’ audience score even before its release. Rotten Tomatoes have since blamed this on a ‘glitch’ which allowed pre-release fan-voting to be counted. However, the actions by Rotten Tomatoes and YouTube seem a concerning oversight of the real motive behind the attack which was deliberately aimed at a female-empowering film, and merely seek to bury the issue rather than address it.

So, what does Captain Marvel mean for women? Is it the ‘feminist’ blockbuster women have been hoping for, to follow in the footsteps of DC’s Wonder Woman? In short, yes. The film never gets beyond its quite basic demonstrations of female empowerment, such as Carol’s climactic fight scene featuring Gwen Stefani’s ‘I’m Just a Girl’, but that is okay. Captain Marvel faces the confinement of its genre, which requires too much action and flash to devote enough time to making hard-hitting feminist statements. There were concerns raised when the first trailer for the film dropped that it would be blatant US military propaganda – after all, Carol is seen to be a fighter pilot for the US army. However, this is not the message that comes across in the film, which instead concerns itself with preventing war and protecting a race of refugees from the Kree who have driven them from their home – a message which seems to conflict with many of the actions of the US military in recent years.

Despite the actions of anti-feminist groups, Captain Marvel has been a critical and box-office success. This is vitally important for the future of progressive cinema, as it shows there is a demand for female-led films even in traditionally male-dominated areas such as superhero movies. It is also impossible to overstate the importance of having not just a female-led superhero movie, but a female superhero played by an actress who is unafraid to challenge sexism and discrimination within the film industry, even if this risks backlash against her career. But most importantly, Captain Marvel provides a role-model of female empowerment for young girls, as we should acknowledge that the superhero genre is ultimately marketed towards children. With the success of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, we can only hope that Marvel will continue this movement towards more progressive films with a woman of colour led superhero film.


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