Comics, Movies, Pop Culture

Marvel seriously needs to cut the sexism if they want to be praised as groundbreaking

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a lot to learn when it comes to equality.

Marvel is unfair to women and this is not negotiable. (Please note that Black Panther is pretty much exempt from the following rant).

First of all, for the entirety of phase 1, Black Widow was the only female superhero (or prominent female character or supervillain, for that matter). In phase 2 she was joined by Scarlet Witch, but the ratio didn’t get much better with 2 female Avengers out of 9.

Yes, I’m sure the women who are featured in the films are made to be perceived by the audience as ‘strong and independent’, but are they? Of course, Natasha Romanoff was an amazing character, before Age of Ultron ruined her. Maria Hill is badass, when she gets more than a second of screen time. Peggy Carter was incredibly inspirational, before she was moved to television and ABC decided to cancel the show despite the praise of most critics.

The fact that we are finally getting a Captain Marvel film in 2019 is not something to be celebrated and praised as groundbreaking. It’s something to be ashamed of that Marvel’s first female superhero-centered movie is only coming out in 2019.

Every Marvel film is the story of a straight white man who usually has a female love interest and, sometimes, a POC sidekick. That is not diversity, it is tokenism.

Before you say that Jane Foster is an amazing scientist and one of the most intelligent people in the MCU, and that Pepper Potts has the power and the ability to run a gigantic company like Stark Industries, ask yourself this: if these women are not just love interests, where have they been for the past films? If the very purpose of their characters isn’t to be Thor’s and Tony Stark’s girlfriends, then how come they don’t get a storyline after the breakup?

[bctt tweet=”The fact that we are finally getting a Captain Marvel film in 2019 is not something to be celebrated and praised as groundbreaking.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Yes, I know that comics were a medium initially intended for boys. But this is not the 1940s anymore. And cinema is a completely different medium. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a very diverse audience in terms of gender, race and sexuality. And yet, all we see on screen are dudes. On television, at least, Agents of SHIELD is an amazing example of diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera. And the comics division of Marvel Entertainment is actually far more progressive than the MCU. There is a source material to base films upon…if only they wanted to use it.

Unfortunately, the head executives seem to think that films with female leads are bound to flop, and that’s when Wonder Woman comes to laugh in their faces. But despite how splendid of a film Wonder Woman was, DC isn’t better than Marvel. They just beat Marvel by only year or two, which still classifies as “too late.”

And frankly, what the hell happened to Natasha in Age of Ultron? Why was her complex character so brutally assassinated and replaced by a stereotypical helpless damsel in distress? Why was her romance with Hulk necessary when it literally came out of nowhere? Because it fed the dreams of average middle-aged men, that’s why. Also, the entire sequence of her kidnapping and consequent rescue is of no relevance to the plot. If you take it out, the narrative still works the same, so why was it written in the first place?

But possibly the single worst thing that happened in Age of Ultron was Natasha calling herself “a monster” because of her sterilization. You know, Joss Whedon, many women can’t have children, and it’s not nice to call them freaks or compare them to a man who explodes into an actual green monster for it.

[bctt tweet=”The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a very diverse audience in terms of gender, race and sexuality. And yet, all we see on screen are dudes.” username=”wearethetempest”]

And what about sexual diversity? In superhero films, pretty much everyone is straight and when they are not, the queer narrative is erased. Take Valkyrie, from Thor: Ragnarok. An amazing character, she is a lovable rogue, the careless anti-hero, the type that usually only men are allowed to portray without being villains. She is so refreshing, and Tessa Thompson is the first Afro-Latina to have a big role in MCU.

Her presence in the film is not due to her being anyone’s love interest. She cares for her own good and does not apologize for it, until she sees the bigger picture and decides to fight with the good guys. She struggles with alcoholism as a consequence of her depression and PTSD. In the flashback scene of Hela’s defeat of the Valkyries, we see a woman jump in front of our Valkyrie to save her from a sword. From the final cut of the movie, we can’t tell who the woman is, but Tessa confirmed that it was her lover. The film did feature a scene where her bisexuality was confirmed, but it was deleted. Two steps forward and one step back, Marvel?

We need better representation. Yes, the women in these films are, most of the time, badass. But too often, they’re just sidekicks or love interests, and they still don’t get to tell their own stories. We hope that Black Panther paved the way for a new phase of better, more inclusive and better written films.

Better be careful, Marvel. Wonder Woman 2 will come out before your hypothetical Black Widow solo movie, and it may smash your reputation again.