Captain Marvel

Analysing How Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel Has Become A Feminist Icon

A hero for womankind.

Captain Marvel will be hitting the big screens in a few days time and it has gotten us thinking. Women have always had a seat at the table when it comes to the film industry. That seat, however, has not always afforded them equitable treatment in comparison to their male cohorts. If that statement doesn’t register with you, I implore you to name as many female centred superhero films as you can. Right off the top of my head, it’s that piss awful Catwoman movie, the utterly forgettable Elektra and the breakout hit Wonder Woman. Now, list the number of films that have a male hero protagonist.

I’m sure you can name at least ten. So when people say there is a genuine need for female representation in cinema, I am inclined to concur with that. There is precedence for them to make that case. All that is about to change though; Marvel’s Captain Marvel is making big waves, to say the least. It has received positive reactions from critics with early screenings but also has drawn the ire of those who have a problem with what the film represents.

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Whether Disney intended it or not, the character of Captain Marvel is more than just another Avengers applicant. She’s a phenomenon. A source of inspiration to women and a rallying cry for female empowerment. Right now, we’re gonna take a look at what makes Captain Marvel such a powerful icon of feminism. Regardless of your politics, there is value in understanding the character’s inherent nature, the circumstances surrounding the film and the actor’s role as an advocate for the film and cause. So get your Kelly Clarkson mixtape ready as we figure out what makes Captain Marvel such a marvel for womankind!

The Character

It’s worth noting that the character’s prolificity isn’t a recent trend, at least in the world of comics. In fact, it could be argued that her ascension from supporting character to a major player can be traced as far back as 2016. I mean there were some earlier works with her in Secret Wars after her transition from Ms Marvel to Captain Marvel but the cast of characters were so huge, she easily got lost in the pile. Then, we got the Civil War II comic book run and boy, did we see her in a whole new light. Marvel really used Civil War II as an opportunity to reinvigorate the character and establish a stronger persona for her.

In case you’re not caught up, Civil War II sees Tony Stark go up against Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel in both an ideological and literal battle for the future of Earth! When an Inhuman, Ulysses is seen to be able to predict the future and foresaw a devastating battle that mortally injured She-Hulk and kills War Machine, Danvers makes it her mission to make Ulysses her oracle.

Using him to preemptively stop crimes and conflicts from happening through rather dubious means. Tony Stark, on the other hand, thinks it immoral to rob somebody of their capacity of choice by arresting people before even committing a crime. Marvel is going Minority Report on our asses as Stark and Danvers engage in a battle between free will vs determinism.

In spite of criticism for its writing being heavy-handed, Civil War II manages to kill in the market with its opening issues selling over 175,000 copies! Future inclusions in other major events would further solidify Captain Marvel as a key player in Marvel’s graphic landscape. Most notably Secret Empire when Captain America’s history becomes altered and he reveals to the readers that he’s actually a freaking HYDRA agent!

Though Danvers would spend most issues unable to engage Rogers in a battle for the soul of the planet, a good portion of them are dedicated to seeing her and her team, Alpha Flight keep the forces of the Chitauri at bay. By the way of it, she definitely took a shot at Rogers. With this relative resurgence of Captain Marvel in comics, it was only a matter of time before Disney brought the character into their cinematic universe. That being said, Marvel Studios isn’t merely picking properties willy nilly here. Her incoming arrival onto the silver screen is a particularly timely one, judging by the cultural and media field.

The Climate

Since Trump’s presidential election in 2016, the US has seen major divisions with the Left vehemently opposing their new president. For many liberal Americans, they struggled to reconcile with the reality of the situation. Fearing that their way of life is being under attack. It’s not hard to find the parallels of this discourse in the realm of comics with Steve Rogers’ Hydra Supreme and his new totalitarian state being a stand-in for their new Trumpian government.

Not long after the #MeToo movement in 2017 further sparked controversy with prominent figures in power being exposed for allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Since then, the shows and films produced from this era has been notably dystopian with the enemy always bringing the telltale signs of the far right. Shows like Man In The High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale just being some of the most relevant examples.

There is a need now more than ever for an assertion of inclusion, diversity and empowerment. And I believe Disney is working towards that goal, no matter their “true intentions”. They were willing to take a chance by giving us our first true black superhero film and made history with it. The film itself also has plenty to say about hate oppression and ethnicity.

I’m not suggesting that Disney is effectively trying to play ideologue here but rather they’re trying to meet market demand and needs. Black Panther was a sign of sorts that audiences are more open to seeing films and shows that challenge preconceived notions of power structures and depiction of minorities in traditional media. While Wonder Woman has robbed Marvel of the honour having the first SUCCESSFUL female superhero film, Captain Marvel is still set to come in strong. Especially since it’s building off the momentum of Infinity War.

The post-credits scene of Infinity War had the internet flying off to uncover the identity of who Nick Fury was calling before fading into oblivion. If you haven’t seen the constant barrage of “Here’s Why Captain Marvel Could Beat Thanos” articles online, then you’ve been living under a rock! Needless to say, big things are expected to come with the appearance of Captain Marvel in Avengers: Endgame.

The buzz, hype and hate surrounding March’s Captain Marvel aren’t merely attributed to the character’s history, Disney’s marketing or even the online community. Captain Marvel Brie Larson has been taking the role in stride and in many ways living to the name of her role.    

The Actor

Since the announcement of Captain Marvel, Brie Larson has been a vocal advocate for the upcoming film. That’s not too shocking seeing that she is on Disney’s payroll, what is, however, is her relationship with the press, as she uses her prominence to champion causes near and dear to her heart as well. One of the more well-known ones being the need to include more women and people of colour into the film industry. Larson had commented in the past about how she noticed a lack of representation within the critic and press circles.

She stated that “About a year ago, I started paying attention to what my press days looked like and the critics reviewing movies, and noticed it appeared to be overwhelmingly white male.” And though she later clarified that her comment was not a call for exclusion of certain individuals but rather one of inclusion, she definitely made an impression. Her marriage between her social rights and Captain Marvel advocacy don’t just stop at the presses though, it goes all the way to the writers’ room.

A few months back, Larson expressed the importance of having a female perspective in a film’s writing, noting the distinctions and nuances of how women characters were written in different films. She herself admitted that the process of embodying the character of Captain Marvel helped her realize her womanhood. She further elaborated that Captain Marvel had to be more than just another entertaining blockbuster. It had to speak to women on their “secret language” and most importantly represent “the female experience in everything from the dialogue to the costumes to the direction”.

Wow, she is really taking this to heart and owning the film. Love her or hate her, you gotta admit that Larson is dedicated to the film and what it has come to represent to women. Personally, I do think she has a point. Being a woman is undoubtedly different from being a man (duh) and that goes for whether you’re a single parent or a superhero. So, it’s refreshing to see an actor who isn’t just phoning it in. Larson has made it clear, this one goes out to all the girls out there!

As long as we’re stating uncontentious comments, let me just say that Captain Marvel matters to a lot to people based on the support and controversy alone. Seeing Captain Marvel’s evolution from comic book sidekick origin to powerful team leader coming to the big screen matters to fans of the character. Seeing a superhero film made to engage and empower women matters to female audience members looking for greater representation in the MCU. It sure as hell matters to Brie Larson.

And at this moment of counterculture in which creators and filmmakers push for equal representation in cinema, it matters to us as well. Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel represents the collective hopes and dreams of the aforementioned party. Whether she’s kicking Kree butt or putting trolls in their place, she is a defender of women everywhere.

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Also, if you’d like to read my analysis of The Umbrella Academy, click right here.