A Feminist Defense of “Captain Marvel”

This piece is dedicated to the men next to me who fell asleep and snored through the entire film, and the dude bro behind me who snickered every time Captain Marvel did something awesome. It’s also dedicated to the little boy in front of me who exclaimed, during an alien examination scene: “They’re laughing because they can see his daddy parts!”

Captain Marvel is not the best superhero film I’ve ever seen—and believe me, I’ve seen them. I love superhero movies. I swoon over the ridiculousness of Tony Stark. I adore Batman. I’m Bruce Banner’s number-one fangirl. (And before we begin: Get outta here, Marvel-versus-DC purists!)

But regardless of my opinion, the facts show that Captain Marvelmatters. The film made $150 million in its opening weekend. It was Marvel’s first film starring a woman. It was Marvel’s first film with a female director. It featured MCU’s first female composer.

From the get go, Captain Marvel was going to have a hell of a time pleasing male fans, especially after the (debunked!) rumor that Brie Larson told white men the movie isn’t for them.

Here’s the thing: Larson could have said that. This movie isn’t made for them, and that’s okay. Not everything can be about white men. Men get to spar over a plethora of personalities that they align with as fans, duking it out to see whose hero is best. Why are women still fighting just to see their heroes come to life?

“The truth is that the comics industry has had a complicated relationship with female characters,” Amanda Shendruk explains in her book Analyzing the Gender Representation of 34,476 Comic Book Characters.They are often hyper-sexualized, unnecessarily brutalized, stereotyped and used as tokens. They’re also rare. Only 26.7 percent of all DC and Marvel characters are female, and only 12 percent of mainstream superhero comics have female protagonists.”

Gender isn’t the only barrier to parity facing the superhero sector, either. We’ve got far to go in terms of equal representation. White men are still overwhelmingly overrepresented in the genre, despite the fact that Black Panther was the best superhero film to date and Wonder Woman was the highest-grossing.

But the industry has time to change—and we’ve got their backs as they take on the challenge. There is a clear desire for non-white male superheroes from fans.

Let’s review, for instance, all of the MCU movies that Captain Marvel ranked higher than on Rotten Tomatoes when I was writing this piece: Thor, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk. The movie was also ranked higher than Marvel TV shows
“The Defenders,” “The Punisher,” “Iron Fist” and “Inhumans.” Earlier this month, Captain‘s overall score on the site was 80 percent—making it tied with both Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The First Avenger.

And let’s not leave our DC friends out of this game. Captain Marvel has rated higher than every single DC Extended Universe film released to date, with one incredible exception: Wonder Woman.(The Nolan Batman franchise is not considered part of the DC Extended Universe, FYI.)

Scores don’t mean everything—but Captain Marvel is clearly critically appealing, despite what trolls on the Internet would have us believe.
I’m sorry Zack Snyder ruined Superman, okay? He messed with Batman, too, so I feel your pain—but just because Marvel’s strongest superhero is a woman does not mean you can disparage her.

Her movie is better. Quite frankly, her character is a lot more interesting. And that’s likely all in part because she has to put up with a lot of nonsense that male superheroes don’t.

When we watch Captain Marvel, we witness an incredibly strong and funny woman being told to reign in her emotions from the very start. The fact that she doesn’t immediately throw people around rooms just for the sake of smashing blatant misogyny is enough reason to keep watching. Captain Marvel is a level-headed person just trying to do her best with what she’s got. She wants to protect those that need protecting and complete her mission, and she manages to make that happen despite the sexism that comes her way.

Captain Marvel has a lot more to deal with than just the run of the mill MCU bad guys—because she has to handle them and face down toxic male behavior. Is Captain America dealing with catcallers while just trying to live his life? How about Tony? Hawkeye? Spidey? Banner? Thor? Even Loki doesn’t have to deal with that, and he’s not even always a good guy.

Plus, it’s time for new and fresh takes on superhero narratives. This film is revolutionary for the industry, and not just because it has a female lead.

You know what’s really refreshing? A heroine that doesn’t have any inkling towards a romantic entanglement. The biggest love scene in all 2.5 hours of Captain Marvel (spoiler alert!) is the moment when Samuel L. Jackson baby talks a cat named Goose. Instead, viewers are invited into the heartwarming friendship between Danvers and Maria Rambeau, her long-lost Earth-bound companion.

There is so much at stake for Danvers to that resides squarely in that rekindled friendship. No one else could have helped her remember who she was. No one else was willing to.

It’s telling that the same halfhearted “comic superfans” that cried aloud at Stan Lee’s appearance at the beginning of the film are the ones spitting venom at the film’s very existence.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim to adore the man who gave the world Marvel and yet demean the character that bears its name.

If women can endure everyday sexism—from the pain of childbirth to sexual harassment, from the wage gap to menstrual stigma—we deserve to be heroes.


Amanda Finn is an avid explorer, writer, actor, car karaoke buff, lover of the arts, philanthropist, wife, puggle/bunny mommy and connoisseur of quote tattoos. She began her journalistic career in high school, writing for and then running The Voice, and took her enterprise to Ripon College, where she served as the Arts and Entertainment editor. Her work has since been published by Newcity Stage, American Theatre Magazine, the Wisconsin State Journal, Isthmus, Broadwayworld.com, Footlights Performing Arts Magazine and Scapi Magazine. She won three Wisconsin Newspaper Association Awards, one for news writing and two for features, while she was at the State Journal.