We need to talk about Kevin: Do Marvel Studios have a problem with superheroines?

Marvel offered us a glimpse at what a female superhero ensemble could look like, but is it too little too late?


Warning: This article contains mild spoilers for Infinity War

There is a wonderful moment in the newest release from Marvel Studios in which Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje, fight side by side. It’s a small moment, but it’s so satisfying, so empowering to see these badass women kicking ass and taking names together.

And it should have happened years before this: superheroines fighting side by side on the big screen should have been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the start.

And yet, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe enters its tenth year, we still have another year to wait until the MCU finally gets its first standalone female Superhero movie with Captain Marvel.

Obviously, the MCU does have a whole cast of superheroines, Black Widow being the first, but they’ve always been relegated to love interest or side kick. Gamora is supposedly ‘the most dangerous woman in the galaxy’, but despite that, we know almost nothing about her. From the little we see, Gamora’s history is tragic and fascinating, but it takes a back seat to everything else, in both the Guardians films and Infinity War.

That said, TV has seen far more female Marvel heroes: Quake, Mockingbird and Elena Rodriguez all make regular appearance in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, while Netflix has Jessica Jones. And of course, there was the cancelled too soon Agent Carter spin off.

So why has it taken eleven years to see a female superhero finally take centre stage? It’s not as if there’s been no interest: in 2014 fans launched a social media campaign in an attempt to get a Black Widow movie, and supposedly the studio has been ‘in talks’ to produce the film for years, despite Kevin Feige’s consistently vague answers on the subject.

“So why has it taken eleven years to see a female superhero finally take centre stage?”

Even now, the studio seems determined to make the production of a Black Widow movie as difficult as possible – the studio has apparently met with over 65 directors.

The whole thing seems endemic of the machismo that surrounds a lot of Marvel films. Queerbaiting aside, the company consistently seems to care more about “churning out movies about blond men called Chris”, as one Daily Dot article put it, than giving fair and equal representation.

Black Widow has been consistently been left out of merchandise – to the point where box sets of Age of Ultron toys featured War Machine and variations of the villain over the MCU’s first superheroine.

Not to mention the fact that the women of the MCU are all capable women in their own right. They are even, to use that phrase Strong Female Characters. But when their abilities are used, time and time again to bolster the male hero, to be his emotional crutch, to support him rather than fight alongside him, it leaves young girls and women with half-hearted, or just plain bad representation.

Don’t even get me started on the way that Joss Whedon treated Natasha’s character in Age of Ultron. I have a lot of problems with that film, but Natasha seeing herself as less of a woman because she can’t have children? Just, no.

We know that female superheroes can do well – Wonder Women made All The Money in the box office in 2017, and the success of earlier films such as Mad Max: Fury Road show that female driven action films can be just as sweeping, epic and successful as those with a nearly all male cast, if not more so.

It’s 2018. Women in the real world have started speaking out, making a stand against the sexism that permeates Hollywood. It’s about damn time the women in films reflected that.

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