Captain Marvel and our Need for Female Role Models
by Pearl Bacasmas, April 12, 2019 6:00pm
Art by Ahl Mirambel
Marvel did not disappoint with its first female-led film, Captain Marvel, released on March 8 in time for International Women’s Day. It took years of desperate cry from fans for a Black Widow standalone, and we waited after 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films to finally produce a single, female protagonist lead.
Academy Award winner Brie Larson played the role of Vers, a badass, emotionally unpredictable, yet confident half human, half Kree (a race of noble warriors from the planet Hala). Trained under mansplainer Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who warns her of her uncontrollable strength and unstable ability to produce high-energy photon blasts from her arms—making her an asset and a liability in their fight against the invading Skrulls: green-skinned, shape-shifters, led by Taros (Ben Mendelsohn).
A failed rescue operation led Vers to land on Earth (or, Terran Planet C-53 in the film,) where her emotional vibrancy kicks in, triggering her repressed memories as a Top Gun fly-girl Carol “Avenger” Danvers. Her hurdles with misogynistic colleagues and an unfinished mission led by her mentor Dr. Wendy Lawson (who’s a rebel Kree scientist Mar-Vell played by Annette Bening) reconfigured her journey as a noble warrior.
TBH, the start of the film posed a basic premise for an origin film: a gifted alien figure with a desperate quest for identity (*coughs* Thor), with Vers honing her powers by working to figure out who she is, sounds all too familiar.
It’s refreshing to finally have a strong female lead who isn’t sexualized and whose power is derived from virtuous characteristics, rather than being objectified and dependent on a romantic angle—Vers drew her strength from herself alone. She used all the times she was knocked down and told to quit because she was a girl who uses her emotions to get the best of herself—a skill often viewed as a weakness by the patriarchy.
Captain Marvel screams “female power.” Vers gets to know herself throughout the film and embrace her true power, not just her photon blasting skills but her integrity and courage. She wakes up from the oppressive mindset unleashing her true self. Transitioning as a female superhero we craved when we were younger, and now we’re excited for young girls to look up to her (and more female heroes) as a role model.
Captain Marvel represents a unique strength in being a woman. Women have agency and hold equal power to men. Although women need not be depicted as superheroes to be heroic (hi, moms!), our media references still lack female representation compared to male heroes. There's a particular symbolic strength that comes from being a superhero that helps influence a generation—especially in the form of a female lead.
Women are not always seen as someone who fights against great odds for what’s right, one who battles against powers of evil to save the helpless. We’re excited how a female lead like Captain Marvel will fit into the Marvel’s epic phase three finale, the Avengers: Endgame. Will she stand out? Given her powers are derived from a certain stone. Will she help empower overshadowed female characters like Black Widow (still hoping for a standalone film) and Scarlet Witch? Should we end the game on who’s the strongest avenger?
The female empowerment message of Captain Marvel might be late, but its timing could hardly be inappropriate. It’s about time women see themselves on the screen. There’s a special power in a film like this that inspire young women to believe they can grow up to be heroes in this world. Women are and can be agents of change—that our voices are as loud and as true.