Let’s get one thing clear, everybody has the right to an opinion. If I didn’t firmly believe that, I wouldn’t be writing an opinion piece to share my opinion on something. What people shouldn’t do, however, is judge something negatively, possibly damaging the way other people look at it, when they don’t know what they’re talking about.
I’ve shared my opinion on the way women are represented in film before, and I know very well that there’s a big problem. That’s not an opinion, that’s fact. I also know, being somebody who occasionally reads comics, that they are perhaps the most sexist creative medium in the world. Luckily for us all, this doesn’t extend to the cinematic universe, and anybody who thinks it does clearly hasn’t seen the films.
Let’s take a look at some of the female characters Marvel have given us in the last few years. I’ll start with the big one – Black Widow. A favourite of both male and female fans, and a character who’s appeared four times to date. She’s played a major role in defeating the villain and saving the day in two of the biggest Marvel films, and completely holds her own despite the fact that her character is possibly the least powerful of all the Avengers.
That all sounds pretty good right? So why do people think she’s written in a sexist way? Because she looks sexy in her costume? I certainly won’t argue that, but do you know who else looks sexy in their costume. Captain America. Thor. Hawkeye (ish). Pretty much all of these heroes look good either in costume or when they’re not in costume. I seem to remember a scene in Thor: The Dark World where Chris Hemsworth got his shirt off… just because. If I looked like that I would never wear clothes, but it was still completely unnecessary. Did anyone complain then? I don’t remember if they did. Yes, Black Widow’s costume is (slightly) more revealing than Captain America’s (not Thor’s or Hawkeye’s though, they both have the guns on show), but there’s a reason for that. Men and women find different things sexy. You might not like it, but it’s the truth.
I’ve also seen that some people reacted badly to her calling herself a ‘monster’ after explaining how she can’t have children to Bruce Banner. Let’s clear this up. The fact that she can’t have children isn’t why she thinks of herself as a monster, it’s the fact that she gave it up so she could kill more efficiently. Anybody not agree with her on that one? Oh, and that sketch Scarlett Johansson did that showed a Black Widow solo film as a romantic comedy, the reason that was funny was that it was so far removed from the way her character is in the real films. It might have slightly mocked Marvel for not having a female superhero film to date, but the real commentary it offered was on the film industry as a whole.
So what other female characters have been in recent Marvel films? Well, there’s a discussion in Age of Ultron between Thor and Tony Stark about their respective partners, which goes something like this. ‘Pepper runs the world’s biggest tech company, and Jane is the worlds leading scientist in something something, and might be winning a Nobel Prize’. So a brilliant business mind, and a brilliant scientific mind. Certainly a step above Barbie.
Scarlet Witch – a powerful villain turned Avenger who offers to potentially sacrifice her life to save millions of people. Sounds like a pretty solid character arc. Maria Hill and Peggy Carter – two great military personnel who worked their way up through the ranks to near the top of their respective fields. Gamora – a vital part of saving the universe, who can take on anybody she encounters. Agent 13 – an agent so good she was trusted with protecting Captain America. Darcy – annoying as hell and hated by most fans, but still a comedy sidekick role that in the past would have always gone to a man. Do I need to go on?
There are a few more complaints I’ve heard about the way Marvel treats women, so I’ll try to address them here as best I can. So, what about the fact that female superheroes are never the lead? There’s a good reason for that. On the whole, people would rather see ‘Thor 3′ or Iron Man 4‘ than a film about a hero they’ve never heard of. The reason it’s taken them so long to make Captain Marvel (for those that don’t know that’s set to be the first Marvel film with a female lead) is the same reason it’s taken them so long to make Ant Man or The Inhumans, because the characters are nowhere near as popular. It doesn’t mean they won’t be as good, it just means fewer people want to see it. If Marvel had made a load of female superhero films, would that not also be sexism, as well as bad business? Positive sexism perhaps, but still sexism, and making the films for the wrong reason.
One more small thing – there are hardly any female hero action figures. It is bad that the people who want them can’t get them, but that’s a tiny proportion of the people who actually complain about it. It’s mostly people who just want to be angry, and have no interest in buying action figures. If everyone who complained about it bought them when they were available, we would see a lot more of them, but as it is, there’s just not the demand for it, and making them for the sake of it would once again be the wrong reason, and bad business.
I want to make something very clear, blaming all feminists for the way some people have reacted to Marvel recently is like blaming all Muslims for extremist terror attacks, some stupid people do it, but it’s wrong. A lot of feminists very much like Marvel, and very much like Joss Whedon, as he’s done a lot to support and promote strong, well written female characters in media. Don’t let a few poorly informed people ruin your perception of other people who just believe in gender equality, are quite frankly right to do so, and for the most part enjoy the Marvel films as much as you do. Why don’t we all just shut up, and go and watch Age of Ultron for the ninth time? Sounds good to me.
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