A new age for Marvel: The feminist and political implications of ‘Captain Marvel’
Brie Larson stars in 'Captain Marvel,' the first female superhero film to be released by Marvel.Image By: Image courtesy of IMDb
Marvel is notorious for its hidden social and political commentary — from the creation of X-Men during the Civil Rights Movement, to “Black Panther” making a splash amidst rising racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter movement. “Captain Marvel” is no different.
The feminist tilt of the piece is hard to miss, from Vers stealing the asshole’s motorcycle that asks her for a smile to pretty much everyone doubting that she could keep her emotions in check to TOTALLY KICK ASS.
However, there are some more hidden symbols and commentary that I picked up on, whether they be intentional or simply idealistic imagination.
For example, the all-woman team consisting of Carol Danvers, Maria Rambeau and Wendy Lawson were not given the credit they deserved due to the covert nature of their experimentation with light-speed engines. This mimics the lack of recognition of many women who had taken large strides in STEM and other fields throughout history whose discoveries were credited to men, such as Rosalind Franklin, Katherine G. Johnson and the many women behind NASA’s launch of John Glenn, Candace Pert and others.
The frustration of being invalidated due to factors out of your control is best shown through Maria, as she was unable to fully grieve the loss of her best friend due to the experiment’s circumstances. This is ultimately a parallel of the thousands of years of women who were either unable to pursue their studies and exploration, or if they were successful, were erased from its recognition due to their gender.
Another feminist parallel can be drawn from the progression of Vers’s form of travel throughout the film. In her past human life, she was a pilot, flying experimental planes. However, as she unleashes the full extent of her power, she doesn't need the plane anymore and can simply propel herself using only her own body. This can be seen as a metaphor for working outside of the system, whether this be the mechanical system of the plane or, in a social sense, the patriarchal system, ultimately pushing the film’s ‘stick it to the man’ mentality to its limits.
On the other hand, the cat, Goose, also can be seen as an extension of the phrase “Pussy Power.” Goose is seen as a totally non-threatening and helpless creature up until it is determined to actually be a flerken. For non-Marvel fans, flerkens hold pocket realities, which are essentially bubbles of space and time that exist in other worlds. No one believes this until octopus legs lurch out of Goose’s mouth to eat those trying to kill Nick Fury and Vers. However, this metaphor is a big stretch, and rightfully so, as to not alienate trans women from the feminist movement in which it is used.
Nick Fury also plays a role in the feminist nature of the film, but rather as an ally. Fury doesn’t doubt Vers and lets her fully dominate. A common archetype in superhero films portrays the women as the weak link, or the men show themselves as toxic-ly masculine and the women have to end up saving the day. Fury rather knows his role as a secondary character and doesn’t try to insert himself into the narrative other than as a comedic relief and support system for Vers. Whether this allyship will continue to be present in the genre of superhero films, I think it is safe to say that after watching the film, we love Fury even more than we already did.
The film also represents motherhood, single motherhood for that matter, in a very positive light. Maria, with the help of Vers, has taught her daughter Monica how to be independent, shameless and confident. The light that is Monica shines throughout the film, from welcoming Vers back to Earth without missing a step to convincing her mother to set a good example by assisting on the mission. Many films portray single motherhood as a form of vulnerability or as a mistake, but Monica has two kickass women in her life to deny this stereotype.
As for the political arena, “Captain Marvel” dips its toes with the presence of the Skrulls and the perception of them as criminals, despite the fact that they are simply refugees trying to find a home. This could serve as a parallel to various humanitarian and partisan conflicts across the globe, from Trump’s proposed wall to refugees from Venezuela, Syria and so on. The frequent use of the word ‘border’ throughout the film also nods to the current US political landscape.
Ultimately, this piece excels in terms of positive representation of women in superhero films, as well as hinting at some progressive thinking. Vers wasn’t sexualized, but rather just kicked everyone’s ass who got in her way. She used her emotions to aid her, rather than hinder her. Also, who WOULDN’T have wanted an action figure of her as a young girl?
So if you haven’t seen it yet, queue up “Just A Girl” by No Doubt and head to the theater.
Sam Jones is an almanac editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter