Captain Marvel - Feminism Done Right

I figured I’d wait until all the hubbub around Captain Marvel died down before I threw my two cents at the matter. I’m only coming at this from a storytelling perspective, since it’s not a Post-Apocalyptic film, but I’ve done enough posts on times when feminism has been done poorly that it felt warranted. While I think Captain Marvel was a good film, the main point here is that it delivered its message in a perfectly palatable, and inoffensive, manner.

I’ve made plenty of posts about shows like Van Helsing, Wynonna Earp and Orange is the New Black, about how they’re posing as vehicles of social change when in reality they’re just riding the wave of popular opinion to make some cash. The first two are female power fantasies, where women are given super natural strength to dominate the world around them, while the later is a character drama where all women are victims and men are ineffective losers at best and tyrannical oppressors at worst. They’re feminism done wrong, because they preach to the already converted. They’re made for people who already hold the views they’re purporting to push, which in turn makes them unpalatable to anyone they’d seek to change the opinion of. Making content for a target audience is fine, we all do it, but these shows are catering to the current populist trend of social justice and victimhood. So while they’re appealing to certain peoples sensibilities, they’re not actually contributing anything to their cause beyond “Muh Representation!” and they’re resorting to shit storytelling to do it.

Solid character writing.

Solid character writing.

So basically, that whole paragraph was to show that I’m not a fanboy, I’m not a soyboy and I’m not an ally or anything of the sort. Chicks are cool, gays are cool, I don’t even care about any of that shit, I just want well crafted stories that are water tight. All this pandering to extremists tends to create characters that are two dimensional Mary Sue’s, and narratives that are contrived and cliched. It’s boggled my fucking brain from the get go, because such hamfisted storytelling doesn’t help anyone, beyond the creators who can make a quick buck off the moronic herd-minded tribalism that’s so popular these days. I put that last paragraph there to show that I’m not the sort of person who’ill just blindly swallow a cheesy moralizing feminist flick, and that I’ve written enough about such flicks that the following endorsement should carry some weight.

Captain Marvel was actually pretty good, and there wasn’t anything in the film that had me rolling me eyes or wanting to leave. There’s been a lot of negative press and controversy around the film, primarily surrounding the lead actress Brie Larson and her outspoken views on straight white men… but I don’t care about any of that external stuff. Chris Evans says some pretty on-the-nose stuff that’s in a similar vein, and while I haven’t seen any of the Captain America films, I do enjoy his work in the Avengers films. People are allowed to do and say some stupid shit and it doesn’t have to seep into the film, Tom Cruise is a bit of a dick but I watched him in Oblivion and thought “god damn, that man can act!”

He literally paused to eye-fuck the camera…

He literally paused to eye-fuck the camera…

I’ll admit that I agreed with people’s initial assessment from the trailers, Brie Larson did look bored. But as someone with Blunted Affect, I get how fucking irritating it is when you’re told to smile all the time. In the movie though she’s actually quite emotive, so maybe the trailers just focused on the scenes where it’s more serious. There’s a decent amount of humor in the story too, and I found myself laughing with my friends. (Yes, I have friends IRL.) There were several well written female characters, with strengths and flaws, but there were also multiple well written male characters who weren’t nerfed into cuckoldom just to make Captain Marvel look good. This is something that other aspiring feminist films could learn from - making your male characters weak doesn’t make the female lead look stronger, it' just makes her surrounded by a bunch of ineffectual losers and undercuts any achievements she might accomplish. What’s more impressive, a woman playing Rugby against the All Blacks and winning, or a woman competing against the Under-7’s Special Needs division and winning?

Jude Law’s character was well written, and interesting. I honestly hope to see more of him.

Jude Law’s character was well written, and interesting. I honestly hope to see more of him.

I know there’s one scene where her friend says something along the lines of “Let’s go show these boys how it’s done!” But you’ve got to ask yourself, what else was she going to say? They were the only two female pilots, they were surrounded by men “Let’s go show our coworkers how it’s done!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Also, as a guy who works with just one other male, at a certain point you do start spending a lot of time with that person simply based on their gender. Along with this, there’s this montage where there’s a bunch of men in her life telling her that she can’t do things because she’s a girl. Her dad freaks out because was in a go-kart crash, which is understandable, and her fellow trainees in boot camp are heckling her. I never got to join the military, but it’s a pretty dude-centric institution… and the film is set in the 90’s, so again - what else where her fellow cadets going to say?

She starts wailing on an Skrull that’s posing as an old woman on the train, and the other commuters jumped onto her - that was a nice bit of storytelling there.

She starts wailing on an Skrull that’s posing as an old woman on the train, and the other commuters jumped onto her - that was a nice bit of storytelling there.

But none of it really seemed on the nose or forced, none of it rubbed me the wrong way - it was all just adversity that she’d had to overcome to reach that point in her career. And it worked too, because they had to show that she was pretty formidable before she got her powers, not just someone who went from zero to hero - like Shazam. The cat seemed a bit weird, but they managed to tie it into the humor of the film. Honestly, the only part of the film that sort of jarred me was the reveal about the Skrulls. I read the Secret Invasion comic arc when it came out a few years back, and I don’t know how this is going to mesh with that. They sort of seem at odds with one another, but maybe Marvel don’t plan to explore that story line in which case it’s not even an issue.

So yeah, despite what people may have assumed - I went and saw Captain Marvel and I actually enjoyed it. I think most of the hate for this film has been spurred on by the lead actress’ comments, combined with people just wanting to hate it because it’s got a female lead. But just like Den of Thieves needs to be recognized for it’s accurate exploration of Toxic Masculinity, Captain Marvel needs to be accepted for doing a female lead in an action film the right way. Captain Marvel is strong and capable in her own right and she doesn’t drag men down to build herself up - that’s all I’ve ever wanted. If we can’t even acknowledge when honest and earnest attempts to bridge the gap from the other side are being made, then we’re never going to get anywhere.

I’m pretty stoked to see how they’ll include her in Avengers Endgame, since she’s on the same level as Thor and Hulk in terms of power. I get the concerns about having such a powerful late-game addition to the roster seeming like a deus ex machina moment, but she seems to be on par with characters that’re already present. I’m hoping at best she’ll be just enough to tip the scales in their favor, rather than have her win the day outright. An addition of someone like Wolverine isn’t going to do shit against Thanos, but someone like Captain Marvel most certainly will. Along with this, we’ve already got two super powered dudes, so why not mix it up and make the third a chick? I’ll admit that it can go sideways in a lot of ways, but after the masterful stroke that Marvel pulled with Black Panther (wherein it was basically Trump vs Hitler) I’m pretty hopeful of what they’ll do with Avengers Endgame.

They’ve been building up to this for over a decade, they can do almost anything with it… the only thing they’re certainly not going to do is fuck it up.

Pretty keen to see how it all ends!

Pretty keen to see how it all ends!