I saw Captain Marvel this week and I was overjoyed. It’s a masterpiece of pure Bechdel Test-passing, equal rights-promoting, butt-kicking goodness. What I loved about Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) was that she was not sexualised in any way, shape or form: her suit is neck-to-ankle utilitarian stuff, not a millimetre of cleavage or a bare thigh to be seen. And she’s not romantically paired up with any man, in fact the closest she gets to the male characters in when she is owning them in hand-to-hand combat. Captain Marvel is allowed to just exist as a female without her body or her love life being a focus, at all.
Sure, Wonder Woman may have been the first (out of the DC v Marvel franchise rivalry) solo film about a female superhero, but you have to admit there was a lot of leg and romance in that film. But I shouldn’t pit the two movies against each other because let’s face it, if it was real life Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Captain Marvel would be fighting side-by-side, not at each other’s throats. They’re the good guys! Er, gals.
So while I didn’t love Wonder Woman as a film, I am so appreciative that it exists. And I am now appreciative for Captain Marvel, and for Marvel’s other strong female characters like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). And for Amber Heard’s Mera and Nicole Kidman‘s Atlanna who we met in Aquaman. I think it’s so important for all cinema-goers to see this representation of strong women on the big screen. And of course it’s great for us grown-ass adults to see it, but what I think is most crucial for society as a whole is that kids are seeing it.
So many of us are too far gone when it comes to the way we look at the world. Middle-aged misogynists aren’t going to change their colours after they see Brie Larson kicking a huge amount of ass on screen. But impressionable kids? This kind of representation is huge for them.
Everything we learn about the world, we learn when we’re children. I grew up on a steady diet of pop culture featuring hapless princesses needing to be saved by dashing princes and 90s action films led by jacked, masculine heroes. A movie wasn’t a movie if it didn’t have Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Seagal or Van Damme in huge letters in the credits. Honestly, it’s a wonder I turned out thinking women could achieve anything in life. And what’s worse is, young boys were seeing the exact same messaging, too: Men are strong. Women need saving.
And as I’ve grown up, I’ve seen that it’s just not accurate. Both genders are strong, just like we can both be weak. We’re all human beings and we’re all equal, a message that has picked up huge momentum with the rise of #TimesUp and #MeToo, as people of both genders fight for what’s right. And it’s imperative that pop culture continues to reflect and build on that so we keep the force of change moving.
Boys and girls these days have a fighting chance. There’s books like the Harry Potter series, in which Harry himself is really kinda useless. Would he have gotten anywhere without Hermione Granger? I don’t think so. There’s shows like The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina and the Charmed reboot that are led by powerful female characters.
Hell, when they’re old enough, they can watch Game of Thrones which yes, features a lot of boobs but also features a lot of women getting shit done. And they can watch actual superheroes leading their own movies, making their own decisions, fighting their own fights, and saving the goddamn world. By this kind of messaging, they can see that just because someone is a girl, it doesn’t mean they’re not capable. And that’s not just on-screen, it’s all around them. Their mothers, sisters, their teachers, doctors, politicians, shop assistants, bus drivers… every woman deserves to be recognised as a strong, capable force to be reckoned with.
A while ago I was scrolling through Instagram and saw this amazing pic of my friend Erika‘s two kids, a boy, Clark and a girl, Vera. Clark’s 4 years old and an absolute firecracker of a kid, and there he is, next to his little sister, proudly sporting a Wonder Woman shirt.
Erika’s caption read:
Clark chose a Wonder Woman shirt – he loves her, he loves how strong she is, that she’s kick arse, that she has a shield and a lasso and can pow people when she crosses her arms… the two of them playing Wonder Woman all afternoon makes me happy beyond all measure.
Me too. Me bloody too.