“Captain Marvel” Fights Misogyny

WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

“Smile more!”

It’s a common phrase I, and most other women, have heard before. Whether we’re too thin, too fat, too talkative, or have no personality women are highly accustomed to being judged.

Oftentimes positive characteristics used to define men (intelligent, a leader, funny) are twisted to become derogatory when discussing women (know-it-all, a bitch, too loud/obnoxious).

Portraying women negatively is nothing new; even superheroes like Captain Marvel are rejected with abject skepticism. It all began with a small comment from star Brie Larson concerning diversity in journalism.

Being a student journalist myself, I decided to investigate the controversy which had sparked so much outrage among conservative white men. To clarify, I am not throwing politics around just to enrage readers – this really did happen.

The issue began last year during Larson’s press tour for her Oscar role in “Room.”

Larson explained her desire to promote diversity in journalism back in February with an online newspaper, The Irish Times.

“About a year ago, I started paying attention to what my press days looked like and the critics reviewing movies, and noticed it appeared to be overwhelmingly white male,” Larson said.

She mentioned the poor reviews of “A Wrinkle in Time” and the lack of attention brought to diverse films from white male film critics.

“I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’” Larson said. “It wasn’t made for him! I want to know what it meant to women of color, biracial women, to teen women of color.”

Like it or not, Larson is correct when discussing film critics – they are overwhelmingly male and white.

In Sep. 2018, USC Annenberg and TIME’S Up Entertainment released a study of 59,751 reviews of 300 top films from 2015 to 2017. Of these reviews, only 21.3% were written by female critics.The remaining 78.7% were from male critics, with 65.6% being white males.

Angered male fans did everything from  attacking Larson's expressionsphoto shopping her smiling to “fix her”, and writing negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and low ratings of the film.

I found it rude and unprofessional for viewers, and even journalists and even journalists, to so directly attempt to derail a positive female role model for little girls.

Spoiler alert: I will not be calling Brie Larson a “man-hater,” nor will I demonize her for expressing an opinion based on facts.

“Captain Marvel” was a fun, action-packed, charming movie with energetic characters and a funny cast. Like all hero origin stories, Marvel introduces our hero as misplaced and unaware of her approaching destiny.

We first see our hero as a fierce woman in a black and green ensemble, and her name is Vers. Vers lacks the charm of Captain America or the wisdom of King T’Challa but it’s not entirely her fault.

Due to a mysterious attack she cannot remember her real name or anything about her former life as a human. But what Vers lacks in memories she reclaims in personality. Though it sometimes gets her into trouble she is funny, vigorous, and ready to fight. Think Tony Stark with superpowers.

Captain Marvel often scratches the surface of something great and is clearly a Marvel movie with a healthy amount of banter between friends, action packed fights, and a list of pump up songs. Perhaps it is the lack of Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel as Vers does not discover she is Carol Danvers until near the ending of the movie.

The film may have benefited from a longer running time, but as a hero origin story? It works. Carol Danvers is a soldier, a pilot, a super hero but she is also a human woman and is relatable in many aspects.

Men may have criticized the movie for “attacking white men” or saying Larson doesn’t smile enough but I have news for them.

Women don’t always smile. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, and sometimes we get pissed. There is also the insane possibility that women don’t smile all the time. We’re not housewives in a 1950s sitcom.

This is acknowledged in the film when a stranger tells our hero “Honey, smile more.” She ignores him and later steals his bike to continue her mission. From that moment on I knew she was the hero we deserve.

Carol Danvers is a hero not because she does not struggle but because she continues in spite of her struggles. She does not back down when her commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) reveals himself as the true villain and challenges her to a battle.

Rogg insults her throughout the fight, and demands she fight without her powers to “prove herself to him.” This is also a common experience for women. Exceling in one area results in some men challenging you so they can continue feeling superior and further demean your accomplishments.

And how does Captain Marvel respond to this tactic? She blasts Rogg into a wall.

Captain Marvel is the hero women relate to because we have experienced men telling us to smile, saying we’re too fragile to fight, demanding we “prove ourselves” to them. And if men want that to change they have to change themselves, or stand up for women and tell those who act in such a way to stop.

You’re right, not all men are the same. If you want to be different you have to speak out against men who are misogynistic. Captain Marvel is a great hero because she speaks out against inequality, something we can all benefit from doing.

Women deserve this representation. We deserve to see ourselves in superheroes; we deserve to see ourselves in multiple superheroes- black women, white women, Asian women, Hispanic women, Jewish women, Middle Eastern women, etc. Every group deserves to see themselves in a hero. Film makers take notes: reach higher, further, and faster.