Captain Marvel – The Movie Review The Men Won’t Read

Well I mean, I hope the men will read it.

I started writing this post before I saw the movie to jot down the ideas I wanted to take note of. The categories were pre-selected and my opinions were written after seeing the film. I was as concise as possible considering there was a lot I anticipated covering in this review. I probably should have used this as a reference/inspiration piece for my Ph.D. in Pop Culture Opinions, but here I am writing it for my blog instead. (Fun fact: the best grade I ever received was on a paper that I wrote for a Pop Culture class where I wrote about Spongebob and my ability to identify with the entire cartoon. So here’s that same essay, but now finally in superhero form.)

Since I am a fairly vocal feminist, (aka believer in equality) especially when it comes to representation in films I figured it would be appropriate for my blog to reflect that.

And since most of the time, when people ask me what I thought of the movie they are asking for one or two things and not my full detailed analysis, I figured what better place to write my full detailed analysis than on my amazing blog where I explain everything and give every last detail until I run out of things to say.

Why haven’t I come out talking about movie representation sooner? There were women in Black Panther whom I was absolutely inspired by. Well, it felt wrong to try to steal that moment. I admired the strong black women I saw in that film so much, that I recognized the privilege I would be exercising by taking the opportunity to talk about all women and I became terrified. I began to evaluate if everything in my life up through that point was worthy of being able to stand side by side with those strong female characters and know that I was not in the wrong. And for me, that took a little longer to kick in than I’m comfortable admitting. I haven’t felt worthy to talk about truly ALL women when so many white women before me have made it challenging to be seen as a real, empowered woman who believes in the ACTUAL equality between the genders and not just equality for white women. Until I added race into the equation, I was never left feeling worthy enough to write about much of anything. It’s almost as if my gift gets amplified when I stand in the ACTUAL truth that helps people instead of the truth that makes me look good to others and be able to sell more books or items to privileged white women like me.

Anyway, let’s see what’s in store for Captain Marvel in this edition of Quirky Quip’s Movie Reviews.

This week we will be talking about representation, in all colors and sizes, to the best of my ability. As always, if I left someone or something out, please comment or tell me what it is. I’m all about inclusion and never above being corrected. For the categories I chose, my qualifier for being a “win” is asking myself if it existed at all in the movie, and refining it from there. Inclusion, unfortunately, is piece by piece and at this rate, I can’t shoot for all or nothing. I’m focusing on what was there and what we can do in future films to expand. Also, some spoilers lie ahead, but not many. Hopefully nothing too extreme, but if you’re wanting a fully spoiler-free review, this is probably not the place.

WOC: For me, as a white woman, this film included Women of Color (WOC) and I am considering this a win. Our main character was white, but she was literally lost and confused, living in a world of lies until she returned to her lifetime best friend, a woman of color, who had no problem putting her back in her place and reminding her what a badass she was. I loved this representation of sisterhood. As always, there is room for growth, but overall I think the inclusion was the most important aspect.

Body Image: I loved Captain Marvel’s/Carol’s body type and outfits. She was a strong woman with an outfit that was useful and not focused on showing her body as anything more than the fighting weapon she used it as. I am amazed Marvel/Disney got this one right, but for me, this was a big win.

Relationship Options: This film didn’t even talk about male relationships in any other way than their function in her life and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t come to a superhero movie to watch a love story unfold and I was left satisfied that no romantic involvement occurred during this film. Another category win.

Procreation Options: Women do not only matter once they have children. Women are women when they exist. I loved that our main character had a best friend who appears to have procreated. Again, the complexity and true love of the sisterhood shown in this film was amazing for me. Reproducing did not need to be put down by our main character and was actually visibly embraced as she stepped into her “Auntie Carol” role easily and lovingly. This is a win for me as it showed more options than we are used to for women, while also showing our ability to love each other’s children fiercely.

Age Appearance Options: There’s something about being appropriately represented that feels important here. For me, empowerment comes not when I’m infantilized or fetishized, but when I’m able to appear as a woman. (Sorry to anyone who felt empowered by Harley Quinn, but for me, that’s not where my power lies.) In films, there is a lack of women in my age range being accurately represented without children or partners. All those types of characters are either intended for younger audiences or older audiences like mother roles. (Think Disney Princesses characters) I’m alive and breathing to tell you there is MUCH space in womanhood between being a child and becoming a mother. Sometimes not much time for some, but for a lot of us, there are years between that where we are childless women by choice and/or circumstance. When films don’t represent that, we lack the opportunity to be seen as anything outside of those two roles. Someone’s daughter or someone’s mother’s. Allegedly, Captain Marvel is said to be approximately 29, but so are all women in the world when you ask them. I loved that the main character was not a teenager, but a full grown woman who was clear on who she is, and then fell into a full-blown identity crisis. Teenage identity crises are overrepresented while the rest of us are expected to have it all figured out. I loved that Captain Marvel was a woman going through an identity crisis during a time where women are expected to have it all together.
Additionally, under the age category, I loved that we had a range of female characters. There was a little girl, women, and older women. I loved being able to see not only myself but all the women in my life represented in this film.

Plot: For me, this category was a win even though I had a friend who said the plot seemed to lack climax and wasn’t true enough to the original story line. (But in all honesty, what Marvel movie is anymore? Original works are what inspires the story, not what writes every movie detail.) The story did seem to follow the traditional archetype of the Hero’s Journey, which is fine, but I love that I can see the underlying themes of the Heroine’s Journey instead. For me, the transition to including female superheroes must include the different aspects that Heroines go through compared to Heros. This specific category could go much further into detail so I will save this possibly for another post, but I feel overjoyed that the day has finally come where we are seeing more mainstream storytelling mediums use the Heroine’s Journey and the focus on equality and normality opposed to mastery like the Hero’s journey.

Bechdel Test: or as I like to call it – if it doesn’t pass, is this even a movie for women audiences? This category is an obvious win. I wouldn’t write about it if it felt like the same old superhero movie churned out without women being involved as full bodied characters.

Powers: I loved Captain Marvel’s powers. In total honesty, it felt like someone took my hotheadedness and bumped it up into the realm of the unreal to create these powers, and I know I am not alone with that feeling. I love that her powers were connected to “keeping her emotions in control” because yeah, as humans we’ve all heard that one before. Her powers were not only to represent women but for anyone who’s been told they live their life too centered in their heart. Any of us fighters out there can relate to the emotional complexity of the character and where her powers stem from. Even if we lack the photon boosted powers our heroine possessed.

Appeal to my demographic: Being able to identify with the main characters of a story is, thankfully, a huge part of my gift (aka accessing multiple perspectives). So regardless of her looks, I am able to identify. Hence why I’ve been able to have opinions about superhero movies for so long, I don’t need to see myself exactly represented to know I’m the main character. My demographic (women) have been waiting for more hero options and Captain Marvel is a step in the right direction to including more of us at the superhero table.

This character was relatable in these ways: She was motivated to do what’s right, which I know without a doubt is not only my higher calling but the higher calling of all humans on this planet, whether you have a superpower or not.

This character was hard to relate in these ways: She got powers from a seemingly impossible incident for the rest of us to be in… but I think we can all keep our fingers crossed that one day we have the opportunity for high tech devices to fry our DNA and imbue us with intergalactic powers. (No? Is that one just me?)

I wish this character had less: Perfect hair? This category is hard for me and where my bias shows. I loved the character and her story more than I can express, even in this over-detailed blog post. It’s hard for me to see flaws when I’m so enamored with a story that my inner child has been waiting nearly 15 years for.

Role of male characters: Category win again. The men in this film were great, I thought. There was a range of options for men to see themselves in this film as well as for the main character to have a multitude of options for male engagement not focused on the men’s problems or a romantic subplot.

Animals: What’s a female superhero story without animals? You think you’re going to switch us from fairytales to superhero’s and forget our animal sidekicks? Nah, a woman’s story would never be created without an element of Mother Earth. I loved that she had an orange feline sidekick, not only for the symbol it represents, but also because as far as I’m concerned, the Heroine’s Journey must include animals. I anticipated being able to have a rant here about the lack of animal companions in this film and I was pleasantly surprised.

Takeaway:

Wonder Woman didn’t feel like my character. I mean in total honesty, yes she did, but she also felt like a character for my mom’s generation. The generation of women who deserved to be reminded of how powerful they are. The generation of women who lack as many outspoken feminists as I have in my generation. For whatever reason, my mother’s generation feels much less outspoken about their ideas and opinions, which is why I think this world is really struggling right now. Wonder Woman was an amazing character, but for me, she just wasn’t the right fit. Similar to how I feel about Batman and Superman. They are great superheroes, but for me, I just can’t see myself reflected in them. When I fall in love with a superhero, it’s because I can see parts of myself in them. (Hence why Spiderman has been my favorite superhero for so long… a mouthy teenager who has fun saving the world with his gift is much more up my alley than a bored rich dude trying to find fulfillment by saving people instead of building community outreach programs with all his money.)
Spiderman was the hero of my childhood, Captain Marvel is the hero of my womanhood. She represents the best parts that I see in myself, and I don’t care how conceded it sounds to admit that because I also see my best friend, my sister, my cousins, my aunts, and my grandmas in Captain Marvel. Every woman who has ever been through something confusing and challenging is easily seen and understood through the character of Captain Marvel, which is why I believe the film itself is so needed right now. We deserve to see ourselves in the truly complex roles that we fulfill within our society. Plus, how else are we supposed to stop Thanos if we don’t include the universe’s most powerful women? 😉

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