Captain Marvel: A Strong Metaphor for Female Struggle
I wasn’t particularly psyched to see Captain Marvel, as I know nothing about the character nor was I ever a big Marvel comic fan. Plus, after the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot and 2017’s Wonder Woman, failed to illicit anything past a “meh” from me, I wasn’t expecting much. However, when I heard about the “controversy” surrounding Brie Larson’s crusade to include more diversity than mostly white males in Film Criticism, I was both amused and irritated by these white males’ lack of stomach. Instead of supporting her mission, many had temper tantrums, stating that Larson “hated white men” and they initiated a boycott of the film.
Considering that white men have basically controlled the world since the times of the Conquistadors, one would think they would be privy to finally sharing with others. Instead it is stunning to see how much rage surfaces when any woman, especially a woman of color, dares to champion equality of minorities. Just look at the outpouring of criticism for the recently elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. There is no greater threat to the insecure male ego than capable, strong women.
The amount of pettiness and trolling of the film led to Rotten Tomatoes actually closing down it’s audience reviews until after the film released. Why must women always be deemed “man hating” when they’re standing up for their own equality? Remind me again of who the supposed stronger sex is?
As a film critic who champions mostly new and independent films and can’t stand the train wreck of films vomited out of Hollywood on a weekly basis, Captain Marvel wasn’t on the top of my list. However, after this ridiculous outpouring of toxic, fragile masculinity, I felt compelled to not only support this film’s box office, but also to ensure there was at least one certified review out there not saturated in sexism and delicate ego.
Just like most superhero origin films there is a long intro story packed with the film’s world and hero backstory.
Carol Danvers, known by the Kree as Vers (pronounced “Veers”), is a powerful Kree soldier in training by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). He spends most of the time training her to control her emotions, which he deems the one thing that will make her most powerful.
The Kree are in a chronic war with the Skrull, alien creatures who are their main enemy. The film centers on the capture of a leader of the Skrull, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Yon-Rogg is sure that if Talos is captured it can end the war.
The Kree plan goes awry though, and Vers is captured. With that comes the first of several refreshingly unusual scenes where Vers saves herself. Though surrounded by roughly ten Skrull and bound, in an epic display of power, she manages to free herself and make chase after Talos into space.
The pursuit brings the chaser and chase-ee to Earth, where much of Vers story actually began. We see flashes of her early memory throughout the opening story, but there is a huge part of her life she cannot remember. Luckily, with this convenient crash, she will be able to connect the puzzle of her previous Earth life and current alien life, back together.
I want to stray here, from the same format of the usual summation of the film to dig deeper into its treasure trove of meaning and representation. Its not the pinnacle of feminist personification, but it had an immense amount of metaphor that I don’t believe everyone, especially men, will glean from it. I am convinced that the saviors of the film world, if ever allowed to do more, will be women.
Through the EYes of a WOMAN
“The repression of the feminine has led to a planet on the edge of collapse. The re-emergence is going to be a dance to behold.” - Clare Dakin
As long as human history goes, women have always played second fiddle to men. The Yin is the dark or “feminine” side, the Yang is the light or “masculine” side. The Sun is deemed a masculine energy and the Moon the feminine. Just from these examples we see how feminine energy has been set up to be dimmed by the bright, light, all-encompassing masculine.
Though the female gives birth to the entire world and makes up half of the population, toxic masculinity has managed to keep most of femininity in its place. We come into this world at an almost equal rate, but that is where the equality ends. Starting with the popular belief that male children are more desirable; to the never-ending violence that kills women and girls every day; from day one, women are shown just how undervalued we are in most human cultures.
This toxic culture is cleverly woven into the fabric of Captain Marvel’s script. Did you notice it? From Yon-Rogg’s training Vers to believe that her weakness is in her emotions; a random man on Earth telling her she should smile more; to her awakening to the lies she’s been told her whole life about who her enemies are and who she really is. Haven’t we as females all experienced this at some point in our lives? Just like Vers, the difference is whether or not we are ready to choose to awaken and rise above societal lies to become the powerful, blazing phoenix’s we truly are.
The truth laid out in Captain Marvel is that Vers is most powerful when she overcomes fear of her own power, not her emotions. She exemplifies a piece of what it’s like to live in our world as a female and how the power to break the chains of ingrained toxic masculinity resides within each of us. The “chronic fatigue” of being a female in a male world is a battle women simply can’t win if women are always looking outside of ourselves to be validated and rescued.
This is why the existence of superhero film like this one is so important. Girls and women need to see themselves in places of power. Without the input from female writers/directors like Anna Boden, I’m positive this film would not have resonated so much. Its subtle and not so subtle nuances required its creators to thoroughly understand how it feels to live under an oppressive thumb every day, in every facet, of life. A man simply couldn’t have written this story as effectively alone.
And, no, that’s not saying that all female directors and screenwriters are better than men, nor that there hasn’t been phenomenal films made by men. But guys, at least step back and let us write and tell our own stories because you can’t possibly understand all that it means to be female.
Still Not There yet
As impressive as the story and Captain Marvel’s character are, we are STILL lacking more women of color. Yes Danver’s best friend is an amazing woman of color pilot,who helps Danver’s re-find herself and leads her back to her truth, BUT, we still have a person of color secondary to the white lead.
I get that Captain Marvel was white and blonde in the comics, but that doesn’t mean that 1: They can’t change things up a little and 2: that we can’t see more superheroes of color in both the Marvel and DC film realms in general. Absolutely ZERO reason.
It is crucial for young POC to see themselves in powerful positions as well, and not to mention, it is just SO BORING to see the same thing over and over again. I can’t believe it’s 2019 and I am just NOW seeing a female hero save herself in a film! We can and should do much better.
In all Honesty….
And now I understand why this film is triggering to so many men. It represents the unstoppable force of the divine feminine energy. The idea of women rejecting the status quo built by men and coming into their own power scares the hell out of men. Losing power, in any way, scares the hell out of them, because deep down they know, if the female collective were ever to be woke and conscious all at once, we would be unstoppable. We would set forth a blaze across the world unlike any other before, that would change the face of HIS-tory forever.
Though not the poster child for intersectional feminism, the film is a step in the right direction. We still need to stop perpetuating the “white savior” myth and more women of color MUST be included at all of the proverbial tables with FULL equality. Any hesitation will only serve to keep the entirety of female kind down and uphold the toxic masculine status quo.
Women must look within, as Captain Marvel does, and embrace the strength and unique gifts we each hold to create the world that truly should be and liberate the unyielding potentiality found in our divine essences and truth.