Why We Need Captain Marvel


A lot of people love superheroes. They’re fun, a little cheesy, and they’re the kind of people we wish we could be. But the place of girls and women in comics and superhero movies has always been somewhat uncertain. Almost all of the most popular, well-known superheroes are clearly men: Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Iron Man, the list goes on. But how many superheroes are women— and how many can you list off so easily?

One of the latest developments in the world of female superheroes is the release of Captain Marvel, which came out about a month ago. Captain Marvel tells the story of Carol Danvers— also known as Vers, an agent for an alien race who discovers she had a past here on Earth. Danvers starts off the movie with no recollection of her past, but when she accidentally lands on our planet, she starts to find information about her former self, as well as uncovering secrets about the alien government she works for and the reason behind her superpowers. Captain Marvel joins recent strong female superheroes such as Wonder Woman and Marvel’s Valkyrie as an important development in role of feminism in storytelling. But what makes Captain Marvel so special?

(Before I start, I’d like to note that much of what I’m saying applies mainly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which, along with DC Extended Universe, is one of the most popular superhero movie series. DC also made important strides in female superheroes with Wonder Woman.)

So why do we need Captain Marvel?

1. Captain Marvel is the first female-led movie in the MCU.

The MCU isn’t completely devoid of female superheroes. Characters like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Valkyrie are women who often even have important roles in their respective movies. However, they’re never the protagonist. They’re always a member of a team, or a secondary role. Now, this might seem like nitpicking— secondary characters can be important, too. But when you take into consideration that, in the twenty pre-Captain Marvel MCU films made since 2008, not one was led by a woman…it gets a little frustrating.

2. Captain Marvel is powerful.

There are a lot of overpowered male superheroes out there. For me, the first that comes to mind is Thor, who has superhuman strength, lives for thousands of years, can fly, and can create thunderstorms and blasts of lightning. If you’re not convinced, there’s also the Hulk, who is immensely strong and bulletproof, not to mention giant. Then there’s Dr. Strange, who, aside from being a brain surgeon, can teleport, fly, and often travels through time. On the other hand, it’s never even clearly determined in the MCU that Black Widow (the first female hero in the MCU) has any superpowers— she seems to be just a well-trained secret agent. Now, Marvel’s female superheroes have certainly gained power, especially recently. Scarlet Witch’s powers of telekinesis and mental manipulation are impressive, and the Wasp is seen as incredibly intelligent and skilled. Still, the fact stands that powerful women are rarer and less focused on than male superheroes.

And yet, now we have Captain Marvel, who can fly, shoot photon blasts out of her hands, and has incredible stamina and strength. She has all the almost-indulgent, ridiculously powerful strength of the male superheroes, and her powers are not ignored— in fact, their development is central to the movie.

3. Captain Marvel features no love interest.

While having a love interest doesn’t make a female character inherently weak, a lot of female characters get stuck being defined by the love interest in their story. Captain Marvel never even approaches that path. Carol’s journey isn’t about seeking the affection or approval of another person; in fact, over the course of the movie, Carol learns to trust her own instincts and not feel the need to prove herself to others. She finds her family not in a male love interest but in her best friend, Maria, and Maria’s daughter, Monica. This in itself is a testament to the power of female friendship, another message sorely needed in media.

4. Captain Marvel, as a female superhero, does not cater to male expectations.

One problem that, at times, arises with female superheroes, is that they are created to appeal to men— through over-sexualization of superhero costumes, treatment of femininity that seems subversive but actually still serves men, and other portrayals that make female characters seem powerful but whose characterizations are often actually misogynist. Captain Marvel avoids this pitfall. The presentation of Carol’s character doesn’t cater to the male gaze, her costume is practical, and she doesn’t act compliant just to please others. She is also unapologetically emotional— when told to suppress her feelings, she instead allows them to fuel her and trusts her instincts. This is an important message when an emotional woman is often not taken seriously. Rather than seeking to meet the expectations of men, Carol seeks to stop caring about their expectations.

5. The movie does all this while still being your typical good superhero movie.

Captain Marvel is actually a pretty normal superhero origin story. It explores the history of the characters, shows them coming into their powers, and sets them up for potential future stories. It has a fun soundtrack, a cute animal sidekick, and alien spaceships. It’s not made to be preachy, and even if its treatment of female characters wasn’t so important, it would still be a good movie. It incorporates feminist ideas in important ways without being showy or superior about it. And that’s the ultimate goal, I think— for strong female superheroes not to be a revolution, but the norm.

So whatever you’re looking for— whether it’s a refreshing take on female superheroes, or just some cool action sequences and witty one-liners— I’d recommend Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers is a hero that we really need right now, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.