The Marvel Cinematic Universe has turned one crowd-pleasing film out after another, but besides its semi-diverse ensembles, the starring roles have always gone to white men. Mileage will vary from viewer to viewer on how problematic this is. Superhero legends have largely sprung from the minds of white American men, so it’s only natural that this is the focus of many of their tales. But the more the superhero genre has grown into a worldwide, culture-breaching phenomenon, the more the lack of diversity has stood out. Keen to broaden their audiences with a wider sense of representation, mantles in the comics have slowly shifted to a crowd of faces that looks a lot more like the increasingly small world we live in today.
One of the first of these was Captain Marvel, an alien man, who died and passed the title to Carol Danvers (previously Ms. Marvel) in 2012. Since then, Carol has gone on to broaden her role in the Marvel comic books, most recently standing as the lead opposition to Iron Man in the ‘Civil War 2’ event. An MCU feature film of the Danvers iteration of Captain Marvel is now being planned for 2019, though actress Brie Larson (Room) may be set to appear even earlier, most likely in The Avengers: Infinity War.
In a recent interview reported by ComicBook, Larson discussed the challenges of being the first female Marvel superhero to lead a movie.
“I feel a great responsibility. I have so many conversations with fans about the universe and this character in particular. I’m grateful for social media for that, actually – it’s such a great way to connect with people, to understand what it is they love about this character, what it is they hope to see. Where this character’s at in the comic books is such an inspiring space, right now. I’m so grateful to be part of it.”
Larson’s dedication to the character is clear, and it’s heartening to hear that she’s getting valuable feedback directly from the fans that love Carol Danvers the most. Fortunately, the actress won’t shoulder the burden alone. This June, Warner Bros. finally gives a feature film to Wonder Woman, the grandmother of all superheroines. Gal Gadot will reprise her role as the spandex-wearing goddess. Marvel even added Ant-Man & The Wasp to their calendar late in the game, which will indicate the first time a female co-headlines a film for Marvel Studios. (As Wasp actress, Evangeline Lily, said at the end of the first film, “It’s about damn time.”)
There seems to be a concerted effort being paid to telling a superhero story from a different point of view, while not making it solely a “girl’s superhero movie.” This tightrope walk between underplaying one’s differences and overcompensation due to marginalization has been a tricky subject for minority voices across the ages. Let’s hope Captain Marvel strikes a balance that validates her role in the pop culture’s pantheon of heroes.