While there was much to gather from the first Captain Marvel trailer, some viewers were oddly fixated on the lack of smiling by lead actress Brie Larson. The Academy Award winner herself responded to the sexist online comments regarding this, using fan-made images mocking the issue by photoshopping smiles onto male Marvel superheroes.
The tone of the widely-viewed trailer was largely serious, with Larson's character Carol Danvers appearing to go through several trials and struggles. The trailer contains shots of Danvers falling down at several points in her life, eventually followed up by shots of her standing back up. We see Danvers as a leading member of the military group Starforce, and the final shot of her in the trailer is a showcase of her power. Said to be the strongest figure in the MCU, the trailer makes it clear to viewers that Danvers is a determined woman.
But online trolls could not resist falling back to the most basic of misogynistic comments, questioning why Larson as Captain Marvel rarely smiled throughout the two-minute trailer. Online comments, presumably from male commentators, felt that the trailer was lacking for this very reason. One such tweet from a Twitter troll gained enough attention and criticism to bring the "issue" to light, by manipulating images from the trailer to make it appear as if though Larson is smiling.
As one could guess, many others took to Twitter to criticize this so-called "correction." Some came to the tweet's defense, attempting to argue that the lack of smiling, for some reason, demonstrated that Larson is not "charismatic" enough to play the leading role in a superhero movie, or saw it as an indication that this Marvel movie would lack any levity or humor. But at its core, most MCU fans saw the criticism, and the tweet that embodied it, to be misogynistic. Another Twitter user named Jane Ritt satirized the tweet by presenting her own manipulated images, this time with Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Stephen Strange "smiling." Brie Larson herself later shared these images on her Instagram story.
I agree, Captain Marvel needs to smile more, so she fits in with the rest of the universe pic.twitter.com/CAJ7MzUOxK— Jane Ritt ⚡️ (@heymermaid) September 19, 2018
While Larson's response may be amusing to a degree, this brief saga does highlight an old and still common form of casual misogyny. Some men expect women to smile and look "pretty" to fit their own personal image of what women "should" look like, in an offensively controlling and dehumanizing manner. Should women like Larson not meet the standards of these men, they are judged and criticized. With Larson being an activist champion of women's rights - as she publicly displayed after presenting an Oscar trophy to accused abuser Casey Affleck - it's no surprise that she would respond to this widely-echoed criticism. While Captain Marvel is taking strides in being the first film from Marvel Studios to feature a solo female superhero, society still has a way to go before rampant sexism such as this is quashed. At the very least, Larson managed to fire back against it in her own way.
Sources: Various (see Tweets above)
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie (2019) release date: May 03, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019