Warning: Potential SPOILERS for Captain Marvel
If comic book fans hoped Wonder Woman would prove female-led blockbusters were beyond sexist nonsense, then Captain Marvel showed there's work to be done. Especially when the first full Captain Marvel trailer showed star Brie Larson kicking all kinds of butt, soon met by many online wondering "...why doesn't she try smiling more?"
That criticism of Larson's 'serious' demeanor in Captain Marvel posters, photos, and the trailer was soon called out as insidious sexism, since the same questions have rarely, if ever, been posed in response to male superheroes - almost always depicted as brooding, tough, and with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Still, some could (and did) argue that Captain Marvel is seeming like less 'fun' than previous MCU films. Or, at the very least, that Carol Danvers' unhappiness at dealing with superpowers is a shift away from the MCU towards the DCEU's Batman and Superman.
But what makes this criticism such total nonsense is that the facts of Marvel's movie universe doesn't support it at all. In fact, based on her very first trailer, Captain Marvel is smiling more than literally every other MCU hero before her. Yeah... we were surprised, too.
- This Page: It's Not Sexist To Say Captain Marvel Seems Serious
- Page 2: Captain Marvel is Smiling More Than Any Other Hero
Captain Marvel IS Serious, But That's Nothing New
The problem isn't with men who'd feel just as comfortable telling a woman on the street that "she should smile more" as they would a fictional superhero - they're beyond saving. The issue is realizing that male superhero fans only offer that criticism of a woman in the leading role: that she should smile to appear more attractive, and warm towards the audience. A point made clear when Brie Larson shared smile photoshops of MCU heroes, pointing out that most, if not ALL Marvel heroes are marketed as stoic, eyes set with determination, doing their best to be brooding badasses.
And that's the point at which movie fans - likely male - who share that instinct, whether voiced or not, should give a moment's pause. Perhaps some of the response comes in the wake of DC's Wonder Woman: the first female-led superhero blockbuster of the current era. A film that relied heavily on star Gal Gadot's beauty, warmth, strength, and smile. Again, not in the first trailer or on posters. But it's important to remember that while she shattered a glass ceiling, those winning, heartwarming qualities only define Diana, not 'a female superhero.'
There is a conversation to have about how women are presented in Marvel's films thus far, and how responsible the studio is for an audience that feels entitled to state they should be appealing, and outwardly more carefree than their male colleagues. But for the purposes of this discussion, how Marvel presents a female lead, and how the same treatment is received differently by the audience is enough of a 'bias-check' on its own. Because the truth is: no poster, no wallpaper, no key art has depicted Marvel's heroes looking happy to be doing their jobs for years.
And when you compare the first Captain Marvel trailer to the trailers of her previous Marvel heroes, Carol Danvers actually IS "smiling more" right out of the gate.