Why Does Captain Marvel Matter?

Marvel’s latest box office hit, Captain Marvel, experienced an opening weekend for the ages. It not only earned positive reviews from movie critics across the globe but we witnessed moviegoers supporting the film at a rate of $153 million domestically and $455 million worldwide in its opening weekend at the box office.

But why am I writing about the most recent Marvel movie on LinkedIn? Representation is important, especially in media. This is the first solo film led by a female character released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe amongst its nearly 20 movies.

The character Carol Danvers, portrayed by actress Brie Larson, is inspiring audiences around the world. She has quickly become a feminist icon in her latest release. However, this wasn’t always the case for the character. Carol Danvers has had a varied history that reflects the highs and lows that many female superheroes have experienced in their comic book portrayals.

During Captain Marvel’s first comic book release in 1968, Carol Danvers was reduced to the main hero’s love interest. She had no story of her own and was there to simply propel the main character’s storyline. By the end of the 1970s, however, the feminist movement had changed women’s roles in the house, workplace, and even comic books! It was during this time that we first learned Carol Danvers’s own story as a leading character and with time – lots and lots of time – we finally experience the greatness of Captain Marvel that we see on-screen today.

This film—like others led by diverse stars —has too received much public scrutiny based on who others expect to see in their lead characters. When the movie trailer was first released, online users photoshopped a smile onto Brie Larson’s promotional photos. The notion was that women are expected to smile and present in a pleasant manner regardless of their life circumstances or apparently even their superhero ability. Larson playfully “clapped back” by posting photos of other Marvel superheroes with photoshopped smiles on Instagram to illustrate the ridiculousness of this subtle gender bias.   

Larson also noticed while promoting the film, the lack of diverse representation reviewing it. She publicly called to have a more diverse group of critics review movies. During her speech at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, she said, “What I am saying is if you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color, there is an insanely low chance a woman of color will have a chance to see your movie and review your movie.”

Representation matters and this movie is changing the way women are viewed on and off screen. It is inspiring to see the national response to this film and its strong female characters. Like those industries in which we work, it is vital for the film to embrace diversity and inclusion not only on screen but also in every aspect of their business.