Marvel and the Age of Wonder Women

Marvel’s female superheroes. Photograph: Marvel

Marvel Studios has started producing more female-centred movies, introducing a more inclusive perspective towards women.

In 2019 Marvel Studios released Captain Marvel, which is their first female led superhero movie. 2018 saw the release of  Ant-Man and the Wasp, the first Marvel movie to have a female character in its name. These were the first steps taken by Marvel to depict women differently.

Underrepresentation and sexualisation of women in media are seen not only in Marvel  but also across the whole entertainment industry. According to BBC in 2018, Marvel have been criticised for lack of female representation.

“The world needs more female power”, says Christian Peper, the owner of Gameland-Groningen, a store for game and TV merchandise. “We need more ladies in movies”, adds Peper.

Before Captain Marvel, Marvel encompassed 20 movies and not even one of them was led or directed by a woman. In productions set to be released between 2020 and 2022 there are only 3 productions centred around female characters. Yet this is a sign of progress, and it is clear that women are gaining ground in representation of cinema.

These recent changes in the Marvel movies were driven by the rise of inclusivity and equality seen not only in popular culture. Nowadays, women are gaining more recognition by acquiring positions in politics and management. For example, a research by Catalyst states that in 2019 the proportion of women in senior management was 29%, the highest ever recorded.

One of the three female roles appearing on screen will be Black Widow. She was the only character from the Avengers, apart from Hawkeye, who didn’t have her own movie. Now 8 years after the first Avengers movie, a Black Widow movie is coming on the big screen on 9th July 2021 after a delay due to Covid-19. Additionally, a few days ago, the leading actress for the upcoming She-Hulk series was announced as well as the first four directors for Ms. Marvel.

However, superhero movies are usually made by men for men, neglecting the female character or representing her as weak or one who needs to be saved. Take as an example Spider-Man and Mary Jane, Superman and Lois Lane. Another tendency is the sexualisation of women, especially in comics, where they are portrayed with lidded eyes, big breasts, scantily clad and full pouty lips.

“In the past it was a men’s world. Now men and women are seen more like equals. Before, female characters were sexualised, for example Catwoman, but not so much now”, says Steven Krabbenbos, a seller at Nedgame Groningen, a store for video games.

Femininity has been becoming more and more important throughout 21st century. Not only have been women seen taking important positions in politics, for example Kamala Harris, but also in the entertainment industry as in positions such as directors and leading acting roles. Furthermore, this isn’t the case only about the above-mentioned fields but also about literature, computing science and art where more and more female names are becoming recognisable.

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