“Scarlett Johansson does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie… little girls deserve that” – Anthony Mackie, who plays the Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier on the importance of representation.
A few weeks ago, Marvel revealed their movie time line for the next eight years. With that, they confirmed the making of a Captain Marvel movie. The internet rejoiced at the announcement. Then DC announced that Wonder Woman will be getting her own movie after her first appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Again, another round of approval from female moviegoers. If you haven’t seen the criticism surrounding the numerous successful superhero movies lately, let me summarize: women have literally been begging for a movie about a female superhero. Despite that comics are male driven, females compromise a large majority of viewership for the latest box office blockbuster movies. Stats from Marvel regarding the opening weekends for Guardians and Captain America saw that 40 – 44% of the movie viewers were women. With almost half the viewership being female, it seems weird to think that it took until 2014 for Marvel to release the plans for a female movie. From the 20 movies that Marvel has put out/ planned from 2008 – 2019, only one will have a female lead.
People have argued that there may not have been any female leads, but there have been quite a few female superheros in the movies. That has to count for something, right? Sure, we’ve seen Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, and former Wolf of Wall Street star Margot Robbie was just confirmed to play Harley Quinn in the upcoming DC Suicide Squad film. These women have played awesome roles, but it isn’t the same as being the lead hero (or villain for Harley Quinn) of a movie franchise. And people have noticed. For instance, female heroes are still being cut out of representation when it comes to merchandise and people aren’t happy about it. Look at some of the superhero shirts that are available for the franchises. Superhero shirts either aren't being marketed towards girls at all, or girls get shirts that say “I Need a Hero” with pictures of male superheroes on it. The shirt for boys conveniently leaves off the female hero of the movie (see the Guardians shirt below which has Dax, Groot, Rocket, and Peter, but not Gamora).
What it comes down to is representation. That's the importance of these movies being produced. With Captain Marvel, it will basically be impossible to make film merchandise that doesn't include a female superhero. What we hope to get from the big name lead roles for super heroes like Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman is representation on the same level as men. We need a role model who gets the diversity and development that has made the male lead heroes so relatable for most audiences. We see Tony Stark's quippiness, engineering talents, and devil-may-care attitude. Steve Rogers has a strong sense of duty but struggles with adjusting to modern life. Thor has a complicated family life, and Bruce Wayne exhibits grief and drive. When we see that, we connect with the character. The limited back stories for female sidekicks doesn't provide the same character development as a lead hero. Movies starring Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman give us hope that we are moving in the right direction for female representation. Then, girls will be able to find themselves in league with superheroes.