The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most successful media franchises of all time, grossing approximately 26 billion dollars in revenue from the box office alone. That’s not even including toy sales, video games, amusement park attractions, and other peripheral products. However, there is a dark underbelly to the franchise, an underlying feature that is bubbling up more and more frequently in recent years.
The aesthetics of the MCU don’t inherently have a misogyny problem other than ones already baked in by way of being part of our modern society. However, the problem comes in the fanbase. The MCU has a rabid base of supporters, not all of which are problematic. Most of the fanbase for Marvel’s films do not have a misogynistic streak whatsoever. There is a subset of Marvel fans that are actively misogynistic and unfortunately, these fans often take the spotlight when media criticism gets underway.
This has been a problem in the comic book industry for a long time, but where it became readily apparent for the MCU was with the release of 2019’s “Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson and Jude Law. Larson plays the title character and throughout the film, the directing team was clearly taking a women’s empowerment angle with the film. The titular character starts the film firmly under the thumb of her commanding officer played by Law and she plays the archetype of the “mad woman” waiting to burst out. She knows she can’t because doing so would blacklist her in her community. However, as the film progresses, she learns of her true nature, and she remembers memories of her forgotten life as an air force pilot. In these memories, she suffers a lot of misogyny at the hands of her male colleagues. The film’s messages are cemented both by a fight scene set to No Doubt’s “I’m Just A Girl,” and scene where the manipulative Law attempts to reel her back in but she demolishes him and his hold on her.
You might be wondering where the misogyny plays into this description. In 2019, when the film released, there was a large contingent of fans that decried it as “woke” and completely off base from what a superhero movie is. I want to be clear: “Captain Marvel” like almost any MCU movie, are not arthouse, highbrow films. They are designed solely to make money, but it’s quite telling when a movie releases that features a female lead basically sticking it to men that have tried to control and manipulate all her life and all people can seem to focus on is, “Wait, why is a woman standing up for herself?” It’s a little obnoxious if I’m being honest.
The MCU has obviously released several films and TV series with women at the helm and the same criticisms come down the pipe. The most recent of which is Disney+’s “She-Hulk” starring Tatiana Maslany. In the series, Maslany plays Jennifer Walters, a lawyer who gains the same powers as the Hulk, and while Bruce Banner, the Hulk’s alter ego, is training her, she makes a prolonged statement on the way women are treated in the world as it relates to their emotions. She states, after being told to control her anger, that she constantly does that when she gets catcalled at or mansplained to. You can probably guess the reaction. The more vile fans took this as a direct attack on men as a whole and not simply the ones who do these things to women.
The most important thing we can do is recognize this and try to put a stop to it when people partake in misogyny. All it takes is a simple, “Hey, that’s not really a cool thing to say,” and a conversation about it and you just might change the way someone views popular media and the way they view the world.