By Gordon Wester,
Modern Superhero movies have seen many progressive changes in recent years. Particularly the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has implemented a lot of these changes. Although superhero movies, comics and shows throughout history have been dominated by male heroes and villains, female representation has been very prevalent in recent years.
Over the past fifteen years, the MCU has developed into an extremely popular saga in film. Bringing many heroes to the big screen in a cohesive and connected universe has given fans all the fan service they could have wished for and more. With the release of Avengers: Endgame in early 2019, the franchise has become one of the most popular in recent memory.
The MCU’s popularity comes from the excellent casting choices and perfect storytelling, pacing, and humor throughout its movies. Some of its key casting choices have been for its female heroes. Scarlett Johanssen was cast for the role of Black Widow for the first Avengers film in 2012, bringing the first prominent female hero to the big screen. The movie racked huge numbers at the box office, becoming one of the top grossing films of all time. Another huge casting choice came in the later 2010’s with the casting of Danai Guirira as Okoye in Black Panther. Black Panther also did extremely well at the box office, getting praise from many organizations for its representation of black culture in a superhero movie. These were just two of the many women who have played essential hero roles in the film franchise.
These movies, and the MCU franchise in general have helped in the breaking of gender stereotypes and have been very progressive in representing women and people of color. From early childhood, boys are usually brought up idolizing superheroes who are portrayed as manly and strong, while girls stereotypically idolize princesses who wear dresses and makeup. However, many girls go against this stereotype, and are much more into comics of superheroes than princesses. The problem is, the girls who go against the stereotype didn’t have many role models to look up to until recently. When characters like Black Widow and Okoye were introduced in the MCU on the big screen, this problem changed. Little girls saw a role model represented in these movies being strong and showing very progressive female traits. They finally saw someone on screen who represented them.
Although the actress for one of the villains, Proxima Midnight, in Avengers: Infinity War isn’t as well known as Scarlett Johanssen or Danai Guirira, Carrie Coon has added to the representation of females in superhero movies as well. It is very important to have both protagonists and antagonists of both genders, because it adds to the diversity of these films, and can also expand upon plot possibilities, and character relationships. In the particular scene in the link above, Black Widow and Okoye fight and defeat Proxima Midnight at the battle of Wakanda towards the end of the film. This sequence shows off the strong capabilities of both female protagonists, and even so of the female antagonist.
Women and women of color have been greatly represented in superhero films in recent years, not limited to the MCU. These characters and representations have had many positive effects on female empowerment, but also have enriched the plot of the franchise, and made it more enjoyable for everyone, especially women. It is a very positive and empowering thing that has happened in recent years, and has given women a stronger sense of