Marvel, we need to talk.
Look, I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of a hardcore marvelentertainment fangirl who has been waiting for these films her whole life. All cards on the table, I hated comics and comic book movies until Iron Man. I mean, sure occasionally I got a Spiderman or a X-Men or Batman Begins that were a fun little diversion and I didn’t HATE them, but I never really found myself invested in comic movies until Iron Man.
But, that’s my point. Look at me, Marvel - I’m your ideal demographic. I’m an adult woman with a decent amount of disposable income. You converted me. I went from someone who was deeply critical of Superhero films to someone who considers herself a Marvel fan. I don’t just see the movies. I see them multiple times. I buy them on iTunes (AND Blu-Ray to be honest, since it comes with some special features, damn you and your sly marketing team). I buy merchandise - my cube at work is cluttered with Wall-Clings and POP Bobbleheads and Magnets and other random kick-knacks.
And now, I buy comics. I go to comic stores and I seek out graphic novels for Captain America that I need to catch up on. I’m jumping on board with aleskot’s Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier from issue #1! I went to a comic convention for the first time in my life a few months ago. I’m arguably more excited to be going to The Marvel Experience next year than I am about my upcoming trip to Disneyworld in a few weeks.
So there you go. I went from being an avid comicbook hater to someone who is emptying their wallet at you every chance I get. And I’m not alone. Marvel is becoming a legit “fandom” on places generally occupied by mostly women. On Tumblr you’re seeing Marvel pop up more and more along the likes of other “superfandoms” like Dr. Who, Sherlock, and Supernatural.
So why are we talking?
Marvel, you’re resting on your laurels.
See, it used to be a joke. Do you remember those times? We were all making fun of DC for being afraid about making a Wonder Woman movie because “it would be too unrealistic?" And us Marvel fans, why, we were smug as shit. "LOL here’s a picture of a racoon firing a machine gun so FUCK YOU.”
So what happened? Well, for one Guardians of the Galaxy was… problematic. No, hear me out. I know it was a HUGE commercial success. And yeah, I’ll admit I had a blast in the theater, just like everyone else. I laughed, like good gut-busting laughter. The soundtrack was phenomenal. It was an awesome summertime diversion.
So what’s the problem?
That’s what it was, a fun summertime diversion. Much like Batman Begins or Spiderman. It wasn’t life-changing. I didn’t feel the swell of fangirl enthusiasm I felt walking out of Iron Man or Captain America. Actually, the things that were sticking with me were the more troubling aspects of the film.
How are we introduced to Starlord? Oh, he’s that goofy Indiana Jones -esque lovable goofball who - how hilarious - forgot he had the woman he slept with the night before still in his spaceship.
That’s right, Marvel, this is the easiest way to turn off many women from enjoying your movie. “Women are so disposable that I don’t even bother remembering their names or ever seeing them again so I seem cool, but like I’m not trying too hard” method of enduring your main lead is cavemanish at best. No look, I’m not saying it can never work; Iron Man pretty much opened the same way, right? Well, kind of but not exactly Tony Stark is not supposed to be likable in the beginning. Or, even if he is likable, you’re supposed to REALIZE that he’s not really an ideal role-model. He’s a selfish, profiteering jerk - that’s his whole schtick. And, well, to be completely fair, Christine Everhart had a name and arguably a character. We know her name, where she works, where she went to school, and she even comes back at the end of the movie.
What about the fact that Drax the Destroyer ruined what was arguably going to be the movies best joke: his extreme literalism. The line “NOTHING goes over my head!… My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.” was brilliant. They could have made a whole movie about this one little aspect of his character.
But then later in the movie, he offhandedly and with the purpose of offense, calls Gamora a whore.
Once again, what’s the big deal? After all, Loki called Black Widow a “mewling quim” in The Avengers. Well yes - the VILLAIN Loki called a woman he was trying to insult and get under her skin a horrible name. I mean, basically calling anyone the Asgardian equivalent of a “pathetic cunt” is pretty hardcore, especially considering the tone of the movie. But in GotG it just stuck in my craw. I could go on for a while about how “whore” is a horridly misogynistic insult to throw at women (especially powerful, assertive women), but ON TOP OF all that, it just makes no damn sense in the contact of Drax’s character. If he takes everything so literally, then he would only call Gamora a whore if she had somehow, in any way, ever implied she had traded sexual favors for money. What troubles me the most, however, is not that he said it but that someone made that artistic decision. Somewhere, in some office meeting or script review - they made the conscious decision to throw away a major part of what makes Drax a unique character in favor of insulting Gamora by being pointedly and purposely misogynistic. Whether it was a conscious decision or not we’ll never know, but its troubling either way.
I have a few other nitpicks, but they are more personal in nature. But what really disturbs me is the direction Marvel seems to be heading. Since GotG has been released, DC as taken the challenge and stepped up to the plate ten-fold. They have announced a whole host of movies that, among other things, have PoC, women, and Queer actors in headlining roles.
Of course, just sticking someone i a leading role doesn’t mean the movie is going to be any good - or even that groundbreaking. After all, there HAVE been a few woman-led superhero movies before and they, well, sucked. So its not like this is guaranteed win for DC by any means, but I like the way they are thinking.
Marvel, on the other hand, is apparently in talks to cast Dr. Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Look, I have no issues with Benny. But seriously? Dr. Strange was an opportunity set in front of Marvel on a fucking silver platter. If GotG taught us anything, it was that Marvel could make virtually ANY MOVIE and it would make money. SNL even did a fucking hilarious skit on this very fact:Oded Fehr and Pedro Pascal. Both of who could have ROCKED IT OUT.
Why did they go with such a sure thing? I mean, sure, Benedict will probably do just fine and he’s a pretty strong box-office draw but why go so safe?
Remember with RDJ was written off by most of Hollywood as a has-been (or never was, depending on who you ask)?
Yeah, you did that. You tapped into the potential. You saw that this his arguably washed up addict has some real chops on him. Could he possibly bring a character as over-the-top as Iron Man to the big screen?
Turns out, he could. And he was probably the best thing to ever happen to Superhero movies.
What about Chris Evans? You know, that guy whose most famous roles included Johnny Storm and this guy:
BUT YOU GUYS SAW THE POTENTIAL. You saw this goofy professional meatball’s real talent in his more serious roles like Sunshine and Push and knew he could be Captain America.
I know you’ve never been scraping the complete bottom of the indie barrel, but you’re taking actors that have otherwise been written off as one-trick ponies and turning them into legit superheros, Marvel.
You don’t need to be safe.
You can do anything. Use your power well, Marvel. Not to be trite, but WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. It’s not too late - not by far! RUN WITH IT. Cast PoCs in leading roles. Give us Black Widow, The Falcon, and Captain Marvel movies. Make Captain America bisexual. Make Black Panther the next Iron Man box office powerhouse.
We know you’re capable. We know you have a vision. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is like your own little microcosm: chuck full of PoC roles and kick ass ladies. Use that as as seed to blossom until the most inclusive, fearless, and amazing movie studio in history. Do not rest on your laurels. Do not assume you can pump out shit and people will pay for it.
It may be true, but that doesn’t make it right.
Step Up, Marvel. Be the movie studio Steve Rogers would want you to be.