Super-representation: The Real Power Behind Captain Marvel


Meah McCallister | Culture Staff Writer |

The last few years have shown a refreshing uptick on the growing representation in movies. Disney has made minor steps towards progress with the “Marvel” and “Star Wars” series, placing people of color and women in starring roles. However, few anticipated the overwhelming success of the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Captain Marvel.”

When “Black Panther” graced the big screen in February 2018, people witnessed how important diverse representation is in a Hollywood movie. Focusing on a cast almost entirely comprised of people of color, the film proved to be incredibly successful. The world recognized how big the market and audiences are for stories that aren’t often told.

In the midst of Disney’s most anticipated movies arriving in cinemas around the world, the company decided to release another film that falls outside of audience’s expectations. A female-led superhero movie has not had the chance to make it to theaters under Marvel since 2005’s devastatingly disappointing rendition of “Elektra.” Critics and fans alike largely felt the movie was a failure, which seemed to be the argument as to why another female-led movie would fail. This rationale is easy to poke holes in, seeing as male-led superhero movies have had their own varying levels of success over the years.

Luckily, Disney moved forward with its plans for “Captain Marvel.” Already, the movie is proving to be a worldwide phenomenon. According to Box Office Mojo,it brought in over $153 million domestically in the opening weekend alone, quickly taking the top spot in the box office.

Clearly, there is a market for these types of movies. They tell important stories of empowerment for marginalized groups. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the movies are also exciting adventures within the universe of some of the most beloved characters in today’s popular culture. That should not, however, distract from the importance of these movies.

Yes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is fun. The movies are exciting and provide high entertainment value. They are also incredibly influential to children. Most of us have all loved superhero tales since we were young, and many of us realized early that the characters we idolized on the big screen did not look like us. Now, with the growing representation in these movies, fewer children have to feel that way.

When I went to see “Captain Marvel” during opening weekend, I saw little girls bouncing up and down in their seats to see someone who looked like them lead the film. After the film, one girl asked her father to take a picture in front of the poster with the character Captain Carol Danvers glowing with power. This movie shows little girls that they can be powerful; that they are a force to be reckoned with, regardless of their gender. It shows that a big studio believes in the power of women and people of color, a message that so often gets overshadowed by traditional white, male stories.

Captain Carol Danvers does not have a love interest. Her value is not weighed in how attractive she is. She is not sexualized through a male gaze that waters down her power. “Captain Marvel” tells the story of an impressive person finding her way in a complex and exciting way. She is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and she will be an integral part in the Marvel universe’s plots moving forward. This is such a refreshing perspective given to a female lead character. No wonder so many are still flocking to the theaters to be inspired by her story.

Disney is proving these stories need to be told. They are fun, different, inspiring and meaningful in fresh and innovative ways. We can only hope we reach a day when no child asks why superheroes do not represent them and reflect their culture but, rather, they can be excited to see a small part of themselves on the big screen.