We love Marvel and the Avengers in this house. Adrenaline, adventure, poker-sharp wit, top tech and unimpeachable moral values: what’s not to love? My youngest in particular is a big fan – especially of the female heroes. Where previously the roles for women in superhero romps and big budget blockbusters have been peripheral at best, exploitative at worst, I do dare to dream that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things appear to be morphing in the right direction…
Many of the most recent cinematic offerings from the Marvel family, Civil War, Infinity war, Endgame and the like, have female characters at the heart of the action, albeit sometimes in awkwardly feminist ‘girl squad’ moments, or as a non-too-subtle nods to today’s post #metoo universe. Still, there are plenty of badass women to celebrate. Here’s just a few:
Scarlett Johansen’s Black widow is brooding and brilliant. Her dodgy Russian back story and secret service training confirm her hard-as-nails rep, and you wouldn’t cross her. She gets some of the films’ smartest lines, and it’s only perhaps the tightness of the black leathers that keeps her character semi-mired in the regrettably chauvinist past of the comic-book world. But then, in all fairness, Captain America’s lycra is pretty figure-hugging too, so it’s probably a score draw when it comes to steamy zip-up onesies.
Then there’s Scarlet Witch: strange and spookily powerful, her superhero ranking is off the scale. This is a woman who [spoiler alert] loses her twin brother and the love of her life on the way to the series’ climax – and yet still squares up to big baddie Thanos again and again. Can the male avengers shoot flames and force-fields from their fingertips? Nope, I don’t think so.
But by far the most fearless/fearsome female has be Captain Marvel (the original Avenger – if we don’t count the ones still on ice at that point). This is a superhero who can jet into outer space and lend a hand in any galaxy she fancies. Can mighty Thor, even with his snazzy lightening eyes or the bionic Iron Man hoik spaceships out of orbit and deposit them safely back down somewhere near L.A.? Nah-uh. Captain Marvel is just the best. She’s even soundtracked with her own uber-cool score of nineties girl-fronted grunge: talk about inter-galactic super goals!
Yet Marvel or perhaps Disney may be missing a trick here somewhere. For my daughter’s birthday I shopped around for a Captain Marvel doll. I found one on Amazon of course but only after a trawl of the usual high street toy retailers came up short. There are, of course plenty of Iron Men, Hulks and Captain Americas to choose from, plus shelves and shelves of Barbies for kids to dress and undress ad infinitem, plenty of ponies with brushable hair and baby dolls as far as the eye can see, but a glaring dearth of female superheroes in plastic form. I wanted to buy my daughter a role model, not just a model.
Amazon doll having dutifully been sourced and purchased, I looked for extras to complete the birthday theme, maybe hoping for wrapping paper or even just an Avengers themed birthday card. Easy peasy: these items are everywhere. Looking for an Iron Man lunch box? You got it. Water bottle with an angry Hulk on? Spiderman wallpaper? No problem. There’s merch galore, but I would be eternally grateful if someone could point me in the direction of any of the above featuring an actual female face.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to buy stuff covered in Captain America, emblazoned with Iron Man or decorated with Thor. They’re all well and good, but please Marvel, give us more girls. Let’s put them everywhere! I want to carry my lunch in a Black Widow lunch bag, dress my children as green-faced Gomora, drink out of a Scarlett Witch water bottle and wrap pressies in the women warriors of Wakanda. Stick these awesome Avengers on your merch, get their fabulous faces in the shops and I reckon you could double your audience, not to mention your profits.
Come on Marvel, there’s a lot resting on this. I know change takes time, but you have the power to do it – and if you don’t, then call someone who does. She’s probably orbiting some other planet right now to the strains of classic nineties indie, but I’m sure she’d be happy to blaze down to earth and sort out your merchandise mishap.
Words: Lucy Callington