Thursday, August 11, 2016

Captain Political Sledgehammer

Female characters in comics are, despite popular rhetoric, really quite common. You can't go five pages without tripping over an enhanced, highly-trained, or mutant superheroine, and in recent years they've become much more prominent with starring turns in blockbuster movies, television shows, and solo titles.

In the case of DC, it's easy to point out: they have a flagship female character in Wonder Woman, and most recently Harley Quinn. With Marvel, it's not as easy - not because they have fewer, but because they have so many female characters that stand alongside their male brethren in the Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four. The easiest, most visible amongst them, the ones where you'd list when told to "Name 5", would probably be Storm, Jean Grey, Sue Storm-Richards, Black Widow, and the subject of my writings today: Captain Marvel.
Captain, Ms. 
There's been rumblings and confirmations that Captain Marvel, formerly Ms. Marvel, formerly Warbird, formerly Binary, and aka Col. Carol Danvers of the USAF, would be getting a solo movie. Carol's been an interesting and integral part of the Marvel universe for years now, and one of a few characters I've tried to keep up with. Unfortunately,  I've fallen behind on my reading due to my backlog and not liking the art on the current and recent runs, but my personal recommendations are her solo series, leading up to and encompassing Avengers: Disassembled, House of M, and Civil War.

What's compelling me to write this today, is this article, ostensibly satire, written from the point of view of a terribly constructed strawman in the wake of self-perpetuating backlash to objections surrounding the Ghostbusters reboot. What the author doesn't seem to understand is that there is no co-opting of a male role to even build a strawman around here. Carol was, despite the inspiration she took, her own woman. Those of us who have read her stories appreciate her on her own merits, and not merits that she adopted from a previously male character.

Comparing Carol Danvers to the Ghostbusters reboot is a terrible false equivalency. The Ghostbusters reboot disregarded previous history (naturally, as reboots tend to do) and based its entire marketing campaign around insulting fans and potential audiences. Marvel, so far, has done nothing but show their fans love, and in return their fans have made them billions in box office revenue and merchandise sales (myself included - show me an MCU-related action figure and I'll show you my wallet). But beyond that, I have a terrible feeling about the Captain Marvel movie.

I want Captain Marvel to be a good movie. I want it to happen. What I don't want is for it to be used as political leverage by hipster bloggers and people who don't care about the stories that have come before.
So much of what makes Carol interesting is her struggle. Her origin story is based around an admiration for and inspiration drawn from a male superhero, Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior who was the original Captain Marvel*. She's had episodes where her powers were unreliable. She was an alcoholic. She has self-esteem issues. I hate to use SJW rhetoric, but all of these are "problematic" qualities for a movie heroine.

But the biggest reason I do not want her used a political sledgehammer is that I admire Carol Danvers because she is hard-working (colonels in the USAF don't just happen) and determined (she's overcome every one of her struggles, and adapts and continues to overcome them). There may have been times where she lay down and gave up and wallowed in self-pity, but she's human and that happens; but she also got right back up and started swinging again.

Best of all, in the wake of the House of M storyline, where she was the most beloved human superhero in a world where humans are the minority, she saw what she could be and worked that much harder to achieve that when reality re-asserted itself around her. In her long history in comics, she's been the hero that former movements of feminism would have aspired to, but using that word in reference to her now is something that I personally find... well, problematic.

I worry though because, if Captain Marvel is faithful to Carol and her history, it's going to catch hell. A women with self-doubt and insecurity? That got Joss Whedon chased off of Twitter when Black Widow had a moment of it. And if Marvel isn't faithful to Carol and her history, it's not going to be a good Captain Marvel movie. It might still be a good movie, but it won't be Carol.

As for the casting, I suppose Brie Larson's alright. She's not Katee Sackhoff, and that's who I was really rooting for. Larson seems a bit young for an Air Force colonel, or even captain**.
This is the movie I wanted. 
In short, I want a movie, not a statement.

* Sort of - that name's been thrown around a lot, and even been used for a character from a completely different company.

**Erin Says: I checked with my father, a 20-year Army officer, and he says that it's just possible for a 26 year old (Brie Larson's age) to be a newly minted Captain. After that comes Major (usually mid-30s), Lt. Colonel (late 30s to early 40s), and then Colonel (mid-40s). Sackhoff, at 36, can easily portray a Major and could, with the right makeup, pass as a Lt. Col. 

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