In first seeing the trailer for “Captain Marvel,” we were thrilled to hear of another powerful female lead in the male-dominated space of superhero movies! Yes, “Wonder Woman” was inspiring but the world can surely handle more than one female superhero. Out of Marvel’s 21 superhero movies, Captain Marvel is the first one with a female protagonist. The distributor has given us strong female characters in “Black Widow,” “Valkyrie,” “Shuri,” “Wanda,” “Gamora,” and “The Wasp,” but all were supporting roles to the main (male) heroes. So we celebrate “Carol Danvers” (aka Captain Marvel, played by Brie Larson).
That said, we do have to note that Carol unquestionably looks like media’s typical “perfect girl: thin, blond, white, flawless, etc. (Yes, male superheroes fill media’s unattainable physical standards.) Could Carol’s idealized looks do more damage than good for girls?
Wherever you land, we can celebrate that the film has just become one of the highest grossing movies with a female lead ever! The film, fun and empowering, also provides a wonderful opportunity to talk to your daughter about what it’s like to be a girl in a male-dominated world. We hope you’ll take the girl(s) in your life to see it, and then ask her some or all of our questions below to spark conversation (warning: there will be some spoilers).
MEDIAGIRLS Five Questions:
- How did watching Captain Marvel compare to watching other superhero movies like Captain America or Iron Man? Did you feel like you could relate to Carol more because she understood what it’s like to be a girl? Or did it feel the same as the other movies?
- At the beginning of the movie, our hero Carol is being trained to control her emotions in order to control her powers. However, at the end of the film, she realizes that her emotions are her greatest strength, and allow her powers to be unstoppable. Can you think of some other traits (like being emotional) that are often looked down upon because they’re associated with girls? Could some of these “girly” traits be a source of power?
- Do you think Carol is “too perfect,” meaning she sets the bar too high for young girls who look up to her? Or do you feel like you can relate to her because of her struggle with her identity and controlling her powers?
- Carol is haunted by memories of falling down and failing when she takes risks. However, when she taps into her powers, she remembers all the times that she got back up. What was a time you “fell” and got back up? Does it make you feel more powerful?
- What do you think about the fact that Carol’s look reinforces media’s “perfect girl” (white, blonde, thin, pretty, etc.)? Most of Marvel’s heroes are good-looking and set unrealistically high standards, but could this be harmful to fans? Do you think the film would be even more powerful if she didn’t meet these societal beauty expectations? How could Marvel improve on this in the future?
Bonus discussion point: At the red carpet premiere of Captain Marvel, a little girl dressed as Carol Danvers interviewed Brie Larson. The girl asks Larson what her powers are, and Larson responds with some relatable, every day powers (she can eat really hot food and fall asleep on airplanes!). Larson then asks the girl what her powers are, and she insisted that she doesn’t have anyway. After a push from Larson, the girl says that she is really strong. Larson tells her that as she gets older, she’ll gain more superpowers, big and small. In doing so, Larson assures the young girl (and young girls everywhere) that your superpower doesn’t have to be electric fists, flight, or super strength. It can be as simple as being good at soccer, multiplication, drawing, giving your friends advice, etc. So finally, ask your daughter, what are your superpowers?
Clare Reynders is a rising senior at Vassar College majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Women’s studies. She loves singing in her a cappella group, reading books, and, of course, empowering young women.