The Marvel Cinematic Universe has not always done justice to women, but recent years have given us some iconic female characters
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has not always been kind to women.
The franchise initially focused pretty exclusively on white men and garnered so much success doing so that their argument for not featuring marginalized groups in more prominent ways was their fear of compromising their fanbase.
However, over the past few years, fans and actors have successfully advocated for films that focus on heroes from marginalized communities and feature them in more prominent, complex roles.
Following the success of Wonder Woman (emphatically not the sequel) in the DC Universe in 2017, Marvel made their first film starring a female superhero in 2019, Captain Marvel. The commercial and critical success of both films showcases the importance of good writing, complex characters, and compelling stories to make good movies about women — films that don't end up mimicking the fates of Catwoman and Wonder Woman 1984.
Over the past few years, women have become more prominent in the MCU and have developed from sexy sidekicks to integral parts of MCU storylines. And while there's still a long way to go (and something to be said about Marvel pandering to women when it proves to be financially beneficial), here are some of the best female characters in the MCU.
It's fitting that the most powerful hero in the MCU is the first female superhero to get her own film. Brie Larson's role in Captain Marvel emphasized the power of emotion, which is so often seen as a weakness.While many superhero movies center around restrained, unemotional eccentrics or men fueled by vengeance or rage, Captain Marvel challenged the ways women are often dismissed for their emotions and instead found power in them.
Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff
Scarlet Witch, AKA Wanda Maximoff, is currently on everyone's mind after the critically acclaimed Disney+ series, WandaVision. After appearing as a powerful, but peripheral, character in the Avengers movies, Elizabeth Olsen finally got her day in the emotional rollercoaster of a limited series that enamored its fans.
Black Panther was all about representation. The film featured a majority Black cast — many of whom were women. Notably, the General of the Dora Milaje tribe and the head of Wakandan armed forces is Okoye, played by Danai Gurira.
Every one of her scenes in the film was iconic, but most memorable happens in the heat of the big battle scene, when her husband W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) who is fighting on the opposite side, asks if she would kill him, to which she replies: "For Wakanda? Without Question."
Also in Black Panther is Nakia, who is more than just T'Challa's love interest but the film's underrated moral center. We meet her in a scene where she is rescuing kidnapped girls and telling T'Challa that Wakanda should spread their resources to those in need.
Killmonger shares the same point of view, but his comes with vengeance and violence. Ultimately, it is Nakia's vision which is realized. In the film's sequel, I hope to see even more of Nakia and see her get even more of the recognition she deserves.
Thor: Ragnarok revived the Thor franchise from its blandness with three main tools: director Taika Waititi's humor, Chris Hemsworth's haircut, and Tessa Thompson.
A member of the Valkyrie, the famous warriors of Asgard, Thompson dresses in silver and rides a horse — doing the impossible and making horse girls, for a moment, seem valid. Valkyrie reappeared in the Avengers films, giving fans a hope of seeing her again down the line.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
The plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp is pretty simple: The Wasp is better than Ant-Man. That's it. That's the whole film. Evangeline Lilly plays the highly capable hero while Paul Rudd plays his token role of lovable idiot.
Rounding up the women of Black Panther, Shuri is an incredible character for her youth, her intelligence, and her unapologetic exuberance. Instead of the stoic, arrogant inventor we see from Iron Man and in other films, Shuri makes the most elite technology and the most memorable jokes of the film. Some rumors even have her slated to replace Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther in the sequel.
Black Widow has been a fixture of the Avengers franchise since the beginning and has evolved from a flirty but empty character to one with more depth. The Black Widow film had been in the pipeline for years before getting made, then was delayed in 2020, but is finally upcoming in 2021.
Gamora is a complex character in that she is the daughter of Thanos, AKA Destroyer of Worlds. Also, he throws her off a cliff. But before her untimely end, Gamora was the highlight of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
Although not a superhero, what would the Spiderman franchise be without Zendaya? Her MJ is all snarky comments and awkward field trip kisses (oh to be in high school again) and is one of the many little things that makes the Spiderman series so watchable. Because of course Zendaya makes everything better, even the MCU.