** The next comprises spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. **
The attention-grabbing factor about partaking in superhero tales with a six-year-old boy is that he has not but absolutely conceptualized the gender dynamics which can be typically at play.
My son started watching films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe late and out of order, as one does when mentioned universe pre-dates him by half a decade. His first experiences with the superhero style have been with films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. Most of those have been launched within the final 5 years, and all of them included empowered feminine heroes. Solely later did he fill within the gaps with the older staples of the MCU: films that additionally included girls, however that existed in a drastically completely different cultural second, and, which accordingly, solid girls underneath a unique gaze.
The outcome has been fascinating. For instance, my son has by no means had any qualms about selecting heroes like Black Widow or Gamora in his imaginative play; he perceives them as priceless, contributing members of the group and is raring to not solely embrace them, however to emulate them. However, he as soon as lamented that he didn’t personal something tight sufficient to correctly gown as Black Widow. And he insists, keenly observant as he’s, that anybody who play-acts Black Widow should sashay his or her hips—“like in the movie.” In the course of the newest and ultimate installment of the 22-movie franchise, my son observed however couldn’t grasp two of the film’s strongest and telling moments.
The first got here in the course of the ultimate showdown between the Avengers and Thanos. The group had efficiently obtained the infinity stones from numerous moments in time, a victory that Black Widow paid for together with her life. Her sacrifice leaves the viewers hyper conscious that this can be a excessive stakes battle, one during which anybody may die. The truth is, within the theater my son and I watched from, the strain was palpable—not solely have been viewers conscious that one other hero might die, they felt sure that at the least one would.
So, when Captain Marvel arrives to hold Tony Stark’s makeshift infinity gauntlet to Ant-Man’s van, Spider-Man gestures to the unfolding chaos and says, “I don’t know how you’re going to get through all that.” And for a second, the viewers agrees.
I don’t assume a heavy-handed scene during which the ladies of the MCU are haphazardly thrown collectively is purpose sufficient by itself to cheer, however I’m inspired by the likelihood that Marvel acknowledges a deficiency.
As an alternative, we have been handed the second most telling second, when Okoye (of Black Panther) seems to guarantee Spider-Man (and the viewers): “Don’t worry, she’s got help.” Captain Marvel is shortly joined by all the different feminine heavy-hitters of the MCU: Scarlett Witch, Gamora, Pepper Potts, Shuri, the Wasp, and extra encompass Captain Marvel to steer her into battle.
Round me, movie-goers all through the theater audibly gasped; a number of really cheered. Subsequent to me, my six-year-old son lifted his noise-canceling headphones and requested, “What?” What had he missed? Why was this second eliciting such a response?
It was troublesome to clarify. How might I condense the gender dynamics of 11 years and 22 films right into a phrase my six-year-old boy would perceive? How might I clarify that, for many of my life, I’d lived a limiting gender dynamic I might keenly really feel however didn’t have the vocabulary to specific till lately?
“They’re excited that Captain Marvel has help,” I informed him, which was technically true, however missed the bigger level. He shrugged, put his headphones again on, and continued watching the film.
The scene was a robust second for me, albeit heavy-handed. It was clearly an try at branding—maybe a response to the years of criticism Marvel has obtained concerning their remedy of feminine characters.
In a latest article for the Washington Submit, Monica Hess highlighted a number of of the extra suspect moments within the MCU during the last 21 films. For instance, in Iron Man I, Tony Stark playfully remarks that he might have Pepper Potts fired if it could make her much less uncomfortable dancing with him in public. Whereas this second definitely serves as a chance to determine Tony’s narcissism, it carries a distinctly extra uncomfortable undertone in 2019 than it did in 2008. The onset of the Me Too Motion has heightened our consciousness of males who leverage energy over girls for intercourse. Threatening to fireplace your subordinate so that you just may extra simply sleep together with her is now not palatable as a forgivable character flaw; we’re definitely now not okay with framing it because the springboard for a wholesome relationship. Hess additionally factors to a second in Iron Man II the place, now an merchandise, each Pepper and Tony wrestle to rent Black Widow; Tony is motivated to take action due to her attractiveness, and Pepper is reticent for a similar purpose.
However the extra apparent flaws with the MCU’s remedy of its feminine characters lie not in these moments, however within the character arcs writers have drawn out during the last 11 years. Whereas the introduction of Black Widow’s character to the MCU signaled elevated feminine illustration, Black Widow, like many different feminine characters, largely served as a plot machine at greatest and an object of sexual attraction at worse—a personality we spend money on peripherally, however one who’s extra more likely to encourage different characters than to be featured on her personal.
This criticism has been loud and protracted for years, and it’s nearly absolutely one of many causes Marvel gave us a scene just like the one above: Captain Marvel, surrounded by different empowered girls within the MCU, finishing an integral leg within the mission to avoid wasting the world. Maybe that is the cynic in me, however the extra I considered this scene, the extra it felt like pandering.
This cynicism was drawn out additional when my son tapped me on the shoulder throughout Tony Stark’s funeral: “Is the funeral for Black Widow, too?”
“No,” I informed him.
“Why not?” he astutely requested. After I didn’t reply, he as soon as once more shrugged and returned to the display screen.
After I received dwelling, I googled “why didn’t Black Widow get a funeral?” Whereas I discovered that my son and I weren’t the one ones bothered by this omission, I didn’t discover any passable solutions. Within the final week I’ve learn quotes from the film’s administrators implying that Black Widow didn’t get a funeral as a result of she wasn’t a public determine. Nevertheless, whereas Tony was, his funeral was an intimate gathering of household and pals, a call that, as Okay. B. Hoyle factors out, accomplished the narcissist’s character arc in a satisfying method.
No, Tony’s funeral was not vital as a result of it was grandiose; it was vital as a result of it was not. It was vital as a result of it served as a method to unite 21 movies with a single strand. Iron Man’s character arc was the factor that started the MCU in 2008, and, as Okay. B. Hoyle additionally factors out, it’s becoming that its closure is the factor that acts because the denouement of your entire franchise.
That’s the most satisfying reply I’ve discovered to my son’s insightful query: Why didn’t Black Widow get a funeral?
Because when this franchise began in 2008, it began as a film about males. Maybe, although, scenes just like the one with Captain Marvel are representing a change. Within the final 11 years we, as a tradition, have engaged in conversations about girls’s place on this planet—conversations which have generally sparked the flames of optimistic change, and generally smoldered into the lukewarm ashes that ethical pandering leaves. I don’t but know which route Marvel intends to maneuver, however I’m hopeful. I don’t consider that Black Widow didn’t obtain a funeral as a result of she wasn’t a public determine, however I’m heartened to see that she is getting a prequel quickly. I don’t assume a heavy-handed scene during which the ladies of the MCU are haphazardly thrown collectively is purpose sufficient by itself to cheer, however I’m inspired by the likelihood that Marvel acknowledges a deficiency. I don’t assume that my son’s willingness to observe a film with a feminine hero is proof that we’ve got overcome sexism, however I feel it’s a step in the appropriate route.
Miraculously, my six yr previous did handle to make it by all three hours of Avengers: Endgame, and once we emerged from the darkish theater, he sighed and informed me, “That was the most terriblest movie ever.”
“Why?” I requested, shocked.
The primary purpose was that Hulk reduce his hair and grew a beard. The second was that Captain America slow-danced with somebody, which was, apparently, gross. And the third was that there was not sufficient Captain Marvel—a comment that signifies an imperfect, however nonetheless productive step towards progress.