I’ll admit it: I enjoyed The Marvels. Sure, it wasn’t cinema at its finest, but did anyone really expect it to be? Apparently, Marvel fanboys did. So, let’s get into it: Why do male movie-goers hate female superheroes so much?
It’s no secret that Marvel movies lately have been… bad. In a post-Endgame world, Marvel’s TV shows have been far more popular than their movies, with notable standouts like WandaVision, Moon Knight, and Loki. Meanwhile, blockbusters like Thor: Love and Thunder have been exceptionally awful, with record-breaking lows on Rotten Tomatoes.
So does Marvel’s newest addition, The Marvels, deserve to join those ranks?
Well… not exactly.
Currently, the MCU has three female-led films: Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and The Marvels. Arguably, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could also fit into this category, but it’s a little complicated, so we’ll omit it for now.
All three of these movies received horrific backlash before they were even released, with Captain Marvel being the most hated. Scores of misogynists took to the Internet with all sorts of complaints. She didn’t smile enough, her costume wasn’t sexy, and she wasn’t likable.
All this and more led to an audience score of only 45%, despite a critic consensus of 79%. Black Widow performed much better, mostly because of Natasha Romanoff’s established position as the MCU’s it-girl. Of course, internet trolls still had plenty to say, including comments about Natasha’s “sexy voice and daddy issues.” Yes, that’s a real review. Unfortunately.
Made to Fail
There are a lot of theories floating around as to why female-led superhero movies get so much flack. The first and most obvious one is that there are a lot of woman-hating guys in the world, and a significant portion of Marvel’s audience doesn’t want to watch anything that’s not fueled by testosterone.
Welcome to the 21st century, folks. However, as tempting as it might be to write negative reviews off as simple misogyny, we’re not looking at the whole story.
TikTok user Kit Lazer, @moviesaretherapy, shares his defense of The Marvels. “It’s not a perfect movie. It’s not even great,” he admits. “But it is a really fun time.” He also touches on Iman Vellani’s excellent performance as Kamala Khan, which was so well done that I immediately wanted to watch the TV show.
The real theorizing starts in the comments, though, with internet users blaming the movie’s failure on everything from “wokeness” to boycotts to poor marketing. Weirdly enough, they’re all a little bit right.
Marvel has a long history of forced, inauthentic feminism. Put, even if their female characters are well-written, they’re promoted in a way that stresses “girl power” above all else. It feels self-congratulatory and weird, which audiences have definitely picked up on.
The marketing for female-led movies has never reached the same level as films like Avengers: Endgame. With The Marvels coming fresh off the heels of the biggest strike in Hollywood, it really never stood a chance.
The Heart of Marvel
A lot of people think that Marvel’s time has come to an end. Honestly, I get it. All the critiques of the superhero genre are incredibly valid. As someone who holds a lot of love for the MCU, I’m also one of the most disappointed. For a phase that originally held so much promise, almost all of Marvel’s newest projects have fallen way short of the mark. Key word: almost.
The Marvels was actually the first MCU movie I’d watched this year that gave me a little bit of hope for the franchise’s future. In her new interview, Iman Vellani says it best: “I don’t know if it’s about just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Because then, like, what’s left? …I think it’s just about making the audience care about their characters.”
Recent high-performing Marvel projects, like Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home have one key thing in common: well-written characters. These stories have heart. No one cares if Marvel breaks records for the sheer volume of movies released in one year, or the amount of money spent on flashy CGI effects. They care about the characters.
In The Marvels, I was actually convinced to care. Carol Danvers gets some much-needed development, Monica Rambeau builds beautifully off her WandaVision arc, and Kamala Khan completely steals the show with charm and enthusiasm.
As people have said, it’s not a perfect movie but fun. There’s even a blink-and-you-miss-it romance between Carol and Valkyrie, which fans have been waiting for ages to see on-screen. We could talk all day about Marvel’s censorship of queer romance or their moments of forced feminism, but The Marvels showed me one thing that I haven’t seen in a long time: potential.
So ignore the misogynists and the box-office figures—if you want to have a good time, go ahead and add The Marvels to your watch list. Personally, I’m excited to get started on Ms. Marvel!
To read more about The Marvels, click here.