Captain Marvel Didn’t Solve Sexism

So this week I saw It 2 (incredible by the way), but I’m not here about the movie, I’m here to put my 2 cents in about the trailers. I’d say that about 75% of the movies being advertised were ones that were really female-driven. Which was great!

Kristen Stewart was fighting an underwater monster in Underwater, sorority sisters were fighting a serial killer in the reboot of Black Christmas and just so many incredible things were going on in Hustlers. Women protagonists are great, we love to see it. 

However, I have not seen nearly as much hype for Hustlers as I’ve seen for other movies. Despite the rave reviews so far, in my interactions with people, I’ve only felt lukewarm anticipation. 

This insurgence of leading female characters isn’t anything too different from what we’ve been seeing, as being “woke” has become trendy and feminism is the cool thing to be. However, when inclusion is a fad and not a belief, some of the more important things are thrown off to the wayside. While it is really great to see so many women at the forefront of these movies, it’s not necessarily enough.  

What we would love to see more than just another famous, conventionally beautiful, white woman inserted into your stock character protagonist in a movie, are more systematic fixes. 

Don’t just give me a female-led Terminator movie, give me women that are taken seriously in the industry. Just this past week Adele Lim, a co-screenwriter for the wildly successful Crazy Rich Asians has quit the sequel because she was being offered only around $100,000, while her white male co-writer was looking at offers closer to $1,000,000. 

Captain Marvel was great, and that one scene with all the women together in Endgame was a nice touch, but where was the female-led movie years ago at the beginning of the MCU? It’s not enough to just try to appear as though you’re not sexist anymore, it needs to go deeper than that. It’s also not enough to make one movie, or cast one character, and shrug off any other kind of responsibility for a lack of inclusion. 

It’s not enough to remake an existing movie and insert women instead of men or to throw in a one-dimensional female protagonist and act like that’s solving the problem. We need multifaceted women, we need support for female directors and writers and we need to work towards closing that pay gap. The problem isn’t just with half-hearted shots at exciting characters on screen who are women, there’s also an underwhelming lack of support for women behind the scenes. Beyond the more visible inequality, women are also so frequently shut out from jobs on set, such as director, crew, etc. 

Women need to go above and beyond to even be considered for the same kind of respect and accolades that a man can get. Crazy Rich Asians was a massive critical success, and Adele Lim had to fight to prove her value as an artist just because she is a woman of color. Meanwhile, Disney can without fail continue to hire directors and writers (who are mostly white dudes) to make mediocre live remake after mediocre live remake at the bat of an eye.

(That said, I have an immense amount of respect for the intention of a more respectful Mulan remake to reflect the historical lore and the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel for the new Little Mermaid. I’m not going to cast judgment on these movies because they're not out yet! However, new original content would also be nice instead of cashing in endlessly on the current nostalgia fad. This is another can of worms for another day; end of the tangent.)

Obviously, I’m not saying that seeing more women on screen is a bad thing, it’s just not the complete solution. It’s a great first step, but maybe we could try seeing characters written for women that have layers (like ogres and onions); give us a whole cast of female characters who have more than one personality trait. Give movies that have an ensemble of women more of a chance, and more space to be taken seriously, or pay women comparable wages to their male counterparts.

Please don’t just present a story that we already know and pretend that it’s giving women their fair dues. A female terminator is cool but also feels like lazy writing and lazy advocacy that we couldn’t come up with a new character and story to be all her own. When it’s a change like this, it’s women in men’s roles; it’s just reinforcing the idea that women need to be like men if they want to be successful, instead of giving room for those original female stories. And when someone else does make that movie, we should give it just as much attention, press, hype, etc. as you would give any of the other movies coming out- allow women to take up space. 

Good work so far, but do better. There is a whole host of underlying issues that can’t be solved by putting a female lead in your action movie who is cold, grouchy, and eventually learns to love your lead male with her heart of stone. 

Sexism is still rampant in Hollywood. Don’t let the industry put on a face that would try to convince us otherwise.