The 2017 debut of DC’s Wonder Woman brought with it a wave of feminism most in this generation have not seen since the Suffragette Movement of the 1900s. In it’s wake came the #MeToo Movement of Hollywood leaving Captain Marvel fans waiting with bated breath as to how this iconic female superhero from the Marvel Universe would make her big debut. Like most female icons of the 21st century, she was received with mixed reviews, prompting many to consider the questions “What makes a female superhero? And, who does it better?
Here are 5.5 points to consider before you draw your conclusions:
5. Gods vs. Humans
While Wonder Woman is definitely a powerful heroine, she is based on a mythical character – an Amazon from mythology. Captain Marvel, while superpowered, is fully human. Carol Danvers is often more relatable, whereas, Diana of Themyscira seems too wonderful to be true – punn intended. This is the cosmic genius behind the feminism movement played out before us on the big screen. Somehow woman must decide how she fits in to the grandeur scheme of life. If she’s too beautiful, she’s naive. If she’s too powerful, she’s emasculating. And yet beauty, power, and grace are all essential qualities of what it is to be woman – divinely or otherwise. How do you choose which is greater- the divine or the human?
4. Past vs. a Past not-so-far-from Present
Wonder Woman’s picturesque capturing of WWI and a mythical island of Amazon’s is enough to fuel one’s imaginations and tickle the senses for a lifetime. Nostalgia is a powerful force to be reckoned with when considering Captain Marvel’s only nostalgic moments include crashing into the beloved 90s iconic BlockBuster Video store and a movie soundtrack that would make anyone suffering through that decade run for therapy or bust out their old mixed-tape collection and grunge pants. (Yes, I admit, I was singing along.) Near or far, the past is the past. What makes it iconic is how much it effects you and how much influence you give it over your present future. Depending on your age, Captain Marvel resonates but Wonder Woman will be remembered for as long as history remembers the sacrifices of the past. What makes a woman iconic is not the period of time she was placed in but what she chooses to do with her period in time. It’s the same for superheroes and word in the multi-verse is that Captain Marvel can time travel, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see just how higher, further, faster she can go in Avengers 4.
3. Ships vs. Cockpits
Wonder Woman fans no doubt picked up on the heroics and chivalry of the WWI era film. Unlike her predecessor, Captain Marvel is from a time where most were shouting chivalry was dead. The interaction between the sexes is quite noticeable. There’s a bit of an uncomfortable scene in a bar between another US Air Force captain and Carol Danvers during her bootcamp days, and yes it’s true that Captain Danvers and Captain Maria Rambeau comment on women not being able to fly in combat, and the glaring fact Project Pegasus is run by the very brass and feminine Annette Benning. But before someone starts convincing you Captain Marvel is full of liberal progressivism, make sure you ask them for specifics. There’s nothing radically new presented in the film that wasn’t confirmed and existing in the time period of Captain Danver’s training. If anything, what’s radical is the progressively friendly and respectful cooperation between Danvers and Agent Nick Fury, despite their different skin colors, ages and experience. While mutual respect and comradery were commonplace in Wonder Woman’s time, such was not the case nearly 50 years later for Captain Marvel. The beauty of femininity is woman’s ability to make genuine and meaningful friendships, male and female, while still being able to fulfill her own personal destiny as uniquely woman and wholly herself . If that sounds radical then so be it.
2. Romance vs. Love
Many applaud Captain Marvel for not including a love interest like the albeit awkward exchange of romance between Wonder Woman and Captain Trevor. Or did they? The relationship between Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau is iconic. Captain Marvel gives us a glimpse at healthy female relationships. True Love is disciplined, pure and self-less-it lays down its life for another. It never grows jealous of the other-even if it means they go Higher, Further, Faster than you. It can even help raise someone else’ kid as a not-so-distant aunt. It adopts protective relationships built on family values and spans the course of a lifetime-even universes. Where Wonder Woman may have gotten caught up in the trappings of unadulterated pre-marital romance, Captain Marvel got it all right for a world that is more likely to encounter long-term platonic relationships between the same sexes than it is likely for an Amazon goddess to rescue prince charming from a drowning plane and call it love-at-first sight.
2.5 Horses vs. Cats
And then there’s Goose, the fun loving adorable “flerken” posing as a kitty cat Agent Fury seems to find a soft spot for on his adventures with Captain Marvel. While Wonder Woman was noted for having the first ever all-woman horse battle charge in cinematic history, Captain Marvel will go down as the first Marvel movie to make feline lovers wonder about their own fury friend lurking so closely. Spoiler Alert: We discover how Agent Fury lost his eye. And I’ve personally affirmed why I have an aversion to cats #LOL. In a disordered age where some people confess to loving animals more than they love people, Captain Marvel gets it right with an animal that seems to love protecting people more than it loves aliens. Agent Fury just might have learned a lesson too about keeping a healthy respect for flerkens. With a universe filled with creatures, we all just might benefit from gaining a more orderly and healthy perspective, lest we lose an eye-and yes, pun intended. I guess this point just has to be left undecided between horse-lovers and flerken-lovers. Fun Fact: Goose’s real name in the comic series is “Chewie” but keeping his comic book name might have made it a little confusing for the next generation of Star Wars fans.
1. First vs. Last
Feminism has had its share of forerunners throughout its colorful time expansive movements, but nothing erases the impression of those who did it first. No matter who comes later or how distorted the original message gets as its passed down through the generations history always remembers its “firsts”. Wonder Woman will always have this honor in the cinema hall of fame – even if her choice of dress was a little more scandalous than her Marvel counterpart from a later time. But, first doesn’t always mean better and last doesn’t always mean greater. Or does it? I know one woman who had her firsts in a Garden and went down in history for her infamy, while another more humble maiden was visited by the Divine and turned the course of history in our favor forever. Of course one could always argue, one of them was more human than the other who was literally impregnated with God.
And then, there’s the upcoming matter of Black Widow and Dark Phoenix. What can we say, women are beautiful in their diversity – humanity is just more colorful that way – and it’s no different among superheroins.
In the end, the character of feminism in today’s world cannot be determined alone by the imaginations of one stand-alone comic heroin or even by movies, storybook writers, or even fashion magazine covers. Ultimately, what will determine the face of the feminist movement is the faces of the many men and women who will choose to emulate the superhero-like virtues of beauty, power and grace, which seem to be consistent across the comic multi-verses. Add in a touch of influence and grace from divine inspirations like my personal favorite the Ultimate Wonder Woman – Mary, Mother of God, and other sources of divine wisdom and I believe feminism along side its counterpart movement of masculinity has a chance to powerfully, beautifully, and gracefully change the world.
I think it’s safer to conclude that it doesn’t matter who did it better, first, or last, or even that she’s a heroin or a hero, but that it’s simply greater to have them all – a world full of wonder women and superpowered captains – divine or fully human – they can marvel us all to find the superpower hidden within.