If you hadn't heard the name Brie Larson by the time she bagged her Best Actress Oscar win for Room in 2015, chances are you did when 2016's San Diego Comic-Con rolled around. The 27-year-old Californian actress is still raising to the top of her game, with this year seeing her first blockbuster appearance as a war photographer in Kong: Skull Island.
And her major run continues: #brielarson is set to slide into the mantle of one of the most famous Captains in comic book history, Captain Marvel, in next year's Avengers: Infinity War. She'll then return front and center for her first solo movie, Captain Marvel, in 2019.
#captainmarvel — or Carol Danvers as she is known out of uniform — joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big deal, not least of all because in 2019 she will be the first female superhero to headline her own movie as part of the MCU. Hey, it only took #marvel Studios 11 years and 21 movies to get there.
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Wait a minute, 11 years and 21 movies? Not a great track record. Indeed, Marvel Studios doesn't cover themselves in glory when it comes to their female characters, from pissing off the Hulk himself by refusing to create Black Widow merchandise to systemically phasing out the ambitious love interests of the main male characters. In the comics Jane Foster is Thor, in the MCU she and Thor break up off-screen and we'll probably never see her again. Bye Felicia.
Both Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy did that old fun trope where they take a qualified female character's mission and give it to an unqualified white guy, while shoehorning in a romance between them. We'll probably never get a Black Widow solo movie, despite a script having been written for it (by a woman). We aren't getting our first female villain until Thor: Ragnarok later this year (9 years, 17 movies). And while Captain Marvel has taken 11 years and 21 movies, the first installment in which a woman even shares top billing is Ant-Man and the Wasp, which marks... 10 years and 20 movies.
The list goes on.
This feels even more lackluster when you compare it to the likes of the DC Extended Universe. The DCEU may be critically lacking, but at least they got cracking on the ladies representation quickly. Even though admittedly their version of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is all about that male gaze, at least she got to lead.
Wonder Woman will be the the fourth movie in the DCEU, and it only took them four years to get a solo female superhero up front, after Diana Prince made her debut in the second installment of the series. And Suicide Squad was marketed largely on the fact that Harley Quinn was in it (shame it was awful though).
Larson is more than aware of this, being a long time advocate for equality amongst the sexes. She made headlines earlier this year when she quietly refused to applaud Casey Affleck (who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women) when presenting him with his Best Actor award at the Academy Awards of Motion Pictures and Sciences.
Captain Marvel has long been a symbol of female strength in the comics, and she's almost as iconic as Wonder Woman in that sense. On the topic, Larson spoke to The Times about how she feels regarding putting on Carol's red and blue spandex.
"I feel a great responsibility. I want to create this symbol of strength and humor for women that I really wish I had had growing up. It feels so valuable. We need to break through that glass ceiling — women go to the theatre to see a movie with a male lead, and men will go see a film with a female lead. We’re all equals here."
An argument that often gets bandied about when people complain about lack of representation is that they're taking offense for the sake of being PC. But if you're not a straight white male, you know that this isn't the problem.
The problem is that it's boring and frustrating to see the same type of character trotted out over and over on screen, especially when it comes to characters who we find it difficult to identify with, and especially when female characters keep getting shoehorned into the same boxes.
Women make up nearly 50 percent of comic book readership, and have massive spending power when it comes to movies and TV. There's a huge market there that Marvel has already tapped into, but imagine how much further they could run with it. By default, women are expected to identify with male characters (and we do 'cause, you know, we're not sexist), so why is it still so mind-boggling to imagine that men can also identify with female characters?
Larson's words cut right to the heart of it: "Women go to the theatre to see a movie with a male lead, and men will go see a film with a female lead." This has been proven over and over again, with Frozen, Rogue One, Finding Dory, Alice in Wonderland, The Hunger Games and, sadly, Twilight, making the list of the highest grossing films ever made. And Scarlett Johansson's new release Ghost in the Shell is tracking to gross over $100 million domestically, which is no bad shakes.
As someone only a few years younger than Larson, seeing her become Captain Marvel on the big screen is an incredibly exciting prospect. It's also one that I wish I got to see more of growing up. We should stop pretending that only movies starring men make money, and we should remember that there are many other demographics out there just ready to be dug into. That's how you keep a franchise interesting, after all.
What are you most excited to see from Captain Marvel? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!