Until recently, the only main female characters in the #MCU were relegated to love interest status — aside from Black Widow (who, bafflingly, still hasn't got a solo movie), before Scarlet Witch joined the Avengers, Marvel's female leads were mostly the girlfriends of its main trio. Stark Industries CEO Pepper Potts, astrophysicist Jane Foster, and all-around badass Agent Peggy Carter are the OG #Marvel female leads, and yet all of them have been written out of the movies in various ways.
Jane Foster is the latest to get the boot, which is unsurprising considering the well-publicized bad blood between Marvel Studios and Natalie Portman after director Patty Jenkins was fired from Thor: The Dark World.
However, what is a surprise — and not a pleasant one — is how Marvel decided to handle Jane's absence from #ThorRagnarok.
Jane's Not Thor's Equal — Apparently
Yesterday, Kevin Feige revealed the reason for Jane's departure from the MCU to Entertainment Weekly. Falling back on the old they-broke-up chestnut, Feige also remarked that Jane was written out because Thor deserved to have an equal as a love interest. Ouch.
"We wanted Thor to encounter somebody that was near his equal and that his relationship with Jane may have evolved in unexpected ways in between 'The Dark World' and 'Ragnarok' and we wanted to pit him against a character who was much more his equal and in many ways his superior."
We can probably just accept that saying any woman is not equal to a man is pretty gosh darn sexist, so let's move on to why this statement isn't just specifically insulting to Jane Foster (and her fans), but also speaks to a wider problem in Marvel movies.
First off: Jane is definitely Thor's intellectual superior, and she proved this many times throughout the first and second Thor movies. As for being his equal, Jane definitely has equal courage if not equal physical strength, and her worth as a person shouldn't be undermined just because she can't hit things as hard as her ex-boyfriend. For the record, she totally could if she wanted to though — in the current Marvel #comicbooks, Jane wields Mjolnir and is the new version of Thor, becoming a superhero in her own right.
But even beyond these points, Jane Foster was an important part of the #Thor movies — as a scientist she added another dimension to the story, solving many of the problems herself. Even though she was rather underwritten and underused in Thor: The Dark World, Jane still figured out a way to save the day, making her just as much a hero as Thor himself. The relationship between the two characters was also really interesting, as they demonstrated a respect for each other's differences that we rarely see.
Having the couple break up offscreen isn't just a disservice to their shared history, it's also boring — and this way of writing Jane out also proves that the only reason she was even in the movies was so she could kiss Thor.
Marvel's Disposable Female Characters
Ultimately, that's the problem with how Marvel sees their female leads: They're only valid if they serve a male character's story, and once they've served that purpose they're totally disposable and exchangeable for a new model.
This isn't the first time this has happened, either. After she saved the day at the end of Iron Man 3, Pepper Potts was unceremoniously dumped offscreen, despite the fact that the third #IronMan movie seemed to solve a lot of her and Tony's relationship issues. While this was an easy way to explain her absence, the breakup seemed unnecessary — as a CEO, Pepper is understandably very busy — until Civil War introduced Tony to Spider-Man's Aunt May, a character he is rumored to form a romantic attachment to in Homecoming.
Even #AgentCarter, who is such a popular character she got her own TV show and repeatedly pops up in the Marvel movies, was replaced in Steve's affections by her own niece, Sharon, in a romantic subplot that felt awkward at best, and downright forced at worst.
And then there's the rest: Hope Van Dyne was forbidden from donning her own father's supersuit so that rookie Scott Lang could become a hero instead. Granted, she'll finally become the Wasp in the upcoming The Ant-Man & The Wasp — but she will not appear in #InfinityWar for unknown reasons. More recently, #DoctorStrange's Christine Palmer falls into this trap, as instead of using Stephen Strange's main love interest from the comics — the supremely powerful sorceress Clea — the writers chose a relatively unknown human character.
Of course, not all Marvel women are relegated to disposable love interest status. Maria Hill has a recurring role in the Avengers movies as well as popping into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — and the TV shows do have a fantastic array of female heroes like Quake and Jessica Jones.
And there does seem to be a shift in the Marvel movies, with Scarlet Witch helping to balance out the Avengers' gender inequality, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will introduce Mantis as well as making fan-fave Nebula part of the team. Interestingly, both Guardians 2 and Ragnarok have women as the main villains, which is the first time this has happened in the history of the MCU.
However, it's still sad to see Marvel cast aside past female characters, using their love interest status as justification to write them out offscreen and replace them with another woman. While Natalie Portman is well within her rights to quit, she hasn't written off returning later on — so it's a shame to hear Kevin Feige brush off Jane's character as just not worthy enough for Thor.
Are you disappointed that Jane Foster won't appear in 'Ragnarok'?
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)
[Poll image credit: Marvel]