Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, is one of two characters that got me back into comics after a couple decades of buying into the basic fallacy that comics weren’t for people like me (queer, autistic, nonbinary…pick a card, any card). On March 8, Brie Larson will star in Captain Marvel, marking the first time in eleven years and twenty movies that a woman will be the main character in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. When the trailer first dropped back in September, I watched it over and over again, crying harder every time as Carol got up and up and up. When the final trailer dropped, something crystallized in my head that I hadn’t quite realized before.
I’m taking my 11 year old daughter to see the movie, and a big part of why is that she doesn’t give a crap that a woman is headlining a film.
She doesn’t know yet that it’s a huge deal to see a woman included in this geek world. She’s been raised as a strong second generation geek, going hard with DC Superhero Girls, My Little Pony, Sailor Moon, and Supergirl. Princeless, Raven, Lumberjanes, Cucumber Quest, Squirrel Girl, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Unstoppable Wasp and Ms. Marvel give her comics that she can comfortably enjoy rather than insert herself into sideways, which means that TV and comics are finally catching up to middle grade novels for female-led and female-oriented material.
When she found me sobbing over the first Captain Marvel trailer, she sat down and watched it with me. I pointed out the imagery that was getting to me – Carol getting knocked down and down and down, and getting up and up and up. She shrugged her shoulders and said it looked cool, and she’d go watch it with me.
My kid doesn’t care that it’s a woman up there being a hero. She cares that it’s a character Mom cares about enough to get weepy over, that she’ll get to go to the movie theater with the reclining seats, that I’ll insist we’re only getting a small popcorn and then get talked into the huge bucket and some candy to go with it.
When we saw Black Panther, we talked on the way home about how cool (and important) it was to see a Black girl as a scientist, a Black girl as a warrior, a movie that celebrated so many things about Black and African cultures. And I talked to her about the racism in the discussions around the movie; specifically, that white fanboys who were so upset to see a movie devoted to a Black man’s victories. She stopped in the middle of the street and shouted “Don’t they know that there are, like, a MILLION other movies for them? No one took those away, they can go watch THOSE movies and like, not yell at other people?”
I didn’t even feed her the line. I couldn’t have scripted it better.
So I’ll take my kid to the twenty-first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, like I have to the last several MCU movies, but this time a woman’s name is on the header. We’ll go to the reclining seats theater, and I’ll get “talked into” buying the big popcorn and candy. She won’t understand why it’s such a big deal to me to see Carol up there, what it means that this one is for us, and that’s fine. After all, it’s just a movie.
Who am I kidding, it’s not just a movie, not to me, not to a lot of us. It’s a hope that my daughter’s continuing journey into geekdom will be different than mine. That if she stays interested in comics, it won’t take her until she’s 38 to find a comic book store that she can go into without being stared at like a wild animal sighted in a nature program. That it’s a start.
I don’t know yet what Captain Marvel will be. I try hard to remember that it’s just a movie; it can’t be everything to everyone, and so it may not be what I, personally, want from a movie about Carol Danvers. But I’m betting that if this movie was made when I was eleven, it would have made me feel less alone. It’s not that I could fly or shoot photon blasts (I couldn’t and can’t and I know because I tried). It’s the sense of not knowing who I was and where I belong that was is evident in the Captain Marvel trailers: that, I know all too well.
This is a big budget, blockbuster, action movie with a female lead. This is a character who is called at the end of Avengers: Infinity War as the last hope of Nick Fury, the guy who created the Avengers. This is someone who got knocked down again and again, and got up not because of some girl power crap that male writers thought was going to seem enlightened and empowered instead of condescending, but because that’s what you do. You get up. I got up through 20 movies and three supporting female superheroes, and I’m standing here for Captain Marvel.
So is my daughter. She just didn’t have to get knocked down over the decades like I did to get here.