The Higher, Further and Faster Sexism of ‘Captain Marvel’

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Published March 27, 2019
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Carol Danvers uses her powers in "Captain Marvel." Photo courtesy of Disney

Similar to a fair number of other comic book films, “Captain Marvel” had its fair share of memorable moments, as well as some glaring weaknesses. Of course, simply reviewing the movie in a vacuum does not tell the whole story, considering it is the first of Marvel’s superhero flicks that features a female lead. It is a pleasant development, to be sure, but the unfortunate reality of what constitutes a female-led project like this is often, and most unfortunately, a perverse byproduct of sexism.

As someone who considers themselves a passionate member of comic book and nerd culture fandom, it is something I am continually and mightily ashamed of.

While things have certainly calmed down over the last few weeks, “Captain Marvel” has been tagged with being controversial by fans and moviegoers. The film received a bombardment of negative reviews before it was even released, prompting sites like Rotten Tomatoes to remove many of the user comments that were blatant trolling and even going as far to remove user reviews before a movie’s release altogether.

There was even, for a period of time, a boycott of the movie that circulated online, albeit stemming from a more vocal minority. The star of the movie, Brie Larson, has also been the subject of online harassment.

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Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers in “Captain Marvel.”
Photo courtesy of Disney

The level of negative reviews of the film after its release was so bad that the audience score at one point was as low as 33 percent, which by Rotten Tomatoes’ standards is abysmal. The rating has gone up since then, now currently at 61 percent, but the main presumption here is that there was some chicanery taking place.

People will argue that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that the movie was being talked about so negatively simply because it was a bad movie. If that were the case, why do people seem to love being so vocal about how much they hated it? Do the often-lamented “Transformers” movies make these kinds of waves after each release?

Remember when the trailer for the 2016 “Ghostbusters” featuring an all-female cast had some of the most dislikes on any YouTube video ever published? What could the difference possibly be?

There has also been the argument that Brie Larson is unlikable. This largely comes from some of the actress’s more public thoughts on female empowerment and politics. Even if she has made one or two statements that felt just a bit ill-advised, the majority of Larson’s history of public comments hardly constitutes any reason for an uproar.

For sake of argument, let’s pretend that the resentment for Larson is justified and she is actually a jerk. If that were the case, why did we not see the same for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” starring Tom Cruise, a noted crazy person?

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Carol Danvers sits in a fighter jet in “Captain Marvel.”
Photo courtesy of Disney

What about “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” which starred Chris Pratt, who had recently faced criticism for attending a church that had a prominent history of anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs? Why did the online troll brigade not report for duty those times? What could the difference possibly be?

The difference is that the internet and much of nerd culture is still, even in 2019, very much capable of enacting a disgusting amount of hostility toward women. It is mostly the work of primitive, lonely troglodytes, but the excuses people come up with for this kind of behavior are equally as problematic.

“Captain Marvel” was not a cinematic masterpiece, but treating it like it needs to be in order to avoid this kind of malice is shameful.

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