Fight Like A Girl: Female Representation in Marvel Films

Madeline is a local middle school student, who had a lot to say about how Marvel films have inspired her. “When I see female superheroes in Marvel Movies I feel empowered. As a young woman I find it really inspiring to see such powerful women take the lead. Marvel has many male characters in which the movies are based around, so seeing characters like Captain Marvel makes me feel like I could be a strong and inspirational role model like her.”


For years women have been vastly underrepresented in film. According to statistics women represented only 36 percent of major characters in films in 2018, a one percent decline from the 37 percent recorded in 2017. It was also estimated that only 35 percent of films included 10 or more female speaking roles, while 82 percent of movies had at least 10 male characters with speaking roles. With these statistics in mind it only seems appropriate that Marvel, one of the biggest names in film, attempts to close this gap.


Plenty of female superheroes have been featured in Marvel films, but always as secondary characters. However, In recent years The Marvel Cinematic Universe has tried to create a more diverse climate in film, by introducing strong, powerful, female leads in their films. In 2019 actress Brie Larson played Captain Marvel, the first Marvel female superhero in HISTORY to have her own film.


The film focused on the origin story of Carol Danvers, who would later become a superhero operating under the moniker, Captain Marvel. The cast of this film not only included a female protagonist, but also featured female actresses like Lashana Lynch, who played the role of Danver’s best friend, Maria Rambeau. 


When talking about the importance of the film, actress Brie Larson said, “We’re telling a female story, but it’s not good enough to just be like, ‘You hired a female lead and then we did it!’ You have to infuse it in every aspect. We have to make sure that we are actually bringing more seats to the table, that we’re walking the walk. We’re not just putting it on a poster, that we’re living it.”


(Photo Credit: Marvel)

Evangeline, a young woman from Las Vegas, said, “as a young woman I feel that seeing female representation in Marvel movies is important. You don’t see many female superheroes who actually get their own movie, so seeing movies like Captain Marvel means a lot to me.”


This film helped to pave the way for Marvel Studios to focus even more on female empowerment, as they continue to roll-out female focused films. On May 7th, 2021 Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson will be hitting theatres everywhere. The trailer promises fans an origin story for Natasha Romanova, the young woman who eventually became the Black Widow. 


Much like what was done in the Captain Marvel film, Marvel will continue to introduce female characters in these female led Marvel films. Actress Florence Pugh will be playing ‘Yelena Belova’ a new superhero which will be appearing in future Marvel films. Marvel hopes to use this new character to propel an entirely new female-led story line. This means that in the future Marvel fans can expect to see even more female characters on the big screen.


In 2022 Marvel will continue its quest to create a more diverse climate in film by introducing another new character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jane Foster. In previous films Jane Foster, who is played by actress Natalie Portman, was portrayed as being Thor’s love interest. Foster was given the typical damsel in distress treatment, as she always appeared to need Thor to save her. Now, Jane Foster won’t need anyone to save her as she becomes a hero of her own. Natalie Portman described her role as an entirely different version of the famous superhero, based on the comic book series titled, ‘The Mighty Thor.’ She won’t be replacing the Thor played by actor Chris Hemsworth, but instead playing her own version of him.


While Marvel has tried to focus on adding strong female leads to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the famous film franchise also appears to be promoting inclusivity in another way. Women of color are vastly underrepresented in film. A diversity report from 2018 noted that the percent of black female characters in film is at 21 percent.


Black Panther took the world by storm in 2018 when the film featured an almost entirely african american cast. Strong female actresses like Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira were all featured in the film, playing strong roles. The women in the film all stood together to protect and fight for King T’Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman. 



The film gave each woman a powerful role. For example, Danai Gurira played Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje, which is a fictional army. Letita Wright played Shuri, the younger sister of T’Challa, who is a tech genius. Both women prove throughout the film that they are strong and powerful in their own right.


Marvel fan Cydney Boxx said, “It makes me feel really empowered and joyful to see a black woman portrayed as something other than a stereotype. Someone who is proud to be acknowledged as the hero. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance along with Letita Wright, Danai Gurira, and Angela Bassett in Black Panther boosted my confidence as a black woman. Their performance in this film is what I hope can change the negative stereotypes that surround black women.”


Throughout comic book history, women have been portrayed as damsels in distress who always needed to be saved by a much stronger male superhero. However, that isn’t the reality anymore. Women can be powerful heroes on their own and should be portrayed as such. In recent years the Marvel Cinematic Universe has attempted to create change by creating films that focus on and feature strong female leads. In the years to come I hope that Marvel continues this, until it isn’t so unusual to see successful women in film.

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