*Warning: "Captain Marvel" Spoilers*
Mind you, I didn't hate "Captain Marvel." The action was interesting, the storyline had no more or less than the usual plotholes any superhero movie has, and there were many laughs (mostly prompted by Nick Fury and 90's references). I also loved Captain Marvel's uniform: a female superhero, actually totally covered up? Get out of town. Even the iconically feminist Wonder Woman's armor showed a looooot of skin. (And don't tell me it was "historically accurate". It was a lot of skin.) Captain Marvel doesn't try to run around in heels, doesn't need or fall for a man, and she is absolutely fearless.
The main issue I had with the film is the pivot point her mentor, Yon-Rogg, kept drilling into her: Don't lose control of your emotions. Your emotions make you weak.
The problem was, I didn't see Captain Marvel have emotions. Throughout the first part of the movie, she is confident and controlled. She has no emotional breakdowns, no struggles between choosing what she should do vs what she wants, no times when her focus on her heart betrayed her.
There was a hopeful moment halfway through the film when Carol/Vers is experiencing doubt and is confronted by her former best friend, Maria Rambeau, who tells her who she is and why she loves her. Carol and Maria embrace as tears fill Carol's eyes. Yes, I thought in the theaters—this will be the moment when Captain Marvel's cool boring collected personality falls away as a façade and she becomes warm and loving and real!
Nope. Carol/Vers goes right back into her lowkey confident, witty, flat personality, with little development to show the importance of her needing to overcome her emotions in order to embrace her true powers. Um, what emotions? Nick Fury cared more about his killer cat than Carol seemed to care for anything else.
Perhaps it was just poor writing and character development, perhaps it was just poor acting (that seems less likely), perhaps others think she actually did have fantastic emotional development and I'm the odd one out. But this bothered me on a particular level because of the emphasis placed on "Captain Marvel" being a great movie for feminism. It was lauded as groundbreaking for women and feminism—and then the main female character was, well, not feminine.
Qualities that we often associate with femininity are empathy, gentleness, a nurturing nature, and sensitivity. (Note: these are feminine qualities, not female qualities. Men can just as easily have feminine qualities as women can have masculine qualities—in fact, we should balance our traits.) Captain Marvel did not exemplify any of these qualities. (Again, Nick Fury showed far more empathy and a nurturing heart to her and the cat than Captain Marvel did to others.) She was assertive, aggressive, independent, and analytical—all qualities we typically associate with masculinity.
And that really bothered me. Do filmmakers think, in order to like a female superhero, we have to make her—well, just like all the other male superheroes? In order for a woman to be successful, she has to be and act just like the men?
My feminist nature revolts against this. Feminine qualities are equal in value to masculine qualities (which are readily apparent in all male-led superhero movies). I would love to see a female-led superhero movie where the woman was warm, nurturing, empathic, gentle, and sensitive—and still was badass and defended those around her with the same fierce passion as all superheroes. Where her feminine qualities were viewed as an asset, not something to be entirely stripped away.
Carol/Vers' supposed epitomal conflict is getting her emotions under control. (How many times have women been told they were too emotional?) But instead of showing us how she constantly lashed out with her emotions and then ultimately learned to bring them back to a place of balance and peace, so she could act with her mind and her heart—Captain Marvel remained essentially the same throughout the film.
I don't like that she was told to constantly control emotions she never displayed in the first place. And I especially don't like that she was stripped of feminine emotions or traits and acted, largely, just like "one of the boys". A female-led superhero movie is not just "one of the boys". That's the point. Please, give us a female superhero who manifests all of the qualities we associate with femininity—and show us how she can totally still kick ass.