Oct. 8, 2015, Marvel Studios announced the sequel to the 2015 film “Ant-Man.” “Ant-Man and the Wasp” will be the first Marvel film named after its heroine. In the words of Hope van Dyne, the Wasp, “it’s about damn time.”
While Marvel has strong female characters such as Pepper Potts and Wanda Maximoff, Marvel has yet to release a film with a female title character.
Since 2008, Marvel Studios has released 12 movies, nine of which the title characters were male and two of which The Smurfette Principle comes into play.
According to Tvropes.org, the Smurfette Principle is when a cast is made up of all male characters aside from one female. In “Marvel’s the Avengers,” the Avengers are composed of five men and one woman, Black Widow, and in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the team is composed of four men and the female character Gamora.
The Smurfette Principle applies to films outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as seen in films like “Star Trek” and “Star Wars: A New Hope.” As demonstrated by The Smurfette Principle, Hollywood’s representation of women is lacking.
“[In 2014,]” Dr. Martha M. Lauzen reports, “females accounted for 29 percent of major characters, and 30 percent of all speaking characters.” Even though women compromise 52 percent of filmgoers, representation of the majority of audience members is embarrassingly low.
With a majority of filmgoers going under represented, fans of film franchises like Marvel haven't stayed silent on the matter. This June, in response to Black Widow’s depiction in “Avenger’s Age of Ultron” and her exclusion from merchandise, fan Kristen Riley launched the international flashmob campaign #wewantwidow.
Despite being in four of the 12 released Marvel films, Black Widow has yet to star in her own film, unlike her teammates Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor. In the case of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, they have had three solo films each while Black Widow has had none.
Black Widow has also been left out in merchandise. Going through Target, my friends and I failed to find an action figure of the popular spy, but there were plenty of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor. There was more merchandise for "Avengers: Age of Ultron's" villain than there was for the female hero.
Mother Amber Greenawalt noticed the lack of Black Widow merchandise and tweeted the following photo depicting her two girl holding an Avenger's action figure set excluding the female Avenger.
“Executives empowered with making decisions probably don’t care about our desires – as fans or as females,” flash mob organizer Jennifer K Stuller says. “It’s shocking that they don’t seem to care about our dollars…Our dollars should be their incentive, and perhaps some visualization of that potential for them… should speak to them in a way that accomplishes something beneficial.”
On the comic end of the Marvel universe, it appears executives have heard fans' pleas. “If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging,” Marvel’s editor-in-chief Axel Alonso says. “They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”
In July 2014, a woman took over the popular role of Thor. In Feb. 2015, Marvel announced the release of "A-Force," a team of only female superheroes. Silk, Spider-Woman, Spider Gwen, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel and Scarlet Witch are some female characters that will have their own comics post Marvel's secret wars.
Even on the television spectrum, Marvel has started to include more female leads. Last year, “Agent Carter” premiered and focused on SSR agent Peggy Carter. “Agent Carter” received high reviews: 97 percentfresh on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.2 out of 10 on IMDB.
This fall, Marvel continues its inclusion of female leads with "Marvel's Jessica Jones," a show centered on former heroine turned detective Jessica Jones.
"While there is no question that Hollywood has a long way to go in removing the many [female] stereotypes," The New York Film Academy reports, "the recent blockbuster successes of female-led films… [does] offer hope that more Hollywood films will showcase women in more active, less sexualized roles.”
In the case of Marvel, the film studio is taking steps to representing its female audience more with "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and the upcoming 2019 film "Captain Marvel," Marvel's first solo female lead film.