March 08 is International Women’s Day. Very appropriately, we are celebrating by going to see Captain Marvel!
I’m hoping it’ll be as awesome as the trailers look!
To the people complaining that this version of Marvel is too political and therefore massively off-putting, I have only one thing to say.
(Long post warning.)
I have been looking forward to Captain Marvel for months, both because the production hired multiple talented people who happen to be women to work behind the scenes as well as in front of it, and – most importantly – because it depicts a determined, driven, principled superhero who happens to be a woman. Sure, she happens to end up beating the odds and winning the day; it’s a superhero flick, what did you expect?
It’s not news that we all like certain things and dislike others. Take color preferences, for example. I love a particular shade of blue, including clothes and furnishings, but can’t do purple. I just can’t; it feels uncomfortable and wrong. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of, say, blue shirts in the world; I can easily skip any purple ones coming my way. If I can’t find my particular shade among the blue shirts on a rack, it’s usually no big deal; I can make do with something else. If I really want my particular blue but cannot find it, however, it’s frustrating; and vice versa, when I unexpectedly find the perfect blue, it’s always such a joy.
Storytelling is similar, but with two important exceptions. Firstly, there are fewer limits to the kind of stories we can tell. As with textile production, the mass-production of stories on paper or screen takes resources and capital, but the basic activity of imagining and sharing stories has never been as easy in the history of humanity. And that means that, inch by inch, a wider variety of stories gets mass-produced. Likewise, in the textile land, besides the grey and brown wool of yore, we now have just about every color you can imagine, including the dreaded purple.
Secondly, stories are how we make sense of ourselves and the world; stories are important to our individual and collective identities. Like finding a shirt in your favorite color, reading a story that hits all the spots is a much more rewarding experience than reading a merely passable one. Unlike a shirt, however, a story that reflects you can be a profound experience, because we connect emotionally with stories and the characters in them.
Just like my favorite blue makes me feel good, stories with people like me (or people I admire) make me feel validated, even appreciated. It’s less important whether they share precisely the same set of identities as I do, for instance whether they’re curly-haired or bald, brainy or physical, reserved or exuberant, or anything else in between, as long as there’s something for me to connect with. But if protagonists do happen to closely resemble me (or a favorite of mine), then we get a yummy, fantastic, favourite blue situation!
I have never been a woman whose life is centered around homemaking and dainty, genteel pastimes – I love my home, sure, as introverts tend to do, and crafts are a part of my life, but they’re far from the whole of it. As long as I can remember, I’ve been curious about the world and how it works. In fact, since before school age I couldn’t understand why our neighbor’s boy stopped playing with me one day “because I was a girl”, or why I supposedly shouldn’t read my older cousin’s Tarzan comics. Even though I’ve occasionally enjoyed one or two, I certainly never want stories filled with romance, high heels and spa days to be the sole type of entertainment society allows me, because that’s not who I am. You might as well try to force me to wear purple. And as much as I like military scifi with cool dudes, if stories with leading males is all you can ever offer me, with no variation whatsoever, we can never be friends. The potential of humanity is immense, both biologically and mentally, and if our entertainment doesn’t reflect that, it’s acutely deficient.
Consequently, my dislike of purple isn’t a diss on fans of purple. You can have your favorites and I can have mine. Sometimes different preferences can coexist just fine, and sometimes you learn to appreciate new combinations. I can still remember seeing pink combined with orange for the first time. I hated it with a passion! Since then, I’ve actually come to like it; in fact, the very first pair of wool socks I knitted are striped with pink and orange. 🙂
To carry the color metaphor even further, I have absolutely no problem associating with people who love purple. I’ve even seen magnificent purple outfits that have knocked my socks off. They’re just not what I want to spend my life looking at or wearing myself, because blue is more important to me. You simply can’t fill shirt racks with shades of purple and pretend that’s good enough for everyone, no changes allowed, ever, because that’s not how humanity works.
In conclusion, if you argue that a female-lead superhero movie is wrong and stupid, and people disliking all-male-all-the-time storytelling are idiots, that it’s all “unnecessary” politics and this “diversity shit” is ruining “good” stories, I can only feel sorry for you. Truly – your myopic existence sounds utterly, mindnumbingly boring. While there is and should be room for comfort food and comfort stories alike, change is absolutely necessary in life! Just like there can be purple shirts next to blue ones on the rack, pants (the shocker!) can also come in purple. Or shoelaces, suspenders or underwear! You don’t have to buy the purple ones if you hate them! The stores will soon be filled with something else anyway. Why can’t you instead be happy that your best friend finally, finally, has the purple fedora they’ve always dreamt about?
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you’ll have a good time with your favorite media. But I myself would never wish to be as heedless as to go into conniptions over one (one!) female-lead MCU movie after 20 male-lead ones. Just like I do not want you to blacken my favourite blue, I don’t want to see you or hear you moaning in a theater playing Captain Marvel. ‘Cause I’ll be there in blue – with a little bit of red and gold, and a huge smile!
P.S. I have come to realize that purple paisley suspenders are surprisingly cool-looking!