This is a question, which is equally simple and complicated. In and of itself there is naturally nothing inherently sexist about criticizing any movie. But there is a certain kind of criticism which has became very noticeable in the last years, which does veer into questionable territory, to put it light. And for various reasons, I feel that this is the right moment to address this particular phenomenon.
I originally started a long a really long text about the development of what I guess you can call the best the “Anti-SJW” crowd. They tend to hide between various labels, but that name sums up the sentiment behind the movement perfectly. Anyway, I tried to map its development, but halfway through, I realized that there are way too many instances of a movie or TV show being targeted to really list all of them and explain all the BS which got thrown at them in an article of reasonable length. Plus, I don’t think that there is really much value in recapping years of “controversy”. There is value, though, in examining the mechanisms behind those controversies. So, let me change the starting question a little bit, from “Is it sexist?” to “When is movie criticism sexist?”. And I will answer the question with exposing three lies, exploring three whats and finishing on three whys.
1. The Three Lies in Sexist Movie Criticism
1.1 The Lie of Forced Diversity
I am sure you have heard this complain before, you might have even used it yourself: “Why did they have to force diversity into this movie? It just ruined it!” or “The forced feminism in this movie makes me cringe.” The problem with this line of thinking is that it puts the blame in the wrong place.
Despite what some people like to claim, every movie out there has some sort of agenda. The agenda of the studios is naturally to make money. The agenda of the writers and director is to tell a good story. The reason why there are suddenly so many movies and properties which go “more diverse” is not because studios are particularly interested in social justice, it is simply because Hollywood has finally figured out that diversity sells. See Moana. See Black Panther. See Crazy Rich Asians. At the same time there is also more diversity behind the scenes, too. Naturally a female director leans towards providing a more female perspective.
Let’s use Ghostbusters 2016 as an example. The agenda was clearly to revive a in the past highly successful franchise. And, in an attempt to reach a new audience with it, it was also supposed to speak to woman in particular. That’s how they came up with a concept which could basically summoned up with “Let’s reboot the Franchise, but with women”.
The concept is in itself lazy, but in a vacuum, I wouldn’t call it unworkable. After all, this is exactly what they did with the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, too, and there it worked fairly well, despite some eye-rolling from the audience. One particular challenge was that the Ghostbusters fandom was still living in the hope of a continuation, not a remake. But, I think it would have been possible to get them on board for a new take that if the concept had also contained a new angle other than the all female cast. And if the concept had been executed well. And it just wasn’t.
Or, to put it differently: If the infamous Psycho-Remake had featured Norma Bates as the killer, the problem would have still been that it was a shot by shot remake. In this case, the execution was in a way impressive, but the concept was lacking, and it would have been neither improved or made worse by adding a gender switch to it. It would have most likely lead to another reaction to the movie, one which wouldn’t have focussed on the shot-by-shot aspect of the movie, but on the gender switch.
A movie which is badly written is usually called out for exactly that. But if said bad writing involves a character which is not a straight white male, it is suddenly called “forced diversity”. And that is why the notion of “forced diversity” is a lie. Because it doesn’t really point to a specific problem in concept or execution, it blames the agenda for the flaws of a movie. And remember, the agenda here is simply to have more representation in movies. So if someone says that “forced diversity” is the problem, knowingly or unknowingly he or she is basically saying “it is a problem to have a more diversity in movies”.
There is in principle nothing wrong with criticising the agenda behind a movie. For example I certainly fault Olympia for the agenda behind it, despite offering both a sound concept and mostly impressive execution. The message the movie tries to send is simply disgusting. And if you are really disgusted by the notion of more diversity, well, go ahead and complain about “forced diversity”. But don’t be surprised if someone’s reaction is to call you out because of it.
1.2 The Lie of Honest Concerns
“But what if a property is simply not made for diversity?” I hear you ask. Well, I don’t, but I suspect that some might raise this particular point. After all, isn’t it possible that the agenda of a director overrides the nature of a property so much that it changes the very nature of it?
First of all, there are very, very few cases in which a gender switch or the addition of more female characters have that much of an impact. Take Doctor Who. It is part of the concept of the show is that the Doctor is replaced on average every three seasons, and that each Doctor has his own quirks and special personality traits. So why shouldn’t the Doctor be female? That is right in line with keeping the show fresh by trying out new versions. Or Star Trek. Is it really in itself a problem that the main character of the new show is female?
A particular amusing case of misguided criticism happened regarding the remake of Watership Down. There were a lot of complains about a scene, in which it is established that doe’s are better diggers. Now, the remake in general tried to give the female rabbits a bigger role, and some of the decisions made in the process were unfortunate, narratively speaking. The animated series did a way better job in this regard. But this particular idea, which caught by far the most ire, is straight from the book. It just wasn’t in the first movie because of time restrains.
There is exactly one property I can think of where I would agree that a gender switch is itself unwise: James Bond. That is because James Bond was designed to be the ultimate male fantasy. You could do a version with a female spy, but would that really be still James Bond? Most likely not. Nevertheless, if a studio decided on this approach, this wouldn’t automatically result in a bad movie. It would just be a bad James Bond adaptation. Just like The Shining was a great movie, but a terrible adaptation. Just like Rambo was a great movie but a terrible adaptation. Just like Die Hard was a great movie but a terrible adaptation. I would even put forward the notion that Daniel Craig as Bond made for good movies but terrible adaptations of James Bond. There is a reason why some people call those the “James Borne” movies, and are waiting patiently for a new Bond which might be more to their liking.
That is something else we have to keep in mind. Even if we don’t like an approach a studio takes, other people might. And if nobody likes it, well, sooner or later there might be another attempt to adapt the IP in question. And if not, we will still have the version we fell in love with. So what exactly is there to be “concerned” about? About the revenue of a multi million dollar corporation? About the possibility that a movie or TV show might not resonate with the fanbase?
Believe me, I get that sometimes it can be very aggravating if a studio “ruins” your favourite franchise or movie. Just look up my various rants regarding Maleficent. But at the end of the day, it is always just a movie. And there will always be another adaptation eventually.
1.3 The Lie of Impacted Ticket Sales
So now that I have established that diversity in itself doesn’t impact the overall quality of the movie, let’s talk about Box Office. Is the financial failure of movies like Ghostbusters 2016 or the current downward trend in the Star Wars Franchise proof that the audience are put off by so called “forced diversity”?
Let’s be realistic here: While proven IPs often are a good bet at the box office, they are not a guaranteed success. Ghostbusters 2016 is hardly the first reboot which underperformed at the box office. From Blade Runner to Zoolander, there have been a lot of examples of beloved properties having a smaller fanbase than the studio expected. Yes, Ghostbusters was a smash-hit back in the day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a huge fanbase just dying to see more of the franchise. Especially since a lot of aspects of the first movie, like the casual sexism and the anti-regulation message didn’t really age all that well.
In addition, one of the various problems with Ghostbusters 2016 was the overblown budget. Officially it cost 144 million. This is on the lower end of the budget of a MCU movie. To compare, the original movie had a budget of 30 million. Since that was 30 years ago so you have to account for inflation, but even then the comparative price tag would be 70 million (around 130% as much), not more than double this amount. In addition, while the first Ghostbusters made 295.2 million, it’s sequel clocked in at only 215.4 million. So you have a 30 year old franchise which ended in a downward trend and you basically bet on it making a minimum 400 million? That is just what Tron: Legacy made on a budget of 170 million. There is a reason why Rise of the Planet of the Apes only got a budget of 90 million, and it is due to this budget that 481.8 million could be considered a huge success, while the third movie in the franchise, War of the Planet on the Apes, was considered a financial disappointment after grossing 490.7 million on a 150 million budget.
In order for Ghostbusters 2016 to succeed, it needed good word of mouth and a convincing marketing campaign. Ghostbusters 2016 had neither. So is it really a wonder that it only made 229.1 million in the end? Granted, I can’t proof that it wouldn’t have made more with a different cast, but then, nobody can proof that it would have either. I can’t even proof conclusively that it would have done better with a different trailer. Or just by being a better movie.
So when someone tries to convince you that a movie failed because of “forced diversity”, remember that there are a lot of “diverse” movies out there which soared at the Box office. Remember that a lot of movies fail for various reasons. Take Solo for example. The narrative which is pushed by the Anti-SJWs is that it failed in reaction to “forced diversity” in The Last Jedi. In reality the notion of a Solo movie never really resonated with the fanbase, it was released in a crowded market and it is another case of an overblown budget due to a troubled production. We won’t know how much of an impact The Last Jedi had until Episode 9 gets released, and if the number go down, well, it will be still because of the overall quality of the recent Star Wars movie, and not because of “forced diversity”.
Frankly, the majority of the audience doesn’t care one way or another anyway. They watch a movie if it appeals to them, if the marketing campaign is convincing, because of word of mouth or simply because it happens to be best reviewed movie on the day they have time to go to the movie theatre. This is not about what the Anti-SJW movement manages to do on a large scale, it is about how much damage they can do on a more personal scale. Within the fandoms and to the people in it.
2. The Anti-SJW Movement
2.1 What are their methods?
2.1.1 Step one: Divide
Usually there are two groups in every fandom: Those who like an entry to a franchise and those who don’t. The reasons why the members of said group feel that way might differ, but this is the basic divide. On the surface it might look as if the Anti-SJW movement belongs into the second group, but they really don’t. They just like to insert themselves into this group.
To be clear here, I don’t claim that the Anti-SJW movement is one unified group. I also don’t claim that Anti-SJW haven’t been fans at one point. I am claiming that once they start pushing their narrative, they stop being honest players within the fandom. Because their goal is not to have a friendly discussion about a beloved franchise, their goal is to force their worldview on everyone else. And a core element of this worldview is “the other”.
The other is basically everyone who doesn’t agree with them. They call this group “SJWs”, but frankly, it includes everyone who dares to not belong to their circle. People who give a positive review to a movie they want to fail are “shills”. And they do their very best to convince other fans to buy into this worldview with every dirty trick possible. Every bit of news relating to the franchise in question gets twisted until it is either something to be outraged or triumphant about. If someone involved in the production points out the obvious sexism behind the attack on a movie, it is portrayed as “they say that every criticism of the movie is sexist”. If a movie fails, they bask in having been right and the studio should have known better than to “go woke”. And naturally there is the ever-present narrative that it is impossible to criticise a movie or a TV show without being called a sexist.
I naturally haven’t read every review of, say, The Last Jedi. But I can safely say that I have seen no such accusations under any video which explained why the fandom reacted so negative to the deconstruction of the Star War Mythos. I have barely seen such accusations under videos which maybe deserved it for their sexist or racist arguments against the movie, or were made by people who made such arguments beforehand and therefore didn’t qualify as unbiased reviewers anymore. Honestly people who aren’t receptive for those kind of sexist arguments tend to avoid channels which deal in it anyway. What I have seen a lot is abuse hurled at people who dared to say that they actually liked The Last Jedi for “being shills”, “riding Disney’s dick” or being “soyboys”.
My observations are naturally purely anecdotal. But if the Star Wars fandom has really reached a point that you can’t have any discussion about the movies without people screaming at each other slurs, the people who complain the loudest about it are the ones who created the toxicity in the first place.
2.1.2 Step two: Conquer
I said above that Anti-SJW’s are never happier than when a movie they have targeted fails. But that isn’t what constitutes as a win for them. No, a win is when “normal” fans and ideally the media start to buy into their narrative. Every fan who honestly thinks that Ghostbusters 2016 solely failed because of the all female approach is a win for them. Every fan who feels the need to put a huge disclaimer in front of his review is a win for them. Every comment which talks about “agendas” is a win for them. Every time some media outlets acts as if they are some huge force which has actually the power to sink a movie, they win. And the biggest win is when someone starts to believe into their notion of a culture war, in the idea that dangerous SJW destroy our franchises by convincing the studios to “go woke”, and that the Anti-SJWs are the only ones which see it “how it is”.
More often then not, though, they do fail. All the attacks on Furiosa and Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t change the popularity of the movie or its success at the academy award, and the fandom itself was mainly laughing about the complains that a franchise, in which the title character has taken more the “stranger comes into town and solves the problem of someone else” has been a thing for ages, choose to tell exactly that kind of story. In the case of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, I guess there simply wasn’t enough of an invested fandom in the first place to cause any notable outrage. Not that the movies are disliked, but I have never encountered someone who was particularly invested in the characters or into seeing more of the franchise. In the case of Watership Down everyone pretty much agreed that the animated movie and/or TV series was the better adaptation, and that the lack of “Bright eyes” was the biggest problem and moved on.
But if the SJWs fail to push their narrative, this isn’t really the end of it. Oh no. In those cases, they pull a particularly devious move.
2.2.3 Step three: Retreat
The thing with the Anti-SJW narrative is that it only thrives in a particular environment. Meaning, they need a property in which a lot of people are invested in and there already need be some sort of discussion or controversy they can hide behind. They hid behind those who wanted a continuation rather than a remake in the Ghostbusters fandom. They hide behind those, who aren’t happy with either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi (or both) in the Star Wars fandom. And they tried to hide behind the Marvel vs DC rivalry in the run-up to Wonder Woman.
Naturally they pretend that they never said anything against Wonder Woman at all. Oh no, Wonder Woman, that is the movie which did it right. It wasn’t political, it didn’t have a “woke” campaign, that’s why there is no controversy around it. Or so they claim. That is naturally ignoring that there were indeed complains about the body of Gal Gadot in the run-up to the movie, that a huge fuss was made around the notion of a female only screening and that there are reviews out there which tell the “Truth” about Wonder Woman’s oh so dangerous man-hating message.
The thing is that all their attempts to attack Wonder Woman never took quite off. Partly because the DC fans were just excited to finally get a movie about what is easily the most famous female comic book character and a watchable DCEU movie, and the Marvel fans, well, they were either equally excited or they simply didn’t care, secure in the knowledge that no matter what, the MCU would still be the biggest franchise in town. Mostly thought because it is pretty hard to convince people that having a Wonder Woman movie is a bad idea after Batman already got eight (not counting the serial and two theatrically released animated movies) and Superman seven.
It is in a way a neat trick those Anti-SJWs use. If the movie fails, they can declare that they were right all along and that its “wokeness” is the reason for its failure. But if it succeeds, well, then they either say “but it is not THAT good”, or they just rewrite history and claimed that they always knew it would succeed. Or both. This way every movie they target becomes either a success or a fig leaf for them, an opportunity to claim “oh no, this controversy isn’t sexist at all, just look at all the other female lead movies which aren’t controversial at all”. Btw, most of those examples they like to cite are movies which were released before Internet culture was a big thing, so there couldn’t have been a controversy surrounding them in the first place.
In case you haven’t caught on yet: “I can’t be sexist because I like female character X.” is basically their version of “I have a friend who is black” or “I would have voted for Obama a third time.” It’s a meaningless claim. If you attack a movie or a TV show on the basis of “I don’t like female leads” or “female leads are so forced”, you are using a sexist argument, never mind if you are officially part of the Anti-SJW crowd or if you are just unknowingly parroting some of their propaganda.
2.2 What are their goals?
So why even bother? Are those people really that obsessed over a movie? I guess some of them are. But there are two even stronger motivations.
One is simply money. I went through the history of one channel which is currently pushing out Anti-SJW vids on a daily basis. Looking at the early videos of the channel, mostly games related, they had tree digits views. Until a vid regarding The Last Jedi, which suddenly got five digits views. And then the viewership grow with every video about the topic, the more toxic, the better.
The truths is that controversies sell. Find a popular property and tell the fans there is something to be outraged about, and you most likely will develop a base of people happily being outraged with you. People who click on your video, giving you attention and/or money in the process.
But there is also a darker underbelly to the movement. And the goals of those people are way more dangerous than just conning some people into clicking on their videos.
2.3 What are the dangers?
And now we get to the reason why I wanted to write this article in the first place. It was certainly not because I think that I have to defend the movies I listed so far, or because I am worried over future movie projects. Movie studios don’t care about some whiners on the Internet, they do their market research, and obviously said market research tells them that they stand way more to gain if they address both genders with their movies. There will be more marketing campaign addressing specifically woman in the future, and there will be bigger roles in movies for them. And since a lot of males are pretty bad when it comes to writing or portraying women, there will be more opportunities for them behind the screen too. There is still a long way to go, but those Anti-SJW’s are hardly a stumbling stone.
What they are, though, is a source of hatred, and not just towards movies, but above all towards women. For Leslie Jones Ghostbusters 2016 eventually turned into a nightmare. I think it should be obvious why she was the one actress who got singled out, but to make it perfectly clear: Sexism and Racism often go hand in hand, and if women in Hollywood have a hard time, well, this is at least tenfold true for women of colour.
Following the release of the movie, Leslie Jones got relentlessly attacked on Twitter with racist remarks, leading to the suspension of one well-known alt-right figure. This in turn naturally lead to his fanbase coming to “his defence” and piling on even more. I will spare you the details, because frankly, I don’t want anyone googling the names involved and/or the remarks, giving those people even more attention in the process. Leslie Jones eventually left Twitter, and if you listen to her talking about it, it is clear that the online abuse took their toll out of her.
But that was not the end of the story, oh no. One month later she was again the target of several online attacks. Her personal website was hacked and being replaced with photos of her drivers license and passport. Nude photographs allegedly of her were displayed, as well as a video tribute to a gorilla killed in the Cincinnati Zoo in reference to earlier racist remarks regarding her look. In case this isn’t clear: They first compared her to a gorilla and then send her a video which was an obituary to a murdered gorilla. The website was then taken down.
There is a pipeline connecting the Anti-SJW movement to the so called sceptic community, which overlaps with the alt-right. Meaning that those movie controversies are now serving as some sort of gateway drug to getting radicalized. And no, I am not saying that everyone who watches one of those videos will eventually gun down people. I am saying that the people who are being radicalized on the internet didn’t start their journey down the rabbit hole by actively looking up conspiracy theories.
Let’s be honest here, only a few people care to listen to political blogs. But they do care about computer games and movies. They care about being part of a fan community. And it is sadly way, way too easy to lead someone, especially someone who is either young or simply not particularly savvy in spotting fake news, from “This movie disappointed me” to “It is the fault of SJWs that this movie disappointed me” to “This woman is to blame for the failure of this movie” to videos in which it is explained to him why women in general are destroying civilisations. The Youtube algorithm will automatically lead someone looking to confirm his own outrage to videos which give him even more excuses to be outraged. About crazy SJWs. About supposedly egoistic women. About oh so dangerous foreigners. About some sort of hidden cabal wanting to take away your rights. And then it is only a small step to convince someone that he is somehow under attack. In the worst case scenario, he might grab a weapon and shoot some people.
And no, I am not saying that this is the explanation for the Christchurch shooting. I started working on this article before it had even happened. But I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this played into it. Because it was by far not the first shooting where the attacked was radicalized on the internet and it won’t be the last. What we do on the internet has real life consequences.
Even the words in itself can do a lot of damage. Every day there is abused hurled at people involved in the so called controversial movies, and usually the women are especially singled out. I was already writing this article when this story was posted at one of the WordPress blogs I follow. It describes the experience a female reviewer had when she dared to write a negative review for Shazam.
If someone is now wondering how exactly Shazam is related to the whole Anti-SJW movement, congratulations, you managed to avoid a lot of BS in the last months. Shazam is relevant to this discussion because the current target of the Anti-SJW movement is Captain Marvel. And since Shazam used to be called “Captain Marvel” too, plus, since it is a DC movie, part of the narrative they want to push is that Shazam is the better movie. That is most likely the reason why someone got so upset over Rachel writing one of the few negative reviews for the movie, that he threatened to kill her, and then couldn’t understand why he was so outraged in the first place after she engaged in a dialogue with him.
Captain Marvel also happens to be the reason why I decided to write this article. Not because I think that the movie needs to be defended in any way. But because for the first time ever the Anti-SJW crowd not only largely failed to push its intended narrative into the mainstream, they overdid it to a degree that for once, there is nothing for them to hide behind. A lot of people who would usually defend their right to “have an opinion” are now rolling their eyes about them. Which makes for an excellent opportunity to call the Anti-SJW crowd out on their BS.
But before I examine the not so curious but very educational case of Captain Marvel, here is a heartfelt plea: Don’t buy into the outrage. If you come across a story of someone taking an oh so scandalous position, track the news to the original source. Most of the time, there will be little to be outraged about once you have all the fact. And if there actually is something to be outraged about, be careful that the way you act on it doesn’t lead to innocent people getting hurt figuratively or literally caught in the crossfire. And above all, don’t buy into the narrative Anti-SJWs spin. They like to claim that they are only “reacting” to what others do. They don’t, they are the ones who keep attacking other people, but then act like the poor innocent victims when there is only a slight pushback against them. And there is nothing which makes this more obvious than the so called controversy surrounding Captain Marvel.
3. Captain Marvel
3.1. Why was it targeted?
Well, there is naturally the obvious reason. The MCU is the biggest franchise out there, with a huge fanbase. There is a whole industry with is just about creating clickbait relating to the MCU. This makes it a juicy target in and of itself, because the more people are interested, the more people will watch your content.
It also seems to be on the surface a good place to insert yourself in. There is the ongoing and sometimes in itself toxic rivalry between Marvel and DC fanboys (not to confuse with regular fans), there are the people who simply dislike the MCU because it is so successful or because they dislike Disney in general, there even was already some sort of controversy around the comic version of Captain Marvel which had a sexist element to it. In short, the latest redesign of the character, which got rid of her leotard and replaced it with a sensible uniform has led to people calling her “Carol Manvers” for not being feminine enough anymore. And her questionable role in the latest big event, Civil War II, hasn’t really helped matters.
But there is one moment in particular which seemed to have triggered the ire of the SJW movement. In an interview with the Vulture in October 2016 Kevin Feige said:
“It’s very important to us that all of our heroes do not become silhouette-perfect cutout icons. All of the Marvel characters have flaws to them, all of them have a deep humanity to them. With Captain Marvel, she is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie. Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we’ve ever had. It’s important, then, to counterbalance that with someone who feels real. She needs to have a humanity to tap into, and Brie can do that.”
This pretty obvious remark got turned into “Captain Marvel will be the most powerful Avengers yet” in the comic book media news circle. Even worse (in the eyes of the Anti-SJWs), Kevin Feige never backtracked this comment, he did the opposite. He confirmed that yes, she is the most powerful so far and yes, she will play a key role in the future of the MCU.
Now, let me remind everyone that sexist and racist attacks aren’t exactly a new thing when it comes to the MCU. Since Disney decided to remove Kevin Feige from the oversight of Perlmutter, giving him free reign in his studio, he has actively pushed for more diversity in the MCU, and there have always been complains to this approach. When Shuri was billed as the smartest person in the MCU, a lot of people were positively incensed over the notion, making long lists of who in their opinion should be smarter than her. And how the hell dare she to be amused about Bruce Banner’s design of Vision’s mind. I mean, it is not like she is an expert in vibranium or anything like that.
Those lowkey aggressions have always been there, but Kevin Feige’s statement lead to some people getting nervous about Captain Marvel. Suddenly the movie was not just the first female lead movie in the MCU, it became the symbol for a new, more diverse era. So from this day forward, there were people just looking for a reason to hate on the movie. And the Anti-SJW fake news machine delivered. Oh boy, did it deliver.
3.2. Why did it get out of hand?
In a way, it didn’t. No, really, what happened was actually pretty run-of-the-mill, though the sheer volume of it was unusual. But you had the usual arguments. You had attacks on the quality of the movie before it was even released, on the main actress, you had even unfounded accusations of racisms and sexism raised by them (which is really rich coming from the Anti-SJWs), there were desperate attempts to pit fan-bases against each other.
But this time, the Anti-SJW crowd largely miscalculated. Due to a couple of circumstances they couldn’t slip into the fandom as easily as usual. For the following reasons.
One, the MCU fandom is general is currently largely content. Infinity War was a huge success and everyone is just waiting for Endgame to blow their mind. Also, “In Feige we trust” is pretty much a mantra between MCU fans. They have simply no reason to expect that any Marvel movie will fail due to the impressive track record of the MCU. And in terms of success, well, the MCU is easily the highest grossing franchise of all time. They don’t have any reason to worry about the success of anyone else, because at the end of the day, the MCU is practically untouchable at this point. Likewise the attempt to rile up Black Widow fans by claiming that she was “more deserving” of getting a movie first largely failed. Honestly, it was kind of funny how the same people who spend years questioning why Black Widow is even an Avenger suddenly acting as if she had been somehow wronged. Meanwhile those who wanted to see a Black Widow movie for years were just glad to even get one, and there was little desire to pit franchises within the MCU against each other. “We can have both”, is the mantra of the common MCU fan.
Two, none of the usual Marvel detractors could be animated to pile in on the movie. The DC fanboys were busy basking in the afterglow of Aquaman. Those comic book movie fans which are usually unhappy about the lack of more stand-alone movie or want to go back to the early 2000s style got Into the Spiderverse and Venom. And the “Marvel movies are overrated” fraction was focussed on the academy award nominations for Black Panther and not on Captain Marvel. There was even a really desperate attempt to create a rivalry with Alita: Battle Angle out of the thin air, just because it happened to be another female lead movie which was released shortly before Captain Marvel, but the only people who feel the obsessive need to point out that Alita was the better movie are Anti-SJWs. I got the impression that the original fans of Alita were mostly annoyed that their fandom was hijacked in this way.
Three, they simply misread the fans. See, Anti-SJWs tend to interpret silence as agreement. So when during the run-up to the movie the buzz around it was mostly muted, and there were no channels which balanced out their relentless attacks on Captain Marvel with exited fan theories and positive predictions regarding the movie, they read it as disinterest in the movie. In reality, the fanbase was simply laying in wait. Next to nobody was either particularly worried or excited and the main reason there wasn’t more buzz around it was the fact that Endgame is an even better topic to speculated about. The only ones who cared to be outraged about Captain Marvel were those they managed to draw into their little bubble. The larger fandom didn’t care. The general audience wasn’t even aware that there was supposedly something to be outraged about.
As a result, they couldn’t really blame their actions on SJW’s, claiming that they were just acting in defence (though there sadly are some people who buy into that narrative nevertheless). Nor could they employ their usual strategy to quietly slink away once a movie they deemed to be a sure failure turned out to be a success after all. They had to either admit that they were wrong – which would undermine their whole “go woke and go broke” narrative – or they had to double down. They doubled down in a desparate attempt to rewrite reality.
To illustrate HOW desperately those “alternate facts” are pushed, here is a selection of video titles one particular channel whose name I will NOT mention in this article released just within roughly one or two weeks around the time of the release of Captain Marvel in reverse order (skip the next paragraph to protect your brain cells) :
Studio Executives Admit To Silencing Negative Opinions On Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel – A Political Propaganda Film For The Mainstream Media, Rotten Tomatoes Enforces More Censorship…, Captain Marvel Needs $750 Just To Break Even – Disney Panics!, Captain Marvel Drops A Massive 72% At The Box Office, Mainstream Media Ignores Wonder Woman To Give Praise To Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel: Brie Larson Deserved All the Criticism She Received, Captain Marvel’s Box Office Numbers Are A Success… If They’re True, Clark Gregg Calls Out MCU Fans Over Captain Marvel Criticism, Captain Marvel’s Box Office Success Is A Big Problem, Captain Marvel Soars While the Media Expose Their Own Bias, Male Feminist Review: Captain Marvel – The Best Movie Evar!, Captain Marvel Opening Weekend Numbers – Let’s Talk About The Facts, No BS Review – Captain Marvel (From A Woman), Captain Marvel – Rotten Tomatoes Adds Fan Scores Back!!! This is Crazy, Captain Marvel – Rotten Tomatoes is Protecting This Movie!, Brianna Wu Calls For Government Intervention Over Captain Marvel Fan Reviews, Rotten Tomatoes Deletes 54,000 Captain Marvel Fan Reviews, Captain Marvel Bots Don’t Understand The Box Office At All, n Marvel Audience Score Already Rotten – The Fans Will Be Heard!, Trouble In Paradise – Avengers Cast Members Unhappy With Captain Marvel and Brie Larson!?, Alita: Battle Angle Will Be In Theaters This Weekend – Ignore Captain Marvel, Support Alita!, Captain Marvel – Rotten Tomatoes Score Keeps Falling!, Captain Marvel – Officially A Disaster, Before You See Captain Marvel Remember – Brie Larson Doesn’t Care About The Opinions Of White Men, Pay Attention – Captain Marvel Reviews Aren’t Great!, Boycott Captain Marvel!, Captain Marvel Week – Get Ready For a Week Of SJW Craziness
Aaaaand I think this is the perfect line of hypocrisy to end this list, even though I could go on for some time, since this channel alone made over hundred vids just about how awful Captain Marvel would be, before the movie was even released. But this should be enough to show how an effort to discourage fans from watching Captain Marvel switched to an attempt to talk down the success of the movie.
I haven’t quite kept track of what the newest BS narrative is, but after pushing some conspiracy regarding the box office success of Captain Marvel while also constantly moving the goal posts for when it can be considered a success, there are now spreading fake news about her role in Avengers: Endgame.
Which brings me to the other reasons why they aren’t backing down this time around. See, originally Captain Marvel wasn’t really that important. Yes, it was the first female lead movie in the MCU. And it was in the sense important that after the success of Wonder Woman, it would serve as a proof of concept that no matter what the bigwigs at Sony studios thought, female lead comic book movies can be successful. But it was never poised to be a ground-breaking event of the kind Black Panther was. Just another female lead movie which had been announced years ago.
But it is also part of a bigger picture, exactly because it is part of the MCU. Which is owned by Disney. Which also owns Star Wars. And which is for some reason considered a representation of “leftist Hollywood” by right-wingers.
Now, this is naturally nonsense. Yes, creative people are more likely to lean to the left. But every studio, and that includes Disney, is first and foremost interested in making money.
To Disney’s credit, the studio tends to be a little bit more open-minded towards change than one would expect from a brand which has been built entirely around “family values”. It had women and people of colour in key positions before other studios did, it offers more diversity in its animated movies than any other Animation studio (not that this is saying much) and it is hard to find a fault in the messages they project.
But it would be naive to think that Disney is some sort of paragon for social justice. Politically speaking Disney leans way more conservative than democratic, just like every other company. After all, what would happen if they were forced to actually pay tax on their parks in Florida and California? Some of the higher-ups might genuinely hate Trump, but for the company their main issue with him is that his administration is actively damaging Disney’s business. They also don’t support gay rights out of their goodness of their hearts, they do it because the gay community literally stormed their park and Disney smartly decided to turn this into a regular event rather than trying to keep them out. Don’t expect a movie actually featuring a gay character anytime soon, though, and not just because of the Chinese market. Disney will never deliberately do something which will anger their audience, but Disney will always readily shift with it.
So if Disney or Gillette or Pepsi take a pro social justice stance you can bet that they don’t do it out of the desire to change the world into something better, they do it because it already has changed. They have done the math and figured out that this is what will bring them the most approval (and therefore more money) from their customers.
Nevertheless, when Kevin Feige said that it would be the start of a more diverse MCU, Captain Marvel suddenly became a threat to the Anti-SJWs. Because it is one thing to have a female hero, it is another thing to have her more powerful than anyone else, and maybe even have her as leader of the Avenger. Btw, Kevin Feige never said that she would lead anything, he just said that she would play a key role in the future of the MCU, which makes sense. Marvel intends to go more cosmic with the MCU, and Carol Danvers is a cosmic character with ties to earth.
The MCU specifically has made $18,567.4 to date . That is an average of $884.2 per movie. Outside of the Avengers movies, the overperformers are Captain America: Civil War, which is in principle an Avengers movie, Ironman 3, Black Panther and now Captain Marvel. Hence Disney has little reason to tell their favourite cash cow, Kevin Feige, to back off when the talks about more diversity in the MCU. Or Chris Evans, when he openly speaks up against Trump. Or Brie Larson when she speaks up for more diversity in the film industry.
When the Anti-SJWs targeted Brie Larson is was not just because she happened to play Carol Danvers, but also because she is an outspoken female activist for equality. I emphasis female, because her stance isn’t really all that difference from other actors in the MCU, but they happen to be male, and hence face less backlash. It is simply easier to sell the notion that a female should “shut up” than that the all-American male should do it.
But Brie Larson didn’t do what some other actresses might have done. She didn’t smile through the attacks on her and her movie. She didn’t lay low. She didn’t apologize. She kept pushing back. When the first Captain Marvel poster was criticised for Carol Danvers not smiling, she tweeted a picture of earlier Avengers posters which had creepy smiles added to them to make her point. Side-note: It is really sad that the movie itself predicted this kind of reaction and had a “you should smile” scene in it before the Anti-SJW had to go and proof the writers right about the existence of this particular kind of micro-aggression against woman. And if you still don’t understand why it is creepy to tell a woman to smile, watch the first season of Jessica Jones.
When the whole “Brie Larson hates white men” nonsense came up, she clarified multiple times that this isn’t the case, but she also kept pushing for more diversity during her press tour. Btw, she is absolutely right that we need more voices in film criticism and no, she shouldn’t have “worded it better”. Because it wasn’t her wording which lead to all those fake news headlines, it were people deliberately taking her words out of context to attack her. They would have found something to use against her eventually, and it should not be on her to police her own speech in a way that it can’t be misconstrued. Nobody who heard or read the whole speech could have misunderstand anything she said, and nobody could have accidentally come to the conclusion that she hates “white men” due to a speech in which she specifically clarified that she doesn’t.
Ironically, the reaction to Captain Marvel shows how right she is. And I am not just talking about the Anti-SJWs, I am talking about the reaction to the movie itself.
3.3. Why is this movie different?
The first time I saw Captain Marvel, I went with two male friends of mine. And one of the first things they said was that they really liked it and that it wasn’t overly feminist at all. Which frankly surprised me. Because to me the best summary for Captain Marvel is “Feminism: The movie”.
I guess this is the moment to leave a giant spoiler warning, but before I get into the movie, here is some advice for those who haven’t seen it: If you enjoy MCU movies, you should watch it. If you particularly like Nick Fury, cats or 1990s nostalgia, you should watch it. If you were initially interested but somehow belong to the few people which were convinced to skip it because of the supposed controversy surrounding this movie, you should watch it. And if you don’t care about any of those things, you shouldn’t watch it. There are a lot of movies out there, everybody should watch whatever he or she likes, and I don’t think that there is a need to particularly push female lead movies to success just because they feature a female lead. If they are good enough, they won’t need it.
I liked Captain Marvel. In fact, it is one of those rare movies I like more and more the more I think about it. Initially I liked the movie because it wasn’t predictable and managed to avoid a number of tired tropes, which is always a plus with me. But it also touched me on an emotional level, and I really needed some time to sort our why. And when I did, I also suddenly understood another reason why Captain Marvel in particular has made the Anti-SJW crowd so completely unreasonable. I haven’t see them that carelessly obvious in attacking a movie since Mad Max: Fury Road. And I have come to the conclusion that subconsciously movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and Captain Marvel are perceived as a bigger threat than, let’s say, Wonder Woman.
To be perfectly clear here: This is not some sort of competition. If someone likes Wonder Woman the best, great. If someone likes Alita: Battle Angle the best, great. We can have multiple female lead movies, the more, the better, there is no need to pit them against each other. Yeah, I know, a truly mind-blowing concept.
In terms of narrative, I actually don’t think comparing Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel makes a lot of sense because the only thing those movies have in common is that both have a female lead. The First Avenger has way more in common with Wonder Woman than Captain Marvel has, and Captain Marvel – I am actually not sure which comic book movie is similar to it, since the main point of Captain Marvel seems to be to offer new approaches to familiar storylines.
It is still important to point out that Wonder Woman is more palatable to men than Captain Marvel is. While Wonder Woman was always an unashamedly feminist character, she was still invented by a man who obviously fetishized the notion of a strong woman. And there are a lot of aspects in the movie which are the narrative equivalent of a spoonful of sugar to make the feminism go down. Yes, Diana is easily the strongest character in the movie, but she is also not a standard woman. She is the member of a warrior race specifically created to be stronger than everyone else by a (male) god. And even between those warrior women, Diana is portrayed as being the chosen one, special from birth. As such, she doesn’t really threaten the society presented in the movie the way a “normal” woman developing powers would have.
She is also sharing her spotlight with Steve Trevor, who is not just her love interest but the co-lead of the movie. Don’t get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong about having a love interest for a female lead. But the notion that what is basically a half-goddess would fall for a mortal man is still a male fantasy. And Steve Trevor himself is exactly the kind of action heroes which tend to appeal to men. He even gets the heroic sacrifice scene.
And finally there is the famous no man’s land scene. Now, since the director of Wonder Woman is female, the shots of her are not overly sexualized. But she is still a female superhero in a short skirt, walking in slow motion with artfully moving hair towards the camera. Again, not a criticism, but still something which is appealing to men.
Captain Marvel on the other hand is loosely based on her most recent comic book run, penned by Kelly Sue DeConnick. All the scriptwriters of the movie were female, as were one of the directors. And they obviously didn’t care about appeasing the male audience in any way, they focussed on the female audience.
Carol Danvers isn’t some goddess, she is a normal woman with a lot of agency who earns her power due to the decision she makes. She is the one who wants to be a fighter pilot, she is the one who wants to fly test planes because she wants to do something that matters, she is the one who insists one piloting the unauthorized test flight and she is the one who destroys the engine, being dosed in the power of an infinity stone in the process. Carol isn’t powerful because she was born that way or because she is the chosen one, she earned those powers through the decisions she made.
She also doesn’t have a love interest. She does have a male co-lead, but for most of the movie Fury is more her side-kick than her partner. They still have a good rapport with each other, but the dynamic between them is that she leads and he follows.
And she doesn’t have a skimpy costume either, instead he wears an unisex uniform. Even when she is in civilian clothing she rocks a jeans and a baggy shirt. And her big heroine moment emphasises solely her power, not her looks.
Above all though, there is a strong subtext to Captain Marvel. It isn’t really about war, the Kree/Scrull conflict is just the backdrop to her own journey, a journey which should feel familiar to a lot of women. Especially women who ever entered the workplace in a male-dominated field.
When a woman tries to peruse a career, she is confronted with a system which was created by men for men. From the get go, it is suggested to her that she has to blend in. Don’t be so emotional, don’t act too female, work ten times as hard as everyone else in order to maybe get the same level of recognition, play by rules which favour your male co-worker. Oh, and don’t expect to get away with doing what they are doing. Because if a man jokes around at work, he is a good pal, if a woman does it, she isn’t serious enough about her work. In short, not only is it harder for a woman to climb the career ladder, there is a lot of effort made into convincing her that she should bind one of her arms behind her back before even trying.
A lot of this is reflected in Captain Marvel. For six years, Carol has been gaslighted into the notion that she has to proof herself to Yon-Rogg and the Supreme Intelligence. She is told again and again that she isn’t ready to be out in the field when in reality, there real reason is that her so called superiors are afraid that they will lose control over her if she does. She has been told to supress her emotions and when she does try to connect with the team she is supposed to fight with, she is constantly rebuffed by everyone but Yon-Rogg, who is mainly tearing her down under the guise of being her friend. Carol says it herself at one point that they convinced her to bind a one of her arms behind her back.
Even the scene in which Carol changes the colours of her suit has a deeper meaning than just giving her a bonding moment with Monica, or offering the fans the comic accurate suit. It is an expression of her individualism, but her choosing colours which make her stand out also reflects a woman in the workplace deciding to add a splash of colour to her outfit instead of wearing clothing designed to blend in.
Some reviewers have criticised the final fight of Captain Marvel of not having enough weight, because it is clear that she is so overpowered at this point that she will win. I don’t quite agree, because there are still other people involved in the fight which could get hurt, above all Fury and Maria (to be honest, I kind of feared that Maria would die after the speech her daughter gave to her, but I am glad that the movie side-stepped the trope in the end). But it is correct that Carol herself is in a way untouchable.
Except that this isn’t really the finale fight. The finale fight is when she manages to free herself from the influence of the supreme intelligence, when she manages to break through six years of constant gas-lighting, when she stands up and reclaims her full strength. That she is unstoppable after this is kind of the point. As long as Carol doesn’t allow anyone to take her agency from her, she will always stand up and fight for her goals. It’s an arc which finds its conclusion when she confronts Yon-Rogg, and he tries to convince her to fight him on his terms. The moment she just blasts him out of the way is a clear rejection of Kree society and an oppressive structure which was designed to keep her down, to use her, to shape her into something she didn’t want to be.
All this makes Carol Danvers an example of a new approach to writing females in action movies, one of which Mad Max: Fury Road might be the first and clearest example. Innuendo Studios did an excellent series of essays in which he laid out different tropes which are typical for action heroines, and then made the case that all of them are based on the assumption that violence is something unnatural for (white) women. I don’t want to get into detail here, but in his final video he made the case that Furiosa might represent a new trope, one he dubbed the Avenging Feminine.
It’s a funny coincidence that Captain Marvel of all characters should fit the trope, but I (and a few other commenters of said video) think that she does. The main point of the Avenging Feminine is that she reclaims violence for the purpose of breaking up old power structures in order to replace it with a better vision for the future. Which is exactly what Carol does. Carol doesn’t need an excuse to go “higher further faster, baby”, that was always her goal in life. That the Kree tried to supress her desire to test out her limits is an unnatural state of being. And when Carol reclaims her strength and her agency, she is rejecting more than just the restrictions placed on her, she is rejecting the whole Kree philosophy. Instead she leads the Skrulls into a hopefully peaceful future and states the goal to stop the ongoing wars the Kree fought after it. Most likely she succeeded, because we know that by the time Guardians of the Galaxy happens, the Kree have signed a peace treaty with Xandar and Ronan is no longer a respected commander in their army, but a terrorist.
Now, I don’t think that Anti-SJWs are actively aware of those messages. I don’t think that their thinking goes further than the occasional “Wonder Woman is better because she looks like an actual woman” argument, which is just gross on so many levels. Hell, even a lot of reviewers have completely missed this meta narrative, and yes, I think part of the reason is that most of them are males. That doesn’t mean that males can’t pick up on it or that every female reviewer automatically will. But a woman is way more likely to make the connection due to having personal experience with someone telling her to “not be so emotional” or to struggle in a male dominated workplace.
And no, this won’t end up in a long rant why Captain Marvel is underrated. Because frankly I don’t really care how the movie is rated. It obviously found its audience, and it is great to see women and girls all excited about Captain Marvel. But it does bother me how much the conversation about this movie is controlled by the Anti-SJWs as well as people who aren’t able to look past the fact that Captain Marvel is an MCU movie, and hence don’t judge it as a movie, but as something which needs to get ranked. There are valid points of criticisms regarding the movie. But if someone basically complains that the movie is not a traditional hero’s journey, well, that is quite intentional. It is not what the movie is supposed to be about, and a movie should always be criticised based on how well it executes it themes, and not on how much it fits the expectations of the reviewer.
There are also a lot of frankly sexist arguments which have bleed into the discourse. My “favourite” is the notion that Carol needs to get depowered in Endgame, and no, it is not just Anti-SJWs who say this. But why? Yes, it is more challenging to write for a powerful character, but nobody has ever claimed that there is a need to depower Superman or even Thor. So why should Carol loose part of her power? And speaking of powers: The term Mary-Sue doesn’t mean what some people seem to think it means and no, Carol doesn’t fulfil the requirements to be one.
Quite the opposite, in fact. We need more female characters like this. Characters who aren’t special but human. Characters which question gender roles. And movies which actively reject systemic sexism (and racism, for that matter). And I don’t doubt that we will get them in the future. But we will also get a lot of hatred for those movie. So again, don’t buy into the narrative, and push back against the notion that it is in any way okay to encourage hatred against women or minorities under the guise of “just having an opinion about a movie”. A sexist argument is a sexist argument. If you feel that someone is using it unaware, it might be worth explaining why said argument is problematic. Put out warnings because the less people are listening to the Anti-SJW crowd, the better. But if you encounter an Anti-SJW, someone who just wants to spread hatred and isn’t approaching a fandom from a honest position, don’t bother to argue, don’t give those people your clicks. They are not worth it. And you don’t have to proof anything to them.