Captain Marvel was a tour de force in action, nostalgia, and laughs. She’s the strongest character in the Marvel universe, and after the end of Marvel Infinity War, it is pretty apparent, she is the only superhero who can beat the ultimate destroyer, Thanos. It had drama, a little feminism, and to be honest a spattering of queerness. Let me explain to you how.
First let’s see if the movie holds up to the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test basically says women should really primarily support movies that fulfill a certain set of rules/criteria. Allison Bechdel came up with three simple rules for what women should be demanding from their movies from a basic (and I mean the bar is on the floor with this one) point of view.
The rules are:
1) the movie has to have more than one woman; 2) who speak to each other; 3) about something other than men.
Well we have Carol Danvers and her best friend Maria Rambeau who have a professional and personal relationship that is completely devoid of all male influence. It is actually kind of beautiful. They came together because of their love of flying and outside of the cockpit they found family with one another. Before she reconnects with her best friend however, Carol does mostly converse with men who are both friend and foe. After she reconnects with her earth friends and family the conversations are more female centered and require very little male input, which I fully support.
Enter Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel which is an amazing departure from traditional super hero films because it does have a female star AND she doesn’t NEED a male counterpart in order to succeed. She can and DOES work with men but they do not determine where and how she will ultimately end up. Additionally, she has a moral compass independent of the men around her to autonomously save the world and find herself. She is sure, capable, and believes above all in her own ability to succeed.
Carol who goes by Vers on the alien planet that adopts her after an accident on earth is trained by men to fulfill a certain purpose, but she never really subscribes to the philosophy of her superiors and it shows in her rogue nature. She also finds herself struggling with memories from a former life that provide the foundation for her origin story. Carol Danvers ends up being subversive to men on two different planets and it is a joy to watch.
Our equality is determined by our ability to choose whether or not we want to include elements of the patriarchy in various parts of our lives. In fact, some would argue that feminism cannot be fully achieved until the patriarchy has been fully dismantled and woman are free to choose how they want to be represented in all aspects of society.
Now to talk about Fourth wave feminism is founded on the principles that women should be individually empowered on their own (not for the sake of competing with men); and this empowerment— through freedom from harassment, equality in the work place, and greater bodily autonomy— is based on intersectional principles. Meaning we should be bringing in women of all socio-economic, racial, physical ability, and religious representations along when we demand equality in order to create a truly equal society.
There is something wonderfully incendiary about women coming together and creating (or destroying) without or in spite of men. During the film Carol realizes that she is part of a group of women who independent of men change the course of the universe. She follows the clues left from the life she had on earth and it leads us to female dominated subterfuge, conflict, and ultimately revolution.
Whenever a female superhero is unconnected to a male counterpart whether he be an equal, a sidekick, or a patron there is always a sense of female empowerment that feels a bit queer. The heart of lesbianism is the absence of the male gaze, the absence of the NEED for a male savior, and the desire to exist outside of the boundaries of the patriarchy in general. The reason this movie feels slightly queer is because Carol Danvers at every turn seeks to operate outside of what we would traditionally call patriarchal male energy. She does not want to be dominated, she wants to control her destiny, she wants to follow her own heart, and she wants to trust in her own power.
Captain Marvel teaches that the female energy doesn’t have to be less than and it doesn’t have to be MORE than. It can just be the same as every other hero who believes in themselves when the chips are down the world is counting on someone who has the ability to change things for the better.