Toward the end of 2017, virtually every industry around the world was impacted by the #MeToo movement that took over social media. Empowered victims were inspired to tell their stories and seek justice.
But how has Marvel responded to the issue? How have their movies addressed this cultural shift? Before we take a closer look, let’s discuss how the #MeToo movement has affected the world in the past couple years.
The Effects of #MeToo
While sexual harassment laws vary from state to state, businesses in different sectors across the country have had to evaluate their practices to ensure compliance. For example, as of October 2018, businesses in New York must adopt a specific sexual harassment prevention policy and training program. The movement caused companies to explore how they could improve their workplace and ensure they avoid scandal.
However, when it comes to sexual harassment, a scandal isn’t the only thing for businesses to be concerned with. As with any physical injury or mental trauma as a result of a workplace incident, sexual assault or harassment may potentially qualify victims for workers’ compensation. It’s worth noting though that this type of claim will likely disqualify a victim from succeeding with a sexual assault lawsuit.
There has been a federal change as well, as Congress passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act. This law prioritizes the need for assault victims to have access to rape kits. Not only does it preserve the kits for 20 years, but it ensures victims are not charged for the medical cost of the kit.
The new focus on workplace assault and harassment has caused a societal shift in perspective and we’ve begun to take the issue more seriously than in the past. This also is evident in recent changes in the film industry. Which brings us to Marvel. They’ve responded by highlighting women and the important role they play in their films.
In subtle yet wonderfully executed ways, Marvel brings attention to the #MeToo movement with depictions of strong female superheroes throughout Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. All hands are on deck in these stories, which makes the films a perfect opportunity to showcase their lineup of powerful women superheroes, who each have their individual powers and characteristics that make them a necessary part of the film franchise. Without them, no one else could accomplish what they’re capable of doing.
The first time we see Wanda Maximoff, also known as Scarlet Witch, in Infinity War is in a scene with her love interest, Vision, who is powered by the Mind Stone. An intimate moment is turned tragic as Thanos’ minions disrupt a quiet moment in the streets of a small European town. Maximoff wards them off, fighting desperately to save Vision from the villains that want to take the stone that keeps him going.
She fights tooth and nail, unable to back down without the risk of losing her loved one before backup arrives. Throughout the rest of the film, she plays the role of Vision’s protector — the only one who is capable of saving him and everyone else. During the final fight of the film, Scarlet Witch leaves for a moment to help the battle, which leaves Vision exposed. As she joins the fight on the ground, she comes in just at the right time to save several of her comrades.
As she worries about Vision, she is sought out by Proxima Midnight and partakes in an intense fight. During a taut moment, the villain says to Wanda, “He’ll die alone, as will you.” As the film shifts back to Scarlet Witch, you hear Black Widow, “She’s not alone,” before we see a shot of Black Widow and Okoye standing there, ready to lend a hand.
Together, the female superheroes were able to fight off the villain who singled out Scarlet Witch and was ready to harm her. This line landed harmoniously amid the raging fight in the background. Black Widow’s gentle voice was a reminder to the audience that women are not alone, even in our worst moments. This line was perceived as a nod to the #MeToo movement by several critics, as overcoming the feeling we must suffer in isolation is one of the biggest obstacles when dealing with cases of sexual assault.
Endgame has its own feminist moment, in which powerful women across a decade of films band together in a forceful display of unity. While some argue that the film didn’t “earn” this scene, it demonstrates how Marvel Studios is carefully listening to its audience. It should also be noted that before the events of Endgame could occur Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie would need to be released.
Captain Marvel hit the box office on March 8, 2019, making $153 million in the U.S. on opening weekend, and $302 million worldwide. The superhero played a huge part in the progression of the final Avengers film.
In Captain Marvel, Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a former Air Force pilot who shares some of Captain America’s composure and leadership qualities. She’s a strong female superhero who is being lied to and taken advantage of by Yon-Rogg, the person she believes to be her mentor. The deception is disturbing, but upon realizing he abused her trust and powers, she tears herself free from him. She refuses to be lured into a physical fight and engage with him on his terms, stating, “I don’t need to prove myself to you.”
This highlights longheld societal oppression against women as they are often held to the expectations of men – both in the workplace and at home. Instead of doing what is right for us as individuals, we shift our desires to accommodate the men in our lives.
Danvers is a dominant character in Captain Marvel and saves the day time and time again in the final Avengers film. This is not necessarily the feminist moment we were waiting for, but it was a step in the right direction.
Although Marvel could do more to drive equality and inclusion within their huge platform, their efforts to date are well-executed. However, the nature of the comic books, as well as the films, are intended to show the individuality of each character and how mighty they can be when united. This, in essence, encapsulates the #MeToo movement, demonstrating how we’re not alone and that, when we lean on each other, we’re stronger together.
What do you think about how Marvel is responding to the #MeToo movement? Let me know in the comments below!