Captain Marvel: Female Empowerment on the Big Screen

*Spoiler Alert! This article reveals key plot descriptions. Nobody enjoys a premature climax. Am I right?

marvel screen shot 1

 

I am not a comic book super fan, but when Captain Marvel, the much anticipated superhero movie of the new year, hit theaters on March 8th, cleverly coinciding with International Women’s Day, I knew I couldn’t miss out. In addition to featuring  a dominant cast of women, and throwbacks to popular 90’s vocals from female groups like TLC,  and female fronted bands like Hole, Garbage and No Doubt, the final fight scene plays out to Just a Girl, (insert teenage girl’s squeal here) there were metaphoric themes that accurately depicted the female experience throughout the film. After leaving the theater and reflecting, I excitedly bought a second ticket to conduct more “research” into the themes that the film brought to light. (Yes, I sat in the theater with a pen and legal pad scribbling notes throughout the movie. Yes, it’s as hard as you think it is to take notes in a movie theater.)  Here’s a list of themes that stood out to me (or that was able to make it legibly onto my legal pad):

Social Conditioning

The movie starts with a reoccurring nightmare Vers (Brie Larson) has had since her unexplained appearance on Hala, the Kree Empire’s capital planet, where she sees an older woman (Dr. Lawson) being fatally shot by a Skrull soldier. Waking up, she meets up with her commander and mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) for training and he instantly starts conditioning her with his rhetoric.

As they spar, he lectures: “You have to let go of the past and how it makes you vulnerable…Emotion, nothing is more dangerous to a warrior. Control your impulses.”

After sparring, en route to see the Supreme Intelligence, Yon-Rogg states to Vers, “Stop using this (points to her heart) and use this (points to her head).”

Any other woman relate to being told to control your emotions? Or maybe you’ve heard the phrase “You’re too emotional!” from a colleague or partner? I can guarantee I’m not the only woman who’s experienced this type of social conditioning. Point is, some men fear women’s emotions and vulnerability. Emotional responses from women trigger emotionally inept men because it forces them to see a part of themselves that they’ve tried to suppress, cut off or deny. Most men subscribe to the popular belief that expressing vulnerability demonstrates “weakness”, the opposite of how they themselves have been conditioned to appear. To prevent their own unwanted emotional responses, they quell the emotional responses of women by shaming us, or making us feel crazy, thus preventing women from freely expressing their true selves.

 

Manipulation/Negging/Gas lighting

Later on in the movie, we come to find out that Vers’ reoccurring nightmares are actual memories of her previous life on earth (as Carol Danvers) that have been manipulated by Yon-Rogg. The Kree implant, which Danvers was made to believe was the source of her power, had been, in fact, limiting her powers all along. After learning about her true origin, Danvers is captured trying to help the Skrulls escape Yon-Rogg’s Starforce. She then sat against her will before the Supreme Intelligence who again tried to convince her that she was weak without Kree help.

A montage of Danvers’ memories displays her weakest moments from her life on earth while the Supreme Intelligence states “Your powers come from us…… without us you are weak, you’re flawed, you’re helpless.”

We find that even Yon-Rogg secretly knows Danvers true powers when he says to his fellow Starforce teammates, “she’s stronger than you think.”

Throughout the movie Vers is manipulated into thinking that she is inferior to Yon-Rogg, even powerless without him. He uses social conditioning and manipulation to control her and her powers until finally Vers realizes (after discovering her identity) that she is more powerful than she was led to believe. She fights the mental manipulation while under the influence of the Supreme Intelligence, discovering her inner strength and true powers, thus becoming the unstoppable Captain Marvel.

Mind games, negging and gas lighting have long been the traditional tactics for power hungry men to manipulate women in order to gain control over the relationship. Has a man ever given you a backhanded compliment while on a date? That’s called negging, when a man makes negative or slightly insulting comments in order for you (their date) to seek his approval. Ever had a man try to tell you “you’re crazy” or “you’re making a bigger deal than it actually is” when your gut is telling you your instincts are correct.  That’s called gas lighting, when a man presents false information, making you doubt your own memory, perception and quite often, your sanity.

Thankfully these strategies to mentally manipulate can be negated when women start listening to their intuitive “gut instincts” and being our authentic selves.

 

True Power Lies Within (The Authentic Self)

While on Earth, Vers discovers her real identity is Carol Danvers, and that she was an Airforce Pilot who crashed during an unauthorized mission with her mentor Dr. Lawson.

At first, Danvers has a hard time accepting this new reality as evidence of her life on Earth is unfolded, but the pictures, the audio of the crash and personal accounts from her best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica are too real to discredit.

Once Danvers’ past is uncovered and her authentic self is revealed, she realizes her true power, the product of the explosion of an experimental energy core in which she absorbed the energy, was never at the hands of the Kree but was deep within her since the blast.

Danvers had to fight the social conditioning and mental manipulation from Yon-Rogg and the Kree in order to discover her true identity and limitless power. Metaphorically, this resembles what women have to do to in order to connect with their authentic self, and divine power.

Realizing this theme sent shivers down my spine because it is true for all of us women. Dismiss the social conditioning. Forget all of the times you’ve been told you’re unworthy or not enough! No, you aren’t too emotional. No, you aren’t crazy. Your reactions are valid.  Your emotions, your intuitive power, your voice is revealing your true authentic self. Don’t let anyone invalidate your experience, your story, your authenticity. Your authentic self is where your true power lies!

 

Sacrificing Dreams after Having Children

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) first rejects helping Danvers because the mission to defeat Yon-Rogg and the Kree is “too dangerous”. She questions her purpose in order to protect her daughter Monica. But Monica immediately interjects.  “You’re giving up your dreams of being a fighter pilot…..what kind of role model are you being for me!?”

Yes Monica! I felt compelled to stand up and cheer mid-movie in the theater! Listen up men, (especially spouses and bosses) having children does not and should not prevent women from pursuing their personal/professional dreams. Ladies, this is for you too! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop using kids and family life as an excuse to give up your ambitions. We raise strong women by being the empowered example for impressionable little girls. Teach them that women don’t have to make a choice between family and ambition. Teach them they can follow their purpose and still be amazing mothers. Teach them to live their purpose!

The Pussy Holds the Power

Dr. Lawson’s cat Goose find himself as a stowaway with Vers, Fury and Maria on their mission to defeat the Kree.  Goose, is a Flerken, an alien in cat form that can sprout powerful tentacles and whose insides are a pocket dimension where the Tesseract (the power source which will help the Skrulls travel safely to realms outside of Kree control) is placed. Therefor, the pussy literally holds the most powerful object in the universe. No explanation needed!

 

I am interested to hear others perspectives on the movie, the themes, the plot, especially those who ARE hardcore comic fans. What was your favorite theme? Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? Did I miss something? Please leave a comment below. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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