My eight-year-old son and I left Captain Marvel all a chatter about the Avengers sighting during the end credits and how awesome Goose the cat was. To my surprise, he declared this Marvel film to be his favorite, knocking Infinity War and Black Panther out of his personal tied-for-number-one spot. I, personally, didn’t feel this was Marvel’s best, but had already concluded that the multiple flashbacks and 90’s setting must have confused my kid to the point of not liking it.
“Why was this your favorite?” I’d asked.
And, very matter-of-factly, he told me, “Because you look just like Captain Marvel.”
While my first reaction was surface-level amusement because my son must have linked me to the superhero over a similar hairstyle, I’ve since had time to contemplate this on a much deeper level. I am Captain Marvel. More accurately, I am Carol Danvers.
The movie on a whole hit many uncomfortable sore spots for me. I graduated from high school in the ’90s and grew into adulthood as a made-to-be-quiet white female: smiling when told, sitting on laps when asked, and told to calm down during those rare occasions when I spoke my mind. My unspoken heroes were fighters/survivors such as Princess Lea, Ellen Ripley, and Sarah Conner. While my father raised me to use my voice, society had other plans and it was their opinion that molded my actions for a very long time.
Twenty-plus years later, I have somehow found the motivation to stand back up. I published a book series that spoke to feminists and pissed off conservatives. I speak my mind and make no apologies. It’s both unpleasant and liberating.
This is exactly how I’d describe Captain Marvel. Unpleasant in the way that I was reminded of how I once allowed myself to be treated. Liberating in the way that I was reminded how I’ve also gotten to my feet time and time again. This was shown in a very literal way during the movie, and while it didn’t quite have the Wonder Woman crossing the battlefield vibe, it still resonated in a way that gave me goosebumps.
It’s entirely possible that Marvel set out to simply make another great film. Carol Danvers as a character needed motive and a believable backstory to make the end work; any good writer knows this. We’re long past the age where giving a woman a tangible trauma (i.e. rape or death of a loved one) is the only way to show how truly strong she’s become.
What Marvel has actually done is to subtly use the truth of our past—my past—to give rise to a woman—a hero—with unlimited power. A woman who was told from the beginning that her emotions are her weakness, only to discover they’re her ultimate strength.
Captain Marvel isn’t the first to use this theme in recent years. You can find characters exactly like her in The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. She just happens to also be played by a woman with a strong feminist voice, and many people refuse to separate the two. It’s an unfortunate side effect of our current political climate.
Personally, I appreciate the courage from everyone involved at Marvel for bringing us a character that the Carol Danvers’ of the world can relate to. We all have our battles, and one person’s ability to diminish them doesn’t make them any less important.
To the warriors who stood back up today…go get ’em.