A Catch-22 of Performative Feminism

Image Source: Wattpad

The MCU has gotten a lot of flack over the years for not having inclusive storylines and character lineups. It’s always been dominated by men–particularly white men–but that was never all it was in the comics. Even those male characters still had good stories worth telling that people were connected to, such as Spiderman and Captain America. The issue that the MCU keeps falling into is using female characters–such as She-Hulk, Black Widow, and of course Captain Marvel–who already have their own backstories and characterization from the comics and watering them down. They serve as either the token female character who isn’t properly fleshed out through a backstory that wasn’t steeped in misogyny (*cough* black widow *cough*), or they’re used as mouthpieces for performative feminism that ultimately makes people lose respect for them. These characters are not taken seriously because the dialogue they’re given is not written in good faith, something we saw with She-Hulk.

There’s an infamous scene in Avengers: Endgame where all the female characters in the final battle gather together in solidarity against the villain. This scene, while heartwarming, is not earned. Marvel didn’t take the time to create any relationships between these characters or even have them speak to each other before this moment. They were almost all in separate movies and storylines beforehand. Character relationships were never a priority over individual story arcs, and while that’s understandable given the MCU’s high-stakes plotlines, it still means that moments like this one do not have the same effect they would if any of these characters actually knew each other. There were plenty of male characters on that battlefield as well, but Marvel deliberately had just the women surrounding Captain Marvel because they wanted a specific all-female moment to appeal to a certain crowd. That would’ve been fine if there was any story to back it up, but it rang empty. 

A big criticism of the MCU these days is that it’s gone “woke.” While I dislike that this is often said in bad faith by those that don’t want any social issues to be present in the stories, I do think this criticism is valid in regard to pandering. The MCU wants the brownie points of token and low-effort feminism and one-liners rather than taking the time to craft meaningful adaptations of characters and do them justice. Therefore, nothing is ever as good as it could actually be, and rather than pleasing anyone, they disappoint everyone.