What Captain Marvel Did That Wonder Woman Did Not
In early 2019, the internet was flooded with hundreds of viral videos with the same central goal: slamming the upcoming Captain Marvel film. The makers of such videos were trying to convince viewers that the movie would be a complete box office flop, that Captain Marvel and the actress who played her, Brie Larson, were both man-hating misandrists, and that the release of the movie would mean the end of the MCU's "golden age". Many assumed that the onslaught of hate was only because of the discomfort that people feel when they see someone besides a straight white male as a powerful, self dependent character. However, this is not entirely true. The makers of these videos were relatively silent upon the release of Wonder Woman in 2016, which begs the question, does Wonder Woman have something that Captain Marvel doesn't? Is there some magical ability that protects Gal Gadot from those who criticized every move of Brie Larson? Or is it just that the movie, while groundbreaking and powerful, just doesn't challenge the patriarchal standard the way that Captain Marvel does?
To begin with, we can observe the actresses who play the respective roles. Gal Gadot is a self proclaimed feminist, but she is relatively quiet about it. Whats more, she was silent on the issue of women's rights and feminism until after the release and success of her movie. Part of this could be due to the fact that she wasn't as well known as Brie Larson, who has been in the public eye for most of her life. Larson has also been open about diversity and equality. We've all seen that clip of her talking about how she isn't going to listen to a "straight white dude" critique A Wrinkle in time. While many thought she spoke correctly by explaining that the movie was made for those who didn't often see themselves on screen, others were less than pleased by her choice of words. Compared to Gal Gadot's refusal to even say "heterosexual, cis man" in an interview, Larson was the epitome of what Captain Marvel haters hated most: someone who wasn't afraid to call them out.
The other difference in the two movies can be observed by looking at the characters themselves. Diana Prince and Carol Danvers are both equally powerful and inspirational. However, while Carol is stoic and emotionless, Diana is has more of the characteristics that men like to see in women: she is quick to smile, and her loving and kind character is not something that would anger misogynists. Additionally, her armor is quite feminized in the movie, but thats a whole other conversation. Carol, on the other hand, is much more aggressive throughout the movie, and her suit gives no indication of gender. She has no love interest, no gentle smile, no sympathy towards Yon-Rogg, the main villain of the movie.
In conclusion, while the films are both powerful and inspirational to young girls, Captain Marvel is more challenging of the patriarchal standard in the way it portrays women. The massive backlash that it faced is just a side effect of the discomfort many people faced when seeing a woman who dared to be self assured of her worth and strength. Hopefully, we can see more movies in the future when filmmakers and actors continue to challenge the status quo.