It’s a trend in pop culture, especially Marvel movies, that when writing female characters they fall into one of two categories. One, they serve as an emotional foil to the male protagonist. They are unable to show the true scope of their abilities and what makes them so much fun to watch because they need to serve that emotional arc, mostly through dialogue broken up by occasional, muted hand-to-hand combat.
Or, two, they’re so powerful that they get shoehorned in at the end of the film as a deus ex machina to help the rest of the much more normal-average abilitied ensemble. The argument for this rests on the idea that if she were to lead the fight against, say Thanos, or Ultron, it would be too easy. I say find a stronger villain.
Someday the Marvel writer’s repertoire will learn to use the array of women at their disposal from the comics, but for now, we can just look at the past and hope to never see something like that again.
Let me start this off by saying that nobody received good treatment in the films of the Daredevil cinematic universe. But in these films that have been pretty universally considered an insult to the intellectual property of Daredevil, the character Elektra suffered the most. Elektra is a mercenary, rarely seen without her Twin Sai blades. That is, until this film where she really only served the purpose of going through the classic “I’m a villain in love with the hero, what now?” emotional arc. When it was announced that she would get another, solo film, there was a glimmer of hope for her to get to show the full range of what she could do on the big screen. That film ended up being killed critically as well. Only when Netflix stepped in could she deservedly redeem herself with her role in the Daredevil and Defenders shows.
2. Wanda Maximoff
Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. Scarlet Witch showed off her strength as a solo entity in Disney Plus’s WandaVision. Though she had already made an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she had to sideline her powers for the sake of showcasing her much more average costars in this ensemble movie. But there is a bit of a gut-punch feeling that comes with watching her any time she’s on-screen. While other hero actions are influenced by their want to do good in the world, most of what Wanda does is driven by the immense amount of trauma she suffered as a child (that really never stopped happening through her adulthood).
Whether she’s killing her manipulative father figure to avenge the death of her brother in Age of Ultron, or she’s trapped in a mental prison of her own creation in WandaVision, all I can think about is how badly I need this woman to catch a break. Hopefully, Wanda Eats a Hearty Dinner and Gets Enough Sleep is in the works at the MCU?
“I USED TO THINK OF MYSELF ONE WAY. BUT, AFTER THIS, I AM SOMETHING ELSE.”~Wanda Maximoff
3. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is not necessarily mistreated, but she could be utilized but better than she actually is. She is one of those category 2 heroes that wields so much power, and yet she stays confined to helping sort out the threats that the other earthly heroes are stuck dealing with. We saw this at the end of Avengers: Endgame when she returned to Earth in the last few moments of the film to wipe the floor with Thanos harder than any of the other Avengers could. It seems that for right now, the MCU is afraid that if they give her the screentime to use the full range of her powers, the conflict will be solved much too easily so she has to serve as a last-minute fixer. I implore the writers to think bigger! Let her fight harder foes and maybe certain Marvel fans (high school-age boys) will stop complaining about how she’s too powerful to be an interesting character.
Dazzler from the X-men franchise holds a special place in my heart. There’s a lot to love about someone who dresses like an 80s glam rocker all the time and is never seen off her roller skates. It’s very smart on her part to out-weird her mutant-ism by dressing like a bubblegum pop version of KISS. What’s her mutation? She can make flashy, blinding lights anywhere. But she doesn’t just fight villains, her true passion is music! It’s canon to the comic books that Dazzler has 11 hit singles. Think about the possibilities that little detail opens up for content for the audience. A Dazzler Glam Rock Concert special? Please! A Dazzler album? Already pre-saved to my Spotify library. Dazzler has only been seen as a background character in X-men: Dark Phoenix. Maybe one day we will learn to respect her true power: stage presence.
5. Every Single Woman in the Spider Man Universe…LOL
Ok. So maybe this isn’t exactly one woman but Every Single Woman in the Spider Man Universe is destined to suffer for the sake of Peter Parker’s character development. We could point out the obvious ladies that most of know of, Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. However, whether they’re girls from school he strings along with his indecisiveness in the realm of dating or any of the super-powered women that he… also dates. Somehow his spidey senses haven’t told him that it’s a bad idea to try to split monogamy between multiple people who want commitment. Each of these entanglements has ended in a messy emotional fallout or death.