When I googled Captain Marvel versus Wonder Woman, it turned out most of the world wants to know who would win in a fight. That is not, however, my burning concern. I was more interested in figuring out why I liked Wonder Woman when I found Captain Marvel so annoying.
On the surface, they are very similar. They are both gorgeous female superheroes who seem to be sending rather clichéd feminist messages: “Girls, you can do it! You don’t have to have a man or be a man to be significant! You are stronger then you think!” Even though I consider myself a Catholic feminist, I am capable of noticing when feminist messages are used to sell movies... Captain Marvel came out on International Women’s Day.
But to me, Captain Marvel detracts from an authentic feminist message. Maybe it was the acting, or maybe it was the original story, but it seemed to me that in order for Carol Danvers to be a superhero, she had to be cold, emotionless and just powerful. It was practically impossible to relate to her. I could admire her beauty without feeling like I could empathize with her in the slightest, because she seemed so detached. I think that’s what some people think it takes for a woman to succeed, to be strong.
But strength doesn’t mean becoming a robot, or so focussed on achieving our goals or proving ourselves that we forget to be real. Our emotions and sensitivity are a part of our strength and we don’t need to deny them. Not only that, being authentic, acknowledging our weaknesses and working alongside others whom we trust can be a wonderful way to be wholly who we are.
Wonder Woman on the other hand seemed so much more real, in the way she related to people, in her passion for justice and truth and people. Was it just the acting? (Gal Gadot fangirl alert) Or the story? I’m not sure. I loved how she was sensitive and aware of the people and the needs around her, how she didn’t seem to feel the need to prove herself because it wasn’t about her. She was a woman on a mission, with a heart on fire for a better world. Her struggle was believing that people could do evil, and yet be worth saving. Now that is a deep and very relatable struggle. (Although I wasn’t too fond of the long drawn out fight scene at the end of Wonder Woman that could have greatly benefited from being a fraction of the length.)
What did Carol Danvers struggle with? The hurdle she had to cross seemed overly simplistic – people didn’t believe in her, didn’t think she could do it because she was a girl, and she just had to GET UP AGAIN. Come on, I expect a little more from movies made in the 21st century. Not that people doubting us isn’t a reality, but isn’t there more to it? Where does that inner strength and belief come from? Where does our power come from? How do we tap into it? What is it for? Apparently no one else had those questions or were looking for stronger analogies from Captain Marvel. Instead we are just supposed to cheer because she GOT UP, and hey, she is now SUPER POWERFUL and also NOW SHE FIGURED OUT SHE CAN FLY. Wait, what?
Both movies had something to offer though. They both portrayed women as more than a part of a man’s story, more than sidekicks or love interests, or seductresses or sirens. Every woman has a unique role to play in the salvation of the world. For some, part of that role is that of a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a homemaker. For some, it is as consecrated singles, mothers and sisters to the world. But being a mother, a sister and a wife does not mean there are not other ways God is calling women to step up, just as for men, being husbands, fathers, and brothers, does not mean they do not have other work to do in the world too.
Some women will take on political roles, some will use their gifts, strengths and training in science, medicine, the arts, writing, teaching, speaking, creating, forming, inspiring, challenging and building. We need to help women to find and follow God’s call for their lives. Movies with strong female leads help us remember that many women need to be encouraged to be all they were created to be.
All in all, although Captain Marvel wasn’t terrible, it was very forgettable (I’m stretching to remember it now, a couple of weeks after watching it), whereas I’d be willing to recommend Wonder Woman, and even watch it a third time. And if we’re looking for messages about strong women that we can relate to, I’d give Captain Marvel a pass, and watch Wonder Woman. Or even better, Hidden Figures.
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