The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has come a long way since its first phase in 2008. While the early films in the MCU featured a primarily male cast of superheroes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown to incorporate a diverse cast of characters, including an increasing number of female superheroes.
Despite this progress, there is still room for improvement in how female characters are written and represented in the MCU. In the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, female characters were often relegated to supporting roles.
In the first Avengers film, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) were both present, but their roles were mainly limited to supporting male characters.
Similarly, Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Iron Man 2 wasn't a fully developed character in her own right, but was portrayed as Tony Stark's love interest.
However, as the MCU has progressed, we have seen more and more female characters take center stage. Characters like Black Widow, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) have been given their films and shows and have played vital roles in ensemble films like Avengers: Endgame.
This is a positive step forward for representation and diversity in the MCU. Although there has been an improvement in the MCU's representation, there are still problems with how female characters are written.
The writing of female characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Room for improvement
One of the main issues with writing female characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the need for more depth and complexity in their characterizations. In the first Captain Marvel film, Carol Danvers' backstory and motivation were only partially explored, which made it challenging for viewers to empathize emotionally with her.
Similarly, in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow's backstory and motivations were hinted at but never fully explored, leaving audiences with more questions than answers.
Another problem is that many female characters in the MCU still need to be written as love interests for the male characters rather than fully developed characters in their own right.
For example, in Spider-Man: No Way Home, MJ (Zendaya) is primarily defined by her relationship with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) rather than her character arc.
In addition, one of the recent female characters introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), has also been criticized for her portrayal in the Disney+ series.
The show has been praised for its legal procedural elements and inclusion of Daredevil. However, some have criticized the portrayal of She-Hulk as a shallow and superficial character who is more focused on her physical appearance and romantic relationships than on her legal work or responsibilities as a superhero.
This clearly indicates how female characters, especially in the MCU, are not portrayed in a way that is empowering or meaningful. This is a prime example of the need for better representation and a more complex and nuanced characterization of female characters in the MCU.
Lastly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has occasionally come under fire for failing to give female characters adequate screen time and agency. Okoye is a formidable fighter, but she only has a limited amount of screen time in Avengers: Endgame and minimal impact in the final battle.
Although the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made significant progress in recent years in diversity and inclusion, there is always space for improvement in how female characters are written.
The MCU must strive to provide a thorough and nuanced representation of women on screen, despite the paucity of representation in the early stages and the undeveloped characters in more recent movies.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe can empower women by providing female characters with more nuance, complexity, and agency while simultaneously improving the watching experience for viewers of all genders. It's time for the MCU to take the next step and give female characters the representation they deserve.