Admittedly, it was a risky move. The launch a few weeks ago on Disney+ of Ms. Marvel, a family comedy centered on the adventures of a 16-year-old girl of Indian descent, a fan of the Avengers, and who struggles to fit in until she gets her own powers, did not go particularly well. received by a part of the fans of the franchise, mostly men, suspicious that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (UCM) evolves towards a more inclusive panorama, accustomed to a type of stories with which this new series has very little to do. watch. The audience data did not accompany: according to data published by The Entertainment Strategy Guy newsletter, the first episode of Ms. Marvel was followed by 4.2 million households, a figure significantly lower than that of other similar programs such as Loki, starring by the aristocratic Tom Hiddleston, which reached 12.2 million in its day. Despite this, Ms. Marvel was generally met with praise by critics. The hardest faction of fans, however, crucified her on IMDB, awarding her only one star out of ten. In fact, the 22% of users on this platform who gave this score could be an unscientific measure of the percentage of followers who are reluctant to change. On July 8, Thor: Love and Thunder was released worldwide, a film in which Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, an astrophysicist and ex-girlfriend of Thor who becomes the superheroine Mighty Thor and obtains powers similar to the of the god The announcement in 2019 that Portman had been chosen to play this role, which she had already played in two previous films in the saga, sparked criticism from fans, considering her “too feminine” and very different from the character that appeared in the comics. . Finally, the premiere this coming August 17 of She-Hulk: Hulka lawyer, promises to continue stirring the debate around the introduction of female characters in the Marvel Universe and their representation. She-Hulk is a series that will tell the story of Jennifer Walters, a lawyer who, upon receiving an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner, whose alter ego is the Hulk, acquires his superpowers but in a different way. lighter. Walters will have to adapt from then on to this new situation while she struggles to continue her law career. Ginger Gonzaga, one of its leading actresses, declared in an interview that the new series will introduce plots and characters that will affect issues of the feminist agenda, but the fact that the directors have defined the series as a legal comedy, in which the protagonist tries to move on with his life despite becoming a huge green monster when he gets angry, he does not promise many subtleties in the topics to be discussed. It’s also ironic that She-Hulk’s powers are triggered by rage and fear, something that women are pretty much left with nowadays. All these examples make clear Marvel’s intention to change the testosteronic landscape of its universe by introducing female characters and issues related to feminism, but also the enormous difficulties that the company is having to do so. Their problems are basically of two types. On the one hand, they collide with a part of the fans, that 22% that we said before and maybe a few more. The majority of white, young and heterosexual men, to whom all these changes sound bad and suspicious, qualify them as “woke” in a derogatory sense and reject them without giving them the slightest opportunity. On the other hand, Marvel continues, in some way, battling against itself since, in many cases, its directors and screenwriters are carrying out this “feminization” in an insufficient and clumsy way. In many of his productions, the women, superheroines or not, continue to be auxiliary characters, damsels in distress, they are in love with or subordinate to the male characters, and their appearance tends to tend to hypersexualization, as, in fact, some actresses like Scarlett Johansson have reported in the past. Without a doubt, there are more women in Marvel movies and series, but it seems that, even so, the problem is far from being solved. In addition, the attitude of the heads of the company, congratulating themselves at each press conference for each small advance in this regard, does not make it easier for us to empathize with them in the difficult task that lies ahead. To learn a little more about the subject, I have contacted several UCM fans to ask their opinion on this matter. It was not difficult for me to find many willing to speak, which already showed me that they are legion. Is Marvel doing it right or not? “Marvel is a content engine made by men for men,” says Andrea Mena, a cultural communicator, emphatically. “And even if you try to introduce small changes, it remains so. The main characters are still men, the women are relegated to being the romantic interest or a reified and hypersexualized superheroine as in the case of Black Widow, and diversity is found in 90% of the cases in the secondary characters. Janira Planes, journalist and author of the newsletter Truffle Season, a weekly bulletin on technology, memes and internet culture, although she shares the same opinion as Mena, values the work that the company is doing and highlights the role of the Argentine Victoria Alonso, Post-Production President and Executive Producer at Marvel, who has repeatedly declared herself committed to the cause of making the company’s products more diverse and inclusive. “I think really Marvel is getting better and better,” she explains. “And in that aspect I think it has a lot to do with the fact that one of its top executives is a woman, a defender of women in general and with a lot of character. It is no coincidence that in the Dr. Strange movie, one of the protagonists, América, is a Venezuelan girl with lesbian mothers. Even for me the Black Widow, although she is sexualized in some cases, is a very powerful character and has always been one of my favorite and most inspiring characters because you saw that she was a super sexy chick and, at the same time, very intelligent ” . Elisa McCausland, journalist, cultural critic and researcher at UCM, believes that “Marvel’s strategy involves market feminism, that is, a commitment to feminism within the framework of a market culture that cannot afford to break Too many rules.” And he also points out a slightly deeper issue: “The problem is that Marvel is leading the agenda of what is or is not feminist, defining the framework of mainstream feminism of the 21st century, when there are many other expressions with characters and discourses much more interesting”. Andrea also affects this aspect. “The real problem is that Marvel has too much power in their industry and that they practically represent a monopoly. We won’t be able to be really demanding until that machinery breaks down.” Yu, a content creator under the name of @mad4yu, considers the efforts that Marvel is making to diversify its protagonists to be very positive, also highlighting the characters of other races or LGBT+ that are increasingly present in its series and movies. However, she considers that the heritage of this universe weighs heavily. “Comics were drawn and written at a time when the mindset of society was not as advanced or evolved as it is now, and sexist or racist characters or plots abounded. However, I am sure that the update process will continue and they will do better. In the end, a large company of this style, like Netflix for example, has to take that step. Andrea also affects this last thought: “Currently the demand for a more feminist offer, not only from its target but from the public sphere, is much greater, and that is why they are forced as a company to include more representation,” she deepens. “More than a political change, it is a market change; that is, Marvel still wants to sell more than anyone. And to keep up to date, lines like Ms. Marvel’s or concessions to the LGTBIQ + collective are needed, such as Loki’s bisexuality in his series, or Valkyrie’s sexuality in Thor: Love and Thunder. It is good that they have to give in to the new demands of political correctness”, she continues, “in the end, it is very important that the public of formative age has referents of other genders, ethnicities, etc”. “Bearing in mind that a superheroine as feminist as the Wonder Woman created by the Marston Clan in 1941 has never set foot in popular culture, it would be convenient for today’s superheroines to take a look at the past,” says Elisa. “That is why I always emphasize the importance of knowing the genealogy, both of the comic and of its authors, given that history is not progressive by definition, even more so, sometimes there are many interests so that what is current seems to be the most revolutionary. . For those who know the superheroic universe, there are many characters that convey ideas that are as feminist or more so than current visions.” “The world of comics is historically masculine,” recalls Andrea. “But even so, it is true that in Lee’s comics there was already an anti-police Spider-Man and a multitude of diverse characters appeared (although they had only one narrative line), with a look advanced at the time.” “I think they’re using his enormous influence to convey messages that they think are correct,” Yu replies, “and I think that’s great. When I was a child I would have loved to see Mighty Thor and think ‘I can also be a goddess of Asgard and have powers, I can call thunder and control my hammer’”. Speaking more specifically about race, Yu explains that in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first film to star an Asian superhero, “he falls into the typical stereotype of the Chinese father that is very strict and that doesn’t let the protagonist do anything… Suggesting that the Chinese father is the bad guy, the Chinese-American son is the good guy but, even so, I admit that I was very excited to see a superhero who had my slanted eyes. I don’t see anything wrong with Marvel sacrificing audience size a bit to target different audiences with different mindsets. I think it’s positive.” Despite that editorial heritage, Janira believes that female characters today are much deeper and more interesting than they were a while ago in movies and comics. “I see women much more complex, with many more nuances and dealing with issues that are not just ‘I’m in love with this or that.’ I also observe a certain feminine touch when it comes to caring, of taking into account the feelings of others. I don’t know, it’s like superheroines have a more emotional and complex point than their male companions, and even in the face of their individualism, they generate more community.” To conclude, Janira affirms that, despite everything, of the men who claim the stick to the original story, “I get the feeling that Marvel doesn’t care a bit and that it will continue along the path it has already started. . Because they know perfectly well that if they don’t attract another type of public they will be left behind”. It is clear, therefore, that although finding the balance in this process is very complex for Marvel, the only way to try to achieve it is to shoot more and better films with female superheroes so that both society as a whole, as well as male fans, abandon over time his attitude towards films starring women.
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