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Temple U. scholars: Critics of ‘The Marvels’ are ‘uncomfortable’ with powerful women

A pair of Temple University professors claim the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film “The Marvels” has been getting panned in reviews partly because “society is uncomfortable seeing serious portrayals of women in positions of power.”

“The Marvels,” due out in early November, features Brie Larson (Captain Marvel), Teyonah Parris (Monica Rambeau) and Iman Vellani (Ms. Marvel), and is partly a sequel to 2019’s “Captain Marvel” and the Disney+ miniseries “Ms. Marvel.”

It’s also the first MCU film to feature a black director, Nia DaCosta.

Professors Jennifer Pollitt and Timothy Welbeck say this “paves the way for greater diversity among directors and will likely serve as inspiration for young women of color to pursue prominent roles in Hollywood,” according to Temple Now.

Pollitt, a “sexuality educator, researcher, and activist” whose courses cover “sexual and erotic agency,” “LGBTQIA civil rights” and the “intersection of sex, law and policy,” claimed the high number of dislikes amassed by the film’s trailer is due to the public’s uneasiness with powerful women, “especially women of color.”

“This is because femininity is often seen as frivolous or not powerful,” Pollitt said. “Many folks who disliked the trailer made accusations that reflected common tropes that assume women are emotionally hysterical, fragile and incapable of making important decisions.”

MORE: Professor worries Marvel’s ‘Atlantis’ will use cultural appropriation, colonial racism

Jennifer PollittPollitt (pictured) added that “women embodying their own power can feel threatening to traditional masculinity because it’s been primarily constructed in opposition to femininity. Traditional masculinity is whatever femininity isn’t.”

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Pollitt’s comments belie women-led films like those in the successful “Alien” franchise (starring Sigourney Weaver, Noomi Rapace, Katherine Waterston), “The Terminator” series (Linda Hamilton and Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor) and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi) among others.

And despite Pollitt’s delight over DaCosta’s role in the film, the director herself stated recently that “The Marvels” is “a [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige production, it’s his movie.”

“I think you live in that reality, but I tried to go in with the knowledge that some of you is going to take a back seat,” she said.

Welbeck, a Council on American-Islamic Relations lawyer and director of Temple’s Center for Anti-Racism who once expressed “outrage” that a judge had “Proud to be an American” as his phone’s ringtone, said given the success of “Captain Marvel” (over $1 billion in worldwide box office receipts), “The Marvels” should make a decent amount of cash.

Welbeck noted that films released earlier this year — “Barbie,” “The Super Mario Bros” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse” did well, as did “The Little Mermaid” — despite “a significant racist backlash to the casting of Halle Bailey” as Ariel.

The popular entertainment news site Screen Rant points out, however, that the latest Marvel offerings have been “going through a rough patch […] due to faulty CGI, uneven stories, poor pacing, and an over-reliance on the famous Marvel formula.” These include “Eternals,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Secret Invasion.”

Not to mention, there have been 32 films set in the MCU.

Chances are if a film is made to check off certain demographic boxes over the telling of a good and compelling story, it will not perform well in the theaters.

MORE: Scholars argue Disney’s ‘Zombies’ movies promote white supremacy

IMAGES: DiscussingFilm/X; Temple U.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.