Female superhero accused of sexism and racism

Power up: Marvel boss Kevin Fiege says she is “the strongest character we’ve ever had.” © Marvel

After making 20 superhero movies in the past decade, today Marvel releases its 21st — and the first with a female lead. Some fans are accusing Captain Marvel’s star of sexism and racism. Why?

Brie Larson loves her latest film character, Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel). And it is not because she has superpowers. It is because she was “doing amazing things even before she had superpowers.”

Carol Danvers is a former US Air Force pilot — but she has lost her memories of that time and somehow gained alien powers.

The film is out in cinemas today. It is the 21st movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, it is the first with a female lead.

The reviews have been mixed. The Telegraph calls it “big on girl-boss attitude”. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “mundane”.

Some Marvel fans are criticising Larson personally, accusing her of “racist” and “sexist” comments. Why?

Larson has been vocal about diversity in Hollywood for some time. In an interview with Marie Claire, she said that she had noticed that film critics were “overwhelmingly white male.” She has started asking for more diverse interviewers.

She points to research which shows that 77.3% of top film critics are men, while 88.2% are white. In total, 65.6% are white men.

“Am I saying that I hate white dudes? No, I’m not,” she said in a speech last year. But “I don’t want to hear what a white man has to say about A Wrinkle in Time […] It wasn’t made for him!”

“With great power…”

Does this make her sexist and racist? She says she wants to “bring more seats up to the table. No one is getting their chair taken away.” But hiring more minority directors and critics will probably mean fewer opportunities for white men. Is this fair enough?

Is it possible to be racist against white people? Some say no, because white people in the West have traditionally held all the power. And yet an NPR poll found that 55% of white Americans believed there is “discrimination against white people”. Why do they feel this way?

You Decide

  1. Will you be watching Captain Marvel at the cinema?

Activities

  1. Without looking it up in the dictionary, write your own definition of racism. Compare it with an official definition. Do you think Brie Larson’s comments were racist?

Some People Say...

“Being the best you can be…That’s doable. That’s possible for anybody if they put their mind to it.”

Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel comics, Vol 2)

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The character of Carol Danvers was created in 1968 as a love interest. She got her superhero powers later, and now she is known as the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe.
What do we not know?
How the film will be received by audiences. It is expected to make $100 million in its opening weekend, half the amount made by Black Panther during the same period last year.

Word Watch

Research
The study was published by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. It looked at reviews of the top 300 films between 2015-17.
Speech
Made at the Crystal + Lucy Awards in June last year. In the same speech she announced a plan to connect studios with underrepresented journalists for their films.
A Wrinkle in Time
A fantasy film about a mixed race teenage girl.
NPR poll
The poll surveyed 902 white adults between January and April 2017. It found that 84% of white people believed discrimination existed against racial and ethnic minorities too.