WARNING! This post will contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now and come back when you have seen it. Spoilers will begin below the photo.
From a young age, I enjoyed science fiction, fantasy, and other genres that had historically primarily male fanbases. I loved my Disney Princesses and I loved romantic comedies, but I also really enjoyed getting swept up in whether or not Han and Luke could get out of a scrape in the Millenium Falcon, whether Frodo would successfully complete his quest to Mount Doom, or whether Harry would defeat He Who Must Not Be Named.
Growing up, I also witnessed the culmination of more than one blockbuster franchise. When I was in high school, I witnessed the end of a groundbreaking franchise in The Lord of the Rings and a year later, I sat and watched the end (or so we thought at the time) of the Star Wars saga. Both were franchises I had fallen in love with. Both had turned me into the fangirl I am today. Both were franchises I was invested in the outcome of. And both, for all their merits and groundbreaking achievements, were “boys clubs”.
Even before I could recognize I was doing it, my favorite characters were always the ones I identified with. In some movies that meant I could see my personality in a character (Belle and Hermione, for example) which was always refreshing and comforting. But sometimes, the only thing I had in common with my favorite character in a movie was that she was also a girl (typically with some traits I wished I could embody more). Case in point? My favorite character in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? Arwen.
Yeah, besides the moment above, Arwen doesn’t have much to do in those movies. She might have an hour of screentime in a trilogy that is 9-12 hours long (depending on which versions your watching). She doesn’t get to go on the quest to destroy the ring – the boys do. She stays home, destined to pine for her love Aragorn and eventually be sent to the undying lands. But she was still my favorite character in all three of those movies because she was fierce (in the one scene she was given to do something in).
Flash forward 13 years. It’s the summer of 2017. Marvel is 9 years into their historic and unprecedented shared universe experiment. DC is trying their hardest to catch up, but so far have been failing miserably. However, they’re about to do something Marvel won’t do for another 2 years. They release a movie directed by a woman focused on a female super hero. This isn’t the first movie with a female super hero as the lead, but it is ground breaking in another important way: it’s a fantastic movie.
It’s never important that Diana Prince is a woman. She is a badass who happens to be female. She can save the world and it doesn’t matter that she’s a girl. If anything, it helps her be even more heroic with her natural empathy leading her decision making. For the first time, I see myself in the hero of a movie – as the person who is saving the day. Don’t get me wrong, the MCU had given me Black Widow, and as awesome as she was – the MCU never seemed to know exactly what to do with her. She got decent closure to her character in Avengers: Endgame, making the ultimate sacrifice so that the team’s plan to bring back the Snapped could succeed. Natasha’s characterization since her introduction in Iron Man 2 definitely occurred in fits and starts for me. Not to mention – she still hasn’t gotten her own movie.
The MCU had also given me Peggy Carter, the kickass director/founding member of SHIELD who never let losing the love of her life stop her from being an overall awesome role model and inspiration on screen. But unfortunately, that happened on the small screen – and not a lot of people saw it (because if they had, it wouldn’t have been cancelled after two short seasons on ABC).
At the beginning of this year, Marvel caught up and Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel) joined the MCU with her own solo movie. It was great (not as good as Wonder Woman, in my opinion, but still fantastic) and an important milestone in the MCU.
Which brings us to this weekend when I saw Avengers: Endgame. During the third act battle sequence, after the Snapped have been returned by the Masters of the Mystic Arts to the battle, we get to my favorite scene in the entire movie. After Hawkeye, Black Panther, and Spiderman all fail to get the new gauntlet to Ant Man and the Wasp so they can get the stones back to their times and out of Thanos’ fingers – Captain Marvel swoops in and takes the gauntlet from Peter Parker. When concern is expressed that Carol won’t be able to make it through Thanos’ forces to get to Ant Man and the Wasp, all of the women in the battle (and there are a lot), fly in to have her back and get her there. It’s a moment reminiscent of Infinity War’s “She’s not alone” defense of Scarlet Witch.
I was disappointed that in a theater that had whooped, hollered, and applauded throughout the movie when the male characters had had their heroic moments – no one was whooping over this. No one was hollering when Pepper Potts and Hope Van Dyne landed with the Valkyrie and Okoye and Shuri and Scarlet Witch and Nebula and Gamora and Mantis (and all the others I’m not thinking to name) to defend their sister. One friend remarked to me after the fact that it was his least favorite moment. Another mentioned that it felt contrived that they would all be in the same place on the field at the same time. I can’t help but notice how no one says that when all the men wind up in the same place…
For me…it was the thing I never knew I needed until I had it. I never knew how much I needed to see all these badass women coming to support their sister and make sure she accomplished her mission. And I am so excited for all the young girls out there who got to see it at an age where they are still forming who they are going to become and what they believe themselves capable of doing. I hope they (and the grown women in the audience) watch that scene and see themselves in at least one of those women. Those women who are all unique. Those women who are unapologetically themselves. Those women who aren’t afraid to save the day. And those women who don’t need a man to save them, but who also have men who are their equals, their partners. Who have men who understand their worth, value, and skills, and aren’t intimidated by them. I hope that they feel empowered by the sisterhood that has been grown in the MCU. And I hope they see that we all need to spend more time supporting each other going after a goal instead of tearing each other down.
My favorite scene in Avengers: Endgame was probably 30-60 seconds long. It wasn’t the biggest, flashiest, or arguably even the most important from a plot standpoint (Carol ultimately fails in her mission). But it was the most important scene to me and so many other people who are finally getting to see themselves in the things that they love.
I’ve seen a lot of people complaining in the last few years about how franchises are suddenly making their leads female and why is everyone jumping on this bandwagon? The lead character in the new Star Wars trilogy is a girl. The Doctor on Doctor Who is now a woman. Why have they suddenly decided to “shoehorn” these women into all these places? The reality is – we’ve been here the whole time, quietly paying our money and watching these things with you, clinging to the parts where we see someone who resembles ourselves on screen. Someone just finally noticed that we were there. Comic book movies, science fiction, fantasy, and so many other genres have become mainstream in recent years, expanding the fan base beyond the “boys clubs” they always felt like they were. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.