Marvel Fans Point Out Sexist Double Standard Over ‘The Marvels’

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Kamala Khan, Monica Rambeau, and Captain Marvel fighting in The Marvels

Credit: Marvel Studios

What is a fandom without healthy debate?

With 15 years, 33 films, and nine TV shows under its belt, the Marvel Cinematic Universe provides plenty of opportunity for discourse. From who’s the strongest Avenger to whether Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is truly responsible for Thanos (Josh Brolin) winning in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (we vote yes), the Marvel fandom is rarely in agreement on everything.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) looking dismayed at the climax of 'Avengers: Endgame'
Credit: Marvel Studios

When it comes to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), the discourse is even more divided. Since making her debut as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel (2019), Larson has proven to be a controversial figure in the MCU – seemingly for no reason.

Although her first outing raked in over $1 billion for Marvel, it had the advantage of releasing in the run-up to Avengers: Endgame (2019), which was arguably the peak of public interest in Marvel. Fans aren’t so optimistic about the box office performance of the film’s sequel, The Marvels (2023), which hit theaters this week.

The Marvels IMAX poster Monica Rambeau, Captain Marvel, and Kamala Khan standing around each other
Credit: Marvel Studios

This time around, The Marvels sees Captain Marvel join forces with Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) as they try to figure out why they keep switching places whenever they use their powers – all while trying to defeat the villainous Kree leader, Supremor Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton).

While the film’s debuted to generally positive reviews, it hasn’t made much of a financial splash. Not yet, at least. An early report claimed that The Marvels sold less than 50,000 tickets in its opening day of France – miles away from the performance of its predecessor.

Every member of The Marvels looking up into the distance
Credit: Marvel Studios

Multiple elements of the film have also proven to be contentious within the Marvel fandom. One of the biggest discussion points has been the characterization of Kamala Khan.

Movie critic Mark Cassidy sparked outrage with a tweet about Kamala’s obsession with Captain Marvel in the film. “So now that #TheMarvels is out, I wanna know,” he wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter). “Kamala’s constant fawning over Danvers got old, didn’t it? It did… admit it. It’s okay. They didn’t know when to stop. It was a ‘Captain, my Captain’ too far.”

He later added, “Also, they really missed an opportunity at a much more entertaining dynamic by having Carol initially a bit irritated by her and not wanting her around, but eventually seeing her worth etc. It’s a bit hackneyed, but it works. This didn’t.”

Iman Vellani looks in the mirror in 'Ms. Marvel'
Credit: Marvel Studios

While his initial tweet attracted over 120 likes, it also generated some pretty indignant responses. The biggest criticism some fans had was that this opinion proves a clear stereotype between attitudes to female and male superheroes in the MCU, as nobody made the same dig when Peter Parker (Tom Holland) idolized Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr).

“Bro we sat through Tom Holland fawning over Downey for 5 movies,” replied user @ArchieWMarshall.

“It’s endearing, and it’s exactly what would happen if this were in the real world,” said @NoHair87. “My teenager who grows up loving superheroes suddenly BECOMES ONE and then finally meets their favorite one would freak out the entire time, no question. Also, Peter did the same thing to Tony.”

Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark) in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' (2017)
Credit: Marvel Studios

As user @DWJ_1989 pointed out, other male characters did the same – without complaint. Female characters, however, are not permitted the same emotional freedom. “Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) meeting Chris Evan’s (Capt America) Tom Holland (Spider-Man) meeting Downey (Iron Man) Iman (Ms. Marvel) meeting Brie (Carol Danvers) it’s natural to fawn over your idols. You’re just trying to find something to hate on.”

The biggest defense of this plot point is the fact that Kamala’s entire character arc is inspired by Captain Marvel. Giving her an OTT reaction to finally meeting her hero is the only script choice that would make sense. The same isn’t true of Peter Parker. “Peter Parker a character with no ties to Tony Stark in comics besides being a pal, spends 4 movies that entirely revolve around Stark and Peter’s hero worship,” said @UnsafeMedicine. “Kamala who literally devotes her life to be like Carol, that’s just too far.”

Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel
Credit: Marvel Studios

Female superheroes are typically placed under much closer scrutiny than their male counterparts. The fandom’s sexist treatment of Captain Marvel (and Brie Larson) – and now Kamala Khan (and Imani Vellani) – is the biggest proof of the fact. What’s heartening, however, is that there’s an equally voracious part of the fandom willing to stand up to criticism for criticism’s sake.

Have you seen The Marvels yet? Let us know your thoughts on the film in the comments!

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