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'Captain Marvel' Writer Discusses the Challenges of Writing a Female Superhero

Boy, the Captain Marvel movie sounds like it’ll be amazing.

If Marvel actually ever bothers to make it.

Sure, the movie has only been delayed once. Thus far. In practice, though, it really feels like the whole project is something that Kevin Feige would rather put off for as long as possible, while he procrastinates by pushing forward with yet another Spider-Man movie instead.

It’s almost as if—perish the thought—Marvel is making Captain Marvel not because they want to, or because they think audiences will respond well to it, but because the studio needs to prove that it doesn’t think women should be seen and not heard.

If the Captain Marvel movie is a PR stunt, then it’s not going particularly well, because the studio’s reluctance to announce literally anything about this movie (beyond its writers and lead actor) is a clear indication of everyone’s lack of enthusiasm to having to invite more female creators into their boy’s club treehouse.

In a recent podcast interview, Nicole Perlman, who is co-writing Captain Marvel, as she did previously with Guardians of the Galaxy (although in classic Marvel form she was given very little recognition for her contributions), has said that while she and her writing partner Meg LeFauve have essentially been kept waiting for months before getting any kind of update on the project:

“Meg and I were hired a long time ago but we didn’t have our marching orders until recently. Marvel is a little bit of a house of cards in a sense that everything influences everything around it even if its very modular.”

The awkward thing about a house of cards is that it has a natural tendency to fall down at the most inopportune moment. It’s clear that Captain Marvel is a make-or-break property for the studio, not least because so many of the Higher Ups need convincing that a woman can lead a successful superhero franchise.

Talking raccoons and a third Spider-Man reboot? That’s all completely fine. Doctor Strange drug trips or making Ant-Man seem like a decent hero? All in a day’s work.

A woman directing a movie? Steady on, that seems a bit ridiculous.

It’s a shame that Marvel is so hesitant, not least because the care and attention that Perlman and LeFauve are putting into this show how strong and fleshed out Captain Marvel will be under their guidance.

It seems like they’re doing their absolute best to walk the ridiculous tightrope of expectations that Marvel has put on them, from making sure that Carol Danvers’ military service record is plausible for a woman of Brie Larson’s age, to ensuring that the origin story for the character in the movie doesn’t feel too much like a rehash of Iron Man, or indeed, Green Lantern.

Most of all, Perlman is aware that writing a script about a female character means addressing the elephant in the room: the way that the Male Gaze will view her, and the danger that audiences and, more pressingly, studio heads, will overlook Captain Marvel simply because her gender is not traditionally associated with superhero antics:

“I think theres a tendency to have that back and forth conversation of “Should it affect the story at all?” or “Should it affect the writing?” I think that making sure that Captain Marvel is not somebody who is a hero in SPITE of her femininity is important. She’s a very strong character and her being a woman is part of that strength. I will say that there are certain tropes you can get away without having to examine too much if you’re not writing the first female Marvel Studios lead; that could be read into a lot or that could diminish hero own proactivity, strength, and independence. There are things you wouldn’t think twice about Iron Man but you would think twice about for Captain Marvel.”

It sucks that this is a concern for a movie in this day and age. Everything from Alien to The Hunger Games has proven that women are perfectly capable of carrying action franchises, and yet still, filmmakers drag their heels.

There’s no reason for Marvel to approach the Captain Marvel movie with such hesitancy – having a woman front and center on a poster is not going to make audiences revolt.

Heck, even DC have managed to hammer out a female-directed Wonder Woman, and their production decisions are made by two cats that are trapped together in a bag of ball bearings.

If DC’s beating you to the punch, you know you’ve procrastinated too much.

Matthew loffhagen

Matthew Loffhagen

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