Marvel vs DC is fast becoming the Apple vs Android of the entertainment industry. You know what that means, it’s not consumer interest at heart, but the need to outdo the other using consumers as pawns. Sounds like a world domination plan straight out of a comic book, huh?
Marvel just broke the internet twice in less than a week. First when they released a first look at Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then yesterday when they publicly announced Phase 3, which is their slate of upcoming films going all the way till 2019. As predicted, the list includes some sequels and threequels, but what really grabbed attention were the new franchises, including Black Panther and Captain Marvel, their first Black and female superheroes to get their own movies.
Coolbeans! Looks like Marvel is getting on with the times, BUT WAIT A MINUTE.
Just two weeks ago, DC announced THEIR upcoming slate which includes, well, their first Black and female superheroes to get their own movies: Cyborg and Wonder Woman. Moreover, the film version of The Flash will be played by openly gay actor Ezra Miller (meanwhile the TV series version has the out Wentworth Miller playing Captain Cold and Andy Mientus will soon play Pied Piper, a rare openly gay villain).
Congratulations, finally some diverse representation, but is this really a move to be progressive or yet another ridiculous arms race?
What about diversity behind the camera? To be fair, Ang Lee and Tim Story did do Marvel projects but neither one’s attempt was well received. Now both conglomerates are ready to showcase female heroes front-and-center but neither has ever hired a female director, and that’s a problem. It came close once, remember the Patty Jenkins snafu?. DC apparently wants a woman to helm Wonder Woman and Jenkins’ name is being circled again. Not for the Emmy-nominee’s talent but for the obvious reason that it would be a slap on Marvel’s face.
Why not have a female action hero’s story be told through a female perspective? That’s not to say men wouldn’t do a good job but previous examples don’t show much hope. No matter what, the male gaze does tend to get in the way. Remember how the camera kept lingering on Gamora’s butt in Guardians of the Galaxy? Remember THAT kiss in Elektra? Remember Halle Berry’s dominatrix costume in Catwoman and wondering how she doesn’t get cut and bruised all over? Remember Lara Croft: Tomb Raider at all? They’re not just badasses, they’re SEXY badasses, appeasing the depraved young male crowd is still paramount. Compare that with Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl. Say what you want about it, but it did have empowering overtones ahead of its time.
Good thing Joss Whedon is a proud feminist or Black Widow would not have even made it to the Avengers universe (Where is HER standalone movie by the way?). Even Whedon’s co-created offshoot series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D features a team where the female members strongly hold their own alongside the men. The dude knows how to make strong women without referencing their sexuality at all and kudos to him, but the other guys just aren’t like him for some reason.
And it’s not just the female-centric action flicks, why can’t women direct any of the other heroes either? A majority of the films on both slates still don’t have directors, it wouldn’t hurt to consider female names. Catherine Hardwicke, Karyn Kusama, Lesli Linka Glatter, or Susanna White would all make suitable candidates who can work well with action and bring their own unique flair.
Unexpected hires have been successful for Marvel. Kenneth Branagh for Thor, Joe & Anthony Russo for Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Shane Black for Iron Man 3 were all left field choices that paid off. Hiring a woman is not nearly as big of a gamble, so why not?