A lady friend of mine who is an even bigger geek than I (yes that is possible) has aired a major beef with Marvel Studios. It’s not something that I had given much thought to but now that she has made me aware of it, I can’t get it out of my head. Although their films are generally well cast they do have one glaring problem. All of the so-called “superheroines” are lacking in the muscle department. They are, in fact, kinda scrawny.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Scarlett Johansson is in excellent shape and, in her defense, the Black Widow was never a big powerhouse. But, don’t you find it odd that she actually packed on more muscle for her role in Ghost in The Shell? I don’t want to take anything away from Ms. Johansson. Like I said, she whips herself into peak condition for these films and, as Natasha Romanoff, she should probably have more of a dancer’s body than that of a powerlifter. That said, she is hardly the most egregious example in the Marvel Universe.
Look at the stars of Guardians of the Galaxy. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillian were both great (Actually, Hunter thought Karen was pretty much dreamy). They are also very much what one might call…slender. Physics are a real thing. It’s very difficult for an 110lb woman to death-punch a 250lb man, no matter what training she has had. Gamora is supposed to be the deadliest woman in the galaxy. Maybe if you sharpened her head and used her as a javelin she might be deadly, otherwise, not so much. In the original Jim Starlin drawings, she had thighs like tree trunks. But in James Gunns’ film, the female stars need only to be fit and trim. They don’t need to look combat-ready. Unless you consider “death elf” to be a combat-ready look instead of a fetish category.
In sharp contrast, Chris Pratt, like all Marvel protagonists before him, hit the gym and transformed himself into a god. Dave Bautista, of course, looked like Trump’s wall with a coat of green paint. Now Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is in the offing with Pom Klementieff in the role of Mantis. Although Marvel probably deserves some paltry kudos for not whitewashing the role I still have to say, “What the fuck?!” She’s a pixie! Mantis once knocked Thor on his ass. Is Marvel afraid to show us a muscular woman or does James Gunn, as I hinted, have a fetish for tiny, wee women? (spoiler, I think it might be both.)
The other shoe dropped last weekend when I saw the set photos from Thor: Ragnarok. Among them were images of Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) next to Chris Hemsworth (Thor). Like most people, she is shorter than Mr. Hemsworth. But this is just ridiculous. She looks more like she ought to be traipsing around Alfheim than Asgard. She’s wee! Nothing against Tessa Thompson, her talent or her performance but damn, she’s not a Valkyrie.
Is Marvel afraid of female muscle? Or is it Disney? Do the studio bigwigs think that people won’t go see comic book films if the superheroines don’t look like bikini models? There was a huge fanboy movement to get Katee Sackhoff cast as Captain Marvel. Failing that, many fans wanted to see Ronda Rousey in the role. These are both women with real muscles who would be believable playing a career military woman who finds herself gifted with superpowers. Instead, Marvel went with Academy Award winner, Brie Larson, supposedly to give the film some attention and gravitas. I’m not so sure, though. I think we are stuck with this screen fetish of the mousey heroine who has secret reserves of strength. While male writers and producers like
to pat themselves on the back for that, it ignores the fact that there are plenty of women in the world who are not hobbit sized.
Warner Bros doesn’t get a pass on this, either. Although Gal Gadot has gotten herself into admirable shape for her role as Wonder Woman, the studio still routinely Photoshops out her muscles in publicity shots and goes out of its way to make her look shorter than co-star Chris Pine. Honestly, from the looks of the trailers I am beginning to think she is his sidekick. But, I digress.
Why are the studios afraid to use big women except as objects of curiosity? There are plenty of tall actresses out there who could go the gym route just as intensely as the trio of Chrises (Pratt, Evans and Hemsworth). Elizabeth Debicki is at least 6’ tall. Gwendoline Christie is 6’2”. Hell, there are whole websites devoted to actresses over 5’10’. It’s not rocket surgery. Seriously, Marvel, if you are afraid to cast a strong-looking woman to play a female superhero, you are going to fall on your face. Being ashamed of your product will lead you right down the Man of Steel path. Embrace the image of the strong woman. I know most of your execs are in LA. Stop by a gym sometime. Look at the ladies lifting. Don’t be afraid. They aren’t delicate flowers. I know you took it on the chin once with Agent Carter but pluck up your courage and try again. If you try to give us a watered-down version of Captain Marvel you are going to take a major bath at the box office. It may surprise you to learn that half the people in America are women and some of them buy movie tickets and most of them aren’t size 0.
He also sings for the Supra-70s band, RIFLE.