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Holding Out for a Hero(ine): An Examination of the Presentation and Treatment of Female Superheroes in Marvel Movies

Robyn Joffe

Prior to the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and Captain Marvel (2019), the way that female characters from the Marvel Comics’ canon were realized onscreen was problematic for several reasons and encumbered by issues rooted in the strong female character trope and its postfeminist origins. A close examination of three Marvel superheroines—Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Mystique—reveals that while they initially appear to be positioned as equal to their male teammates, they are consistently burdened with difficulties and challenges that men never have to face. The filmmakers’ focus on these women’s appearance and sex appeal, their double standard for violent women, and their perception of a woman’s role, create a picture of “strong” women that is questionable at best and damaging at worst.

Keywords: Marvel, postfeminism, sexualization, infantilization, maternalism

Robyn Joffe is a part-time student working on completing her master’s degree in Communication and Culture at York University. Her thesis focuses on representations of gender and sexuality in traditionally male-oriented genres of contemporary film and television.