International Women’s Day: Women on the Rise

international women's day superheroes

It’s International Women’s Day! There aren’t really any special events in the comic book movie world planned to commemorate it a la Captain Marvel’s release two years ago, but that’s okay. A lot has happened to further women in the genre between then and now, and that gives us plenty to reflect on and celebrate today.

I can’t help but be a bit sad taking a look back, though. Last year was supposed to be the biggest year for women in CBM’s yet, but that – like practically everything else in the world – didn’t end up panning out the way it was supposed to. DC and Marvel each had two films set for 2020, all four with women in the starring role and, possibly even more importantly, directed by women. Of all the MCU and DCEU movies before this, only Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel had been directed by women, and the latter also had a male director working alongside the female one. Yes, there were a few other female-led superhero movies before this, but none from the two main “universes” that are known and loved today. There were many awesome women in both DCEU and MCU movies – I particularly liked that Black Panther had so many different women in it because it allowed each of them to be more than “the token girl” who rolls her eyes when the men get silly and fun – but they didn’t get to lead their own franchises until those films came out.

On top of this, Marvel revealed at the beginning of the year they were going to release the Disney+ series WandaVision in the same year. It really seemed as though by the end of 2020, women taking the lead on superhero projects on and offscreen would no longer be a novelty, but rather the norm.

Of course, we all know how that panned out. Due to the pandemic, there was no major MCU release in 2020, as WandaVision was delayed into January 2021. DC’s two female-helmed projects were released, but neither ended up making huge waves. Birds of Prey was admittedly pretty niche from the get-go, but Wonder Woman 1984 would have probably done quite well financially if things had been normal) and the conversation surrounding both circled right back to whether or not women should helm superhero projects.

That being said, I do think the discussion in this area is improving. I saw little to none of this kind of debate with WandaVision, which, while directed by a man, had a female lead and head writer (with several other women on the writing team). There was and is discourse surrounding the show, but it’s about the content and themes of the project rather than the fact that women played key leadership roles in making it happen.

Speaking of WandaVision, that show also brought us the origin story of a new female superhero, when Monica Rambeau became…well, we don’t know her official superhero name yet (she’s had several in the comics, and the frontrunners for which one will be used in the MCU seem to be Spectrum and Photon )but she gained some cool new powers and also used her human abilities to help Wanda face her grief. I can’t wait to see her shine some more in Captain Marvel 2.

I also appreciate that superhero media seems to be moving away from the “men direct male-led movies, women direct female-led ones” mentality. I know some believe projects with female leads should only be directed by women, but I’m okay if not all of them are as long as there are women at or near the top of the decision-making pecking order as well (for example, the aforementioned Matt Shakman-directed, Jac Shaeffer-penned WandaVision).
And I’m all for women-directed male-led projects as well. In fact, you know the next Marvel project, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? The one that a lot of guys are saying is more “for them” than WandaVision because it looks fast-paced and action-heavy? Well, it’s being directed by none other than Kari Skogland, a woman who has helmed a bunch of other TV projects and spoken out about the importance of opportunities for up-and-coming female directors.

Here’s to the further normalization of women in the comic book movie world. They’re not going anywhere, and neither is this woman who writes about them.

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