The film industry has a long history of being extremely sexist as well as severely misrepresenting women on the big screen. Granted, it’s not quite a history, it’s more of a persistent problem that’s only showing small signs of improvement with Hollywood only just tentatively dipping their toe in the water of female led movies, still very much stuck in the mindset that they can’t be as successful because women don’t watch movies, and all men want to see is other guys save the day. I believe a lot of responsibility for changing that mindset lies at the feet of the most popular genre of the moment, with Marvel and DC both needing to put their money and faith behind more solo female superhero films.
And Marvel seem to be taking the right steps towards rectifying their severe lack of female led movies, with Kevin Feige recently confirming that the studio are committed to producing a Black Widow solo movie, although it will only come into production after the current slate of Marvel films have been released in 2019, “Where we go beyond that are ongoing discussions that we’ll focus on in the next few years because we have a lot to do before then,” he says. “I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow. We think she’s an amazing character. We think Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her is amazing. She’s a lead Avenger and has amazing stories in her own right to tell that we think would be fun to turn into a stand-alone franchise.”
As amazing as it is to finally hear some sort of confirmation, a Black Widow solo affair is long overdue. For a character that was introduced into the MCU as far back at Iron-Man 2, and one that increases in popularity with each appearance, it’s kind of criminal she hasn’t received the limelight that she truly deserves. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff has instead only been utilised as a supporting character to her fellow male counterparts and, up until the very recent Captain America: Civil War, she was the only actual female member of the Avengers. The lack of faith in the character also extends beyond the absence of a solo film, with Marvel controversially altering her waistline on a Captain America: Winter Soldier poster as well as removing Black Widow toy lines, instead replacing her role inaccurately with Hawkeye or Captain America.
It’s not like Black Widow is a dull character, played by an unknown actress, with no interesting comic book history. You have one of the most, if not the most, interesting member of the Avengers, who has trained all of her life to hone herself as a weapon for Soviet Russia, only to switch sides and claim American citizenship when given the opportunity. Not only that, but she’s played by one of the most recognisable and bankable actresses in the world right now, who is more than capable of anchoring a solo film in the biggest and most popular film franchise ever. Romanoff isn’t a goody two shoes character like the rest of her colleagues, and her dark past could be utilised to full effect to make for a very unique and unforgettable Marvel outing.
As of now, Marvel’s first female centric solo film is due for release in 2018 with Captain Marvel, a whole 10 years after the Marvel Cinematic Universe began. A decade that will have seen 14 solo films led by a male character, and one film that gives both their lead actor and actress equal billing (Ant-Man and the Wasp), which is completely unacceptable for a company that has a never ending list of strong, popular female characters to adapt for the silver screen. Marvel aren’t the only company at fault, we are still waiting for our first major motion picture to include a female lead from any studio with that honour going to Warner Bros and Wonder Woman, due out June 2nd 2017. Bearing in mind that comic book movies rose to prominence in 2000, it has taken almost 20 years for a studio to realise that putting funds and quality creative talent behind our favourite women superheroes will reap plenty of rewards.
However, this isn’t a trend that is set in stone. Marvel have shown that they can make money off of anything, and if they show faith in their female characters by giving Black Widow, amongst many others, their due on the big screen, then all the other studios will follow suit, pumping money and talent into female led movies of any sort. Revamped Star Wars, as well as The Hunger Games, have already started to turn heads with the heaping piles of money both of those franchises have made with a strong female lead, the industry just needs it’s most box office successful genre to take this ‘novel’ idea and run with it.
By the way, I purposely forgot about the abysmal Catwoman and Elektra films. No creative talent or thought was put into those films beyond putting popular actress in tight suits of leather. Great work, Hollywood.