MARVELLOUS WOMEN – FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
This dissertation examines the different ways Marvel represents female characters and how Marvel has evolved its characters since the release of the comic books. Through the analysis of selected films, the conclusions drawn answer the main questions of this thesis.The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) originated in 2008, with the release of Iron Man (Favreau, 2008) featuring one female character, Pepper Potts, ten years later this has now developed into twenty-nine across the film universe alone. Importantly, in 2018, Hope Van Dyne, also known as the Wasp, is the first female character in the franchise featured in the title of the film, Antman and the Wasp (Reed, 2018). The reasons for conducting this research into the representation of women in the MCU, is that within the decade of films created by Disney there is a shift in terms of the representation of women on screen as well as representing women off-screen. Captain Marvel (Boden and Fleck, 2019) will be the first film to feature a woman as the central protagonist; in addition, this is the first film directed by a woman, Anna Boden. Kevin Feige states, “We’ve always had powerful female characters and heroes in our films. But having a female superhero franchise title for the first time feels overdue” (Feige in Crowther, 2019: pg. 53). Since the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, there has been limited literature which considers the representation of women. Nahum Welang (2018) considers the possession of agency of the women in Black Panther (Coogler, 2018) as they are able to write their own stories and shape their own identity. Recently, Lorraine Cink (2019), Powers of a Girl, collated female characters within the Marvel comics and examined their different abilities including background data into the origins within the comics. Aside from female representation, Terence McSweeney (2018) examines the representation of masculinity in Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014) in the form of Starlord’s hypermasculinity. Another aspect considered is the redemption of the father figure in Antman (Reed, 2015) in relation to Scott Lang and Hank Pym. In terms of academic work examining representation in the MCU, the examination of female representation in literature is limited to work which considers recent cinematic releases such as Black Panther, which importantly represents not only women but African culture on screen. This dissertation has been broken into three sections; literature review, methodology and the analysis of the selected films in the MCU. The selected films, on first examination, focus on different aspects of the representation of women in the narratives, thus are appropriate in the examination of the forms of the representation of women in the MCU. The analysis will consider the changing representation of women from the origin of the MCU to the recent release of Captain Marvel (Boden and Fleck, 2019) in order to gain a broad understanding of the different modes of representation utilised.