Captain Marvel and the Fragility of Male Egos

With the 21st film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, and the first to feature a solo female lead hitting theaters this Friday, I wanted to take a look at the stir the film has caused amongst toxic, male internet trolls.

Ever since the first teaser for the film released all the way back in September, a vocal segment of the online community has been trying to derail the film. First came the smiling photoshops that were shared on Twitter, where a user claimed to have “fixed” Captain Marvel, insinuating that the film would suck because star Brie Larson looked disinterested in being a superhero because she wasn’t smiling throughout the entire trailer.

Aside from the obvious toxic masculinity involved with telling a woman lead in a superhero franchise that she should try smiling more, the idea that she’s not smiling enough in the trailer is completely unfounded. A writer for Screen Rant went through all of the first teasers for every superhero to previously appear in the MCU and determined that Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers smiled more often than any other superhero in the MCU and was no more serious than any other superhero. The only difference is… she’s a woman.

This speaks to a bigger problem in the film industry. Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot’s armpits became a topic of conversation when marketing for the film started and later, she was basically salivated over in some film reviews by male critics, while Tomb Raider’s Alicia Vikander was criticized by a male critic for not having enough sex appeal to portray Lara Croft, because she has small breasts.

Larson also stirred up some controversy amongst this toxic group of trolls with some comments she made about the press tours for the film where she made it known that she wanted “more inclusive” press days, after noticing over the previous year that her press days were made up of overwhelmingly white males. Her intention was to make sure there were enough seats at the table for the groups of people that had been left out of these press junkets previously.

But that didn’t stop toxic internet trolls from twisting her words and commencing a review bombing of the Audience Want To See Score on Rotten Tomatoes, resulting in an MCU low score. Rotten Tomatoes later removed the ability to post reviews prior to a film’s release by audiences, but stated that it was not a decision propagated by hate towards Captain Marvel. Even that was not enough as another troll has let it be known that they, and others, will be review bombing it again following its release because they disagree with the “identity politics” the film is supposedly pushing.

All of this boils down to the fragility of male egos and toxic masculinity. The idea that opening the doors for an under-represented group to be represented in media and in the highest-grossing film franchise of all time is somehow an attack on men, white men in particular, is preposterous, and frankly, as a white man, I find it pathetic.

Representation in media matters. Captain Marvel is the first solo female lead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s a big deal for young girls all over who’ve grown up on these films never seeing a female superhero in a leading role all on her own.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is 10 years old now and there’s been 20 films released to date. Only one, Ant-Man and the Wasp has had a female character in a co-leading capacity. That leaves 19 other films having male leads, and only Black Panther featured a non-white male lead. If we take out the three Avengers films and both Guardians of the Galaxy films, that leaves 13 films with white male leads within the franchise. We’ve been represented enough. It’s time to let other communities come in and enjoy the MCU party.


David and I will be back again next week to discuss this topic further in a podcast episode. With this episode, I would love to have a female comic book fan join us to discuss this area of conversation. If that’s you, please contact me or David. Until next time…

David Birnbaum