Will Marvel's Next Heroines Be More Than the Sum of Their Jumpsuits?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Feb. 5 2013 12:27 PM

Will Marvel's Next Heroines Be More Than the Sum of Their Jumpsuits?

avengers
Scarlett Johansson as a leather-clad sexpot in The Avengers

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Yesterday brought two good pieces of news for fans of The Avengers, particularly those of us who would like to see Marvel, which has become a reliable purveyor of reasonably intelligent action movies, step up its game when it comes to female characters. The company has finally cast the female lead who will play opposite Steve Rogers in Captain America. And Iron Man 3 director Shane Black is starting to talk about parts of the movie that don't involve Tony Stark, with possibly promising results for its female characters.
Advertisement

Revenge's Emily VanCamp will play Sharon Carter in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it's a terrific role. Carter's an agent with her own agenda and her own adventures, some of which bring her into direct conflict with the man she comes to love. In comics, when Cap and Sharon get together, he wants her to stop working as an agent, fearing the danger she's exposed to, but she says no. When she's missing and presumed killed on a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, Cap grieves her, but she becomes an independent operator, with storylines strong enough to support a movie of their own—or an arc on the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. television show under development for ABC. Cap and Sharon even end up on opposite sides of a political fight over whether superheroes should have to register with the government.

Elsewhere in the franchise, Black is saying all the right things about the scientist Rebecca Hall will play, comparing her to Robert Downey Jr. himself. "We needed a snappy and exciting actor to play the part, and not make it this ‘female scientist who takes off her glasses and suddenly she’s beautiful!’ " he said. That's especially nice, given that the last time Tony Stark got a new woman in his life, it was Scarlett Johansson playing a classic honey trap, a lethal sexpot with a leather-clad ass.

Is Marvel finally getting the message that its female characters should be more than glorified secretaries or damsels in distress? Iron Man 3 comes out in May and Captain America not until 2014, so for now we can only hope, wait, and see.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about culture and television for Slate’s “XX Factor” blog. She also contributes to ThinkProgress and theatlantic.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Public Opinion Should Not Dictate the Government’s Ebola Policies

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.