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Marvel Studios and it’s Gender Representation in Their Films – An Explainer

Living in the 21st century we have an endless stream of people making different forms of media. One of the biggest being the film industry. In the 21st century we, as a society, revolve our lives around film series. However, with how prevalent these films are in our lives, it is integral for film writers and directors to create movies that are fit the morals and ethics of the audience, as well as what they want to see in films. When this happens successfully, they receive the attention required and meet the required profit margins.

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Credit – Marvel Studios, Avengers: Infinity War Promotional Poster

However with how many films are produced, there are times when film makers come across an ethical issue for example, gender representation or lack of. An example this is Marvel Studios and their gender representation of women. Whilst definitely improving over time, Marvel Studios and their representation of the female gender is certainly a work in progress.

Marvel Studios are a strong part of many individuals lives, and are best known for their superhero movies. Based on Marvel Comics, the movies follow the adventures of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and many others individual or group based superheros. The first Marvel Studio film in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) was Iron Man in 2008, and the most recent being Avengers; Endgame in April 2019. Below is a fan-made video of marvel made by user @Voordeel in 2017; – All Credit to @voordeel 2017, Marvel Studios and “Battle Royal” – Apashe & Panther.

Apart from the upbeat music and editing to make the hero’s look completely bad-ass, we see something that subconsciously even fans accept sometimes… a lack of female hero’s represented compared to the representation of male superheros.

In recent years, there were demands for the answer as to why there aren’t female led movies, why none of these films are directed by women and why the female characters are not represented in merchandise? Yet, these questions asked represent progress from the audience and society – so why can’t Marvel keep up with today’s age and equal the obvious imbalance of gender in their films?

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Credit – Marvel Studios, Captain Marvel

Until 2019, with the release of Captain Marvel, there was no female-led superhero movie from Marvel as well as no movie directed by a female. Captain Marvel sparked a hopeful future for the change of Marvel Studio films. This film did indeed have high box office stats and this allowed not only Marvel Studios but also other studios to put forward more female fronted comic book based films in the industry. Captain marvel allows “more opportunity than ever for women, female film makers and story tellers to have a place in the industry”Robinson 2019.

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Credit – Marvel Studios, Pepper Potts.

Another example of the slow yet rising representation of female characters is Pepper Potts. Assistant to billionaire Tony Stark (Iron Man), rises from this stereotyped role of a worrywart assistant in 2008 to a strong woman, head of the Stark Industries and leading the business into success, being a mum and fighting the bad guys along side all the other superheroes (2019)! Pepper Potts is a metaphorical example of Marvels development over nearly 10 years, and acceptance in involving women to a more equal role along side men.

Aside from these specific examples, there have certainly been great strides since the beginning generally, but a certain scene in the recent, record-breaking final instalment in the current phase Avengers; Endgame, ‘highlights the work that remains‘. The image below is a screen clip of the scene;

Credit – Marvel Studios, Avengers; Endgame 2019.

As shown in the photo, one by one, female characters appear alongside one another on the battle field, in solidarity. This scene lasts less than a minute but cinemas across the world had evoked reaction from theatre audiences, myself alone, had a cinema of individuals cheer and clap seeing the women of Marvel Studios gather together and fight. However, many found this scene to be a forced, last-ditch effort to gain back fans who had previously criticised Marvel’s gender imbalance. Fans instantly were found on social media site Twitter, to express how they felt about the all women scene.

Some loved it, yet recognised the forced nature.

Yet others were clearly unhappy.

Clearly shown, it is highly difficult to achieve a balance in film that everybody is happy with. Film makers can find this a difficult ethical issue that arises in their films because as shown with Marvel Films, unless completely equal from the start, its shown that attempts to fix this obvious unbalanced ratio.

Currently, Marvel Studios is owned by the Walt Disney Company, an American based company that is world wide recognised. Disney is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) which is an American trade association representing the five major film studios of Hollywood and streaming service, Netflix. The MPAA established base guidelines for films, which was ultimately replaced by a film rating system in 1968 where they rate films on a scale based on the suitability for minors.

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Currently, in terms of gender representation, the MPAA don’t have any ‘professional codes’ that require film to have a certain ratio of gender represented on screens. The only thing close to this was in 2012, when the MPAA launched a program called Diversity and Multicultural Outreach program. This was created to “protect the rights of creative communities, and in addressing issues of diversity, gender equality and representation in front of and behind the camera.“. This however, can only encourage the diversity, and only step in and take action if it is unethically represented. So a case of more male superheros than females, is not something that needs intervention from the MPAA.

When the films go overseas and shown in other countries, they are edited to suit the ‘guidelines’ and ‘age restrictions’ of the other countries. For example, scenes from the Marvel film ‘Deadpool 2’ 2018 in Australia, were required to be taken out due to extreme violence. But as similar to America, there are no Australian professional codes or guidelines that require a certain gender ratio in movies. Upon consideration, is this something in the future that needs to be addressed? The fact that there are no guidelines for film makers and the gender representation in their films?

In conclusion, as shown by Marvel Studios and their gradually increasing representation of females in their movies, it is integral that film makers are aware of the diversity and representation of genders in their films. Without correct representation or bias to a particular gender (of course circumstance considered) in their films, film makers will find they will not have successful films that is appreciated from all different types of audiences eg. female audiences. Whilst Marvel Studios is an excellent example of gradual progress, it is still not relieved from the pressure to continue improving. Marvel started with a very low representation of females, and are slowly increasing. Gender representation in film is an ethical issue that is a very large work in progress for the future of the film making industry.


Published by Alex Cooper

UOW Communication and Media Student - Majoring in Digital and Social Media - Minoring in Graphic Design

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