Captain Marvel shows necessity of female critics for female stories

Marvel’s first female-led film shows need for review from women

Marvel released its first female-led superhero movie on Mar. 8.

This past week, Marvel released its newest film, Captain Marvel, with Brie Larson as its titular hero. And while the film’s generated a lot of hype, it’s largely been met with mixed reviews. 

Captain Marvel is the 21st motion picture to feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yet it’s the first to star a female protagonist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the film’s most positive reviews come from female critics, while its harshest tend to be from their male counterparts. 

This gendered dichotomy sheds light on an alarming pattern: men negatively review female-driven stories while being unable to understand the meaning female leads hold for women around the world.

A female reviewer for The Verge, Shana O’Neil, gave Captain Marvel a stellar review with a 90 out of 100 rating on Metacritic. Meanwhile, male New York Post reviewer Johnny Oleksinski gave the film an exceedingly negative review with a 38 out of 100 rating. 

Whereas O’Neil praises the film for meeting high expectations and creating a strong, female superhero, Oleksinski mocks the idea of Captain Marvel being taught to control her powers by her male counterpart, Yon-Rogg. He says the movie does “little to earn [the role of feminist film],” ignoring Captain Marvel’s strong female lead, and the many women she impacts.

Though any film critic has the right to criticize a film on its acting, plot, and use of special effects, most men can’t fully understand the importance of female representation in movies to the extent women can. While men have grown up watching and looking up to male superheroes, women are able to speak to the power a strong leading actress can have—especially in the case of superhero films like Captain Marvel

While men have grown up watching and looking up to male superheroes, women are able to speak to the power a strong leading actress can have

Female-led movies like Captain Marvel may not be cinematically perfect, but it’s impossible to ignore the positive impact strong heroines have on their audiences. Female characters who defy generic gender restrictions can be role models to young women, and show them they don’t have to be relegated to the sidelines of a man’s story. 

Unfortunately, Captain Marvel isn’t the only example of skewed gendered reviews. 

Last week, Waitress the Musical opened in London, U.K. Created by the all-female team of Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson, and Diane Paulus, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a pie maker who struggles to leave her emotionally and physically abusive husband. 

Similar to Captain Marvel, various female critics gave the show positive reviews, with Sunday Times reporter Ann Treneman giving it a full five stars. However, male reviewers took issue with Jenna’s inability to leave her husband, finding the plot annoying and unrealistic. 

The Guardian’s Michael Billington wrote, “Why, I wondered, did she put up with a violently abusive husband…?” This musing shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the imbalanced power dynamics women are often subjected to in society, especially those who are abused or taken advantage of by men. Labelling it unrealistic for a woman to have trouble leaving her abusive husband exemplifies that some male reviewers don’t have a firm grasp on the realities women face.

Captain Marvel and Waitress are just two examples of female-driven stories that were received poorly by male critics who don’t understand the significance of these works. They represent a progressive shift in the entertainment industry to include more female stories, and aren’t just another typical movie or show. 

In a world of media dominated by men and male-centric stories, female-driven representations are extremely important and necessary for young women. Allowing ill-informed men to review these stories can have dire implications on both profits and public perception of a work. 

The creation and inclusion of more female stories in the media makes room for more women to review them, lifting those voices in a predominantly male-dominated culture.While men still have the right to review these stories, their opinions should be taken with the understanding that they’re reviewing a female story from a male’s perspective. 

Captain Marvel and Waitress’ reception show the importance of having female reviewers for female stories. Reviews from women allow the complexities of being a woman to be fully represented, while creating another avenue to raise women’s voices in the fields of media and entertainment, where they’re often overshadowed. 

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