Is there a Lack of Leading Females in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

With no news of a Black Widow stand-alone film and through pushing back the slate of the Captain Marvel film another year, there has been a circulating debate on the Internet about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s lack of prominent feminine characters. The MCU has given an image of sidelining the important female representation to make room for even more male characters, which is overtly seen in The Avengers and Age of Ultron with the lack of a Black Widow movie even though she seems like she is a loved character.

Black_Widow_AOU_PosterHowever, while there may be a lack of leading ladies on the screen, there seems to be many on the side to compliment the male superhero. The rush of potential love interest female characters in the films; from super-intelligent Jane Foster in Thor to the trust-worthy Pepper Potts in Ironman sees this. While these characters aren’t they typical ‘damsel in distress’ theme to them, they are incredibly sidelined by the males in the films.

The only females who are seen as ‘superhero’ type character are in groups and usually outweighed by the male characters. This is seen through Black Widow in The Avengers and Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, as the daughter of Thanos. This really is only a small percentage of the heroes that are seen on screen and has caused many problems with many movie-goers and has sparked many rants by people online.

This lack of strong female characters and centrality in these films can sometimes detach the female audience from relating to characters in the film and getting emotionally connected to what they are witnessing on screen.

Iron-Man-3-ec0d3038It doesn’t help that most of these female characters are placed in the film as romantic interests for the males, leading to the old fashioned submissive image of women, which no longer fits in today’s society anymore. Characters who have some interest to the plot, but are relatively there for the male hero to fall in love with them have become a major plot device in the MCU. This is heavily seen through Pepper Potts, Jane Foster and to some extent Peggy Carter.

 Is this a problem within the Marvel Cinematic Universe though?

Some people would argue, yes.

Marvel Comics has set the ground rules of setting up many important and powerful female characters that could easily fit in their coherent cinematic universe, such as Captain Marvel, Scarlett Witch, Maria Hill and many of the X-Men. While some of these may be difficult to show on screen through their lack of development thus far in the MCU and the lack of film rights, with some tweaking to these women, there is an obvious question of why Marvel Studios hasn’t adapted a female stand-alone film thus far.

This discussion would be easily resolved if the MCU focused on making more prominent female characters who are as strong as they are developed. If these characters had as much screen time as their male comrades and as expanded as they are, the film universe would be considerably more flawless then it already is and would break the barrier of adding something people have wanted for years.


However, the biggest problem with this matter is the lack of female stand-alone films. This is actually where the DC cinematic universe has the upper hand, with their much-anticipated Wonder Woman stand-alone film being released in 2017, in the earlier phases of their cinematic universe. This is a year before the release of Marvel’s first female stand-alone Captain Marvel, which was controversially set back a year to fit in another white male superhero, Spiderman. This is actually ten years after the initial beginning of the MCU with Ironman being released in 2008. With 8 stand-alone films created and 8 more on the way, only one will be a female character and only one character, Black Panther, will be the only non Caucasian.

This lack of diversity has been the cause of much internet drama in recent months, with moviegoers and marvel fans severely disappointed with the lack on feminine strength and characterisation on their screens. This is seen especially with women, who are finding it hard to find a character they somewhat to relate to. The men in marvel had non-superhero aspects and obstacles they had overcome throughout the films, however this cannot be really said for the female characters and audiences.

gamora-posterThis male dominance has an old-fashioned tone to it and seems like it doesn’t fit with everything else surrounding our society. With the many franchise, all-female starring reboots, it is actually quite a surprise that Marvel is still lacking with the prominence of a strong female lead.

It seems like, at this point, Marvel TV has done this better, with Agent Carter, a spin off of Penny Carter in Captain America resounded quite well with audiences and many female MCU fans. If Marvel studios could use this as a guide to lead a prominent female character into the universe, the universe would be as coherent as the team has been aiming for since their first film in 2008.

With all this debate and speculation circulating the internet, hopefully in the future the films that Marvel produces is able to create these characters that have previously been lacking and is able to not exclude parts of the audience from their films. Marvel have created some of the best blockbuster films over the past few years and it would be able to go a step further if they were able to introduce strong female protagonists, in order to create a fully-fleshed out universe.

Article by Emilia Aslan



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  1. Love your ideas! What are your thoughts on the X-men universe? I know they’re outside Marvel Studios, but they have a strong band of female heroines/ anti heroines.

    • Hey, thanks for commenting! I agree that the X-Men fox franchise, while having some weaker films, does have a level above the MCU in having strong female characters. I do think in DOP they amped Mystique to the point of Professor X and Magneto and it actually brings some great femininity in the film and i know they are bringing Jean in Apocalypse and she will be a central character. So really, in retrospect, even though some people are dying to see Marvel studio’s take on the X-Men, they are doing a better job when it comes to female power.

      • One thing I notice as a constant throughout Hero movies, though, is the ‘side-chicking’. Even when there is a female heroine/ anit-heroine, they are always in a relationship. Widow with Hulk, Jane with Thor, Peppa with Tony, Jean with Cyclops/ Wolverine, Bobby with Rogue/ Kitty, Gamora with Starlord. It’s like writers can’t just have a female heroine for the sake of having one. Heroines can only be there if they are a part of the scripts romantic sub-plot.

        • Yes! I tried to address this was a problem! I really hope Captain Marvel DOESN’T have this and focus on how there is a female character who is written just as compelling and strong on her own.

  2. What about Black Widow and Peggy Carter? I would argue that they are super heroes in their own right, and while yes they have not had solo films, I still feel that their story could be told well in the right hands. p.s. super excited for Captain Marvel!

    • I do agree that these two women are ‘Superheroes’, but the problem is not even just the stand alone films, however, these characters haven’t been as fleshed out. Peggy Carter has been fleshed out in her show, but not if we are distinctly talking about the MCU. We did get some background (finally) from Black Widow, but we didn’t get a lot. Another problem is the side-chicking problem, obviously Peggy Carter was with Cap, but now with Ultron the whole Banner/Black Widow thing happened. It did work in terms of a film perspective, but at the same time how many times do we have a Female character placed for the use of a romance. But I do think these are the two, maybe alongside Scarlett Witch and hopefully Captain Marvel, who we will get a fleshed out background of who they really are on screens.

  3. I think realistically, Marvel will only up the ante on the female-led movies if DC’s Wonder Woman movie slated for 2017 is the biggest bombshell success that is talked about for months on end. It’s no real coincidence that after DC released their plans for their movies, Marvel’s Captain Marvel movie is trailing right behind it.

    • I agree that Marvel has the better calibre of films right now and everything they have made has been good, but yeah my point is that they were probably just trying to level with Marvel. I think the perception that DCCU is in major trouble is a bit exaggerated, but i do think their major problem is going to be trying to make a film to the same calibre of Marvel films and not focus on creating a coherent universe.

      • Sorry what I was basically saying was that if 2017’s Wonder Woman movie gets over 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and makes at least 500 million at the box office then Marvel will up the ante on female superheroes.

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