What Captain Marvel Means to Me

Art by Jen Bartel: https://www.jenbartel.com/

For the longest time, I didn’t understand the importance of representation. I was aware of the idea of its importance, but always dismissed it as something that mattered to other people. Why would I need to see myself represented in the movies, or in a tv show? Those aren’t reality. They’re escapes. I don’t need to see myself in them. Also, full disclosure: I grew up in a white middle-class family with two parents … so it’s not like I was struggling to understand where I fit in the world.

But then I saw Wonder Woman. The movie filled me with pride and left me feeling inspired. Not because it was a perfect film. It’s good, but the third act ends with a handsome Chris sacrificing himself in a plane to save humanity. It’s essentially Captain America: The First Avenger, just one World War earlier. Anyway…

Watching Diana be strong and capable, and the focus of the story, while still acknowledging her vulnerabilities and the obstacles she faces simply by being a woman … well, it mattered to me.

It was then that I realized that I HAD seen myself represented in film and television for years. Just always as the assistant. The funny friend. The supportive, smart teammate. I’m a woman with glasses and I fully accepted the notion that I would never be beautiful until I got rid of them. Oh, and straightened my hair – thanks, Princess Diaries.

I hadn’t realized that seeing myself represented on screen as the side character meant that I always saw myself that way. I accepted that I wasn’t “beautiful,” because I had glasses. I believed that I didn’t deserve to lead, because I was a woman. Those sentences sound idiotic to me now, but I had those messages ingrained in me from media all my life. It shouldn’t take me twenty years to unlearn what movies, tv shows and advertisements taught me in my adolescence.

Seeing Carol Danvers blast through the Accusers ships intimidating Ronan away from Earth with merely her presence inspired me. No, I can’t fly. I can’t make photon blasts. I’m not imbued with the power of an infinity stone. I am not Captain Marvel. But I am a woman, and so was Carol before she became a superhero. She was just a girl who fell down time and time again, but got back up.

Carol blowing up the engine core was the parallel moment to Steve Rogers throwing himself on the grenade during basic training. It was a moment where our hero – as a regular person – made the choice to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. That moment was why Steve was picked for the serum that made him Captain America, and that moment was when Carol absorbed the power of the core that made her Captain Marvel.

Steve Rogers got beat up by bullies and mocked by fellow soldiers. Carol Danvers got scolded by her father and mocked by fellow soldiers. They both got up after being knocked down over and over.

Carol is our new Steve. Brave, selfless, truly heroic. She’s our new leader. I’m excited for what the next phase of the MCU will bring to audiences.

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