Representation matters for the women in ‘AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR’


Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Simply put: the women of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are absolutely crushing it right now.

The badass ladies at the heart of BLACK PANTHER – like Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Okoye (Danai Gurira)– have eclipsed the titular hero as the characters most frequently discussed. The strong female characters showcased in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 – like Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) – also shook up the hero power dynamic, augmenting our burgeoning importance and stature in the universe. And those avenging women – like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) – on the ever-growing team in the AVENGERS series, continue to exhibit grace and gravitas, fighting the good fight for justice.

Having all of these dominant women assembled in one movie is the incredible gift we get with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Not only will this chapter further their characters’ journeys, but it’s a win in representing women as driving, diverse feminist forces.

Saldana, at the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, said she was eager to really explore the psychology behind her character’s issues with her father Thanos (Josh Brolin).

Besides these kinds of movies carrying so much action, entertainment, visual effects that really cater to all of our senses, we wouldn’t be what we are in the Marvel Universe if it wasn’t for those emotional beats that all of these relationships carry. That thread obviously involves parent and child. With what these characters have with their father, they finally have an opportunity to address what it was like to have a Dad that’s so conflicty.

Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Pom Klementieff in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

While Mantis was accepted into the Guardians’ band of misfits, Klementieff stated any personality growth has yet to occur.

She still has this comic, child-like way of thinking. She asks a lot of questions and brings some comedy and innocence. I think she’s going to evolve a little more in the next one, but this one she’s still the same – a little bit weird.

Olsen, whose character was introduced in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, has now made it crystal clear that she’s not angling for a Scarlet Witch stand-alone film. Yet she does have a radical and refreshing idea of where next she’d like to see her character go next.

Paul [Bettany] and I joke a lot about how we’d would love to do a “House of M” spin-off – a really domesticated, indie version of it. That would be a lot of fun.

Over any kick-ass, explosive action sequence, or any emotional device delivered, is the legacy films featuring diversity and parity will leave on future generations. Saldana eloquently said that this kind of change comes from the top.

I’m happy to be given the opportunities by leaders such as our studio heads when they take on the task of broadening the narrative for our stories. As actors, regardless of our race and our gender, we just want to be able to be given the opportunity to be chameleons and continue growing. When directors, writers and producers understand that change needs to come from within, as public figures, we have the responsibilities of broadening that narrative. For our future generations, to know that they are going to inherit an influx of storytelling through media that represents them – that makes them feel seen and heard and their lives and heritage matters – makes me happy.

Elizabeth Olsen, Mark Ruffalo, and Letitia Wright in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Wright wished she this kind of inspiration was easily accessible to her growing up. She joked,

I would’ve stayed in my math classes a bit longer. I’m really happy that this character and the film has allowed kids to feel learning is cool. That they can contribute to the world with science, math, technology and engineering – that it’s a thing for all women to contribute positively. I hope it continues.

And continue it must! Though there have been rumors circulating about an all-female Marvel film, Gurira was quick to add support to what has earned a definite green-light – CAPTAIN MARVEL.

I was thinking about how excited I am for Brie Larson shooting CAPTAIN MARVEL right now. The thing we’re seeing across our industry is seeing women take the helm in various realms and that is, not only about time, but will make the world a better place for the future.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR opens on April 27.

Header Photo: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Marie Mouroum, and Winston Duke in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.