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    Marvel Studios’ Next Step: Inhumans and Female Representation in Marvel Films

    By | August 19th, 2014
    Posted in Columns | 5 Comments

    Last week, it was widely reported that Marvel would be moving forward with an Inhumans movie, though nothing concrete was ever given. Some news outlets went so far as to report that Marvel already had the first draft of a script in had. Clearly, given the success of Guardians of the Galaxy there is no trepidation on Marvel’s end to go further with their cosmic line.

    The announcement itself is interesting to say the least. Pretty much nothing was said at San Diego Comic Con about the next few years of Marvel movies and then, out of nowhere it feels, we got this announcement.

    Many fans, particularly female fans, are now wondering where a female led movie is.

    Kevin Feige was quoted saying this about a female led film:

    “I hope we do it sooner rather than later. But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have — which is a very, very good thing and we don’t take for granted, but is a challenging thing. You may notice from those release dates, we have three for 2017. And that’s because just the timing worked on what was sort of gearing up. But does it mean you have to put one franchise on hold for three or four years in order to introduce a new one? I don’t know. Those are the kinds of chess matches we’re playing right now.”

    So basically it’s not happening any time soon.

    This explanation doesn’t sit well with me, because quite frankly Ant-Man could have been pushed back a bit. Ant-Man is a character being introduced for the first time to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in lieu of a Black Widow movie or even Captain Marvel; it’s almost 100% certain at this point that Tony Stark is going to be responsible for Ultron’s creation, so why the push for Ant-Man?

    However, whether you reject this reasoning or not, the opportunity that has presented itself for Marvel cannot be underestimated or ignored. An Inhumans movie can effectively be the first female led Marvel Studios movie, thanks to Medusa.

    For those unfamiliar with the Inhumans (and let’s face it, unless you’re a well seasoned reader you may know very little about them), let me fill you in. The Inhumans were created in 1965 by comic icons Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thousands of years ago, humans were tested on by the Kree and from that came the Inhumans, A race of human beings who developed superpowers and abilities thanks to genetic testing. The Inhumans went on to form their own society in the city of Attilan, and there they are lead by Black Bolt and the Inhuman Royal Family which consists of Medusa, her sister Crystal, Karnak, Triton, Gorgon and Maximus the Mad.

    Despite having a King, the Inhumans do not exist in a typical patriarchal system. They rely on genetic selection and science — thus, those in power and those who are exposed to the Terrigen Mists (which give them their powers) are picked because of their DNA or capability.

    Black Bolt, their leader, is the most powerful of the Inhumans. He is gifted (and cursed) with the ability to destroy whole cities with just a whisper. Because of this, his wife Queen Medusa has taken a much bigger role in ruling Attilan — effectively making Attilan almost a full matriarchy.

    Medusa is more than a wife, and is definitely far more than a supporting character. Because of Black Bolt’s power, Medusa has learned to understand him through body language. She is also a Queen in every sense of the word; she governs, and Medusa has more than once taken over for Black Bolt as ruler of Attilan during the multiple times that he’s abdicated the throne. In Hickman’s “Fantastic Four,” Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s cosmic books and in the current “Inhuman” book, she is either solely in charge or it is acknowledged that she has the real power over Attilan.

    Medusa is the opportunity for Marvel Studios to take a real step in creating a movie with a strong central lead female character while also creating a movie that fits into their bigger plans. Medusa is a personal favorite for me and many other fans because of how progressive she’s been; even in her early history she was unlike any other women in comics. She’s a leader, a well rounded person and has one of the most underrated powers in comics. She’s also a perfect example of how to create a very good female character.

    Continued below

    Marvel films have struggled so far with creating well rounded female characters, and there’s a few examples of this; Jane Foster was pushed to the forefront of the Thor films but is little more than a love interest. This caused Sif, a fantastic female character, to play the role of jealous friend. Maria Hill in the Avengers was almost at the point where she was just supporting Agent Coulson. It took three movies for Pepper Potts to have much of a non-romantic role in the Iron Man series, and even then it was very brief. Even Black Widow, a character that has proven to be a draw in the comic market, has been pushed to the side as a partner to Hawkeye or Captain America. And in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she spent a great deal of time trying to hook Steve up with different women.

    Then we get Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie that featured two of the most bad ass female characters in the Marvel Universe – Gamora and Nebula, sisters who were trained to be assassins for their ‘father’ Thanos. While female reviewers and online bloggers enjoyed the movie very much, there was also much talk about how both Gamora and Nebula were characterized.

    Gamora had issues. First, there was her costume; no, it’s not the previous version that’s eerily similar to Vampirella, but it had problems. She had a boob window and was wearing wedge heels. It’s bothersome in comics and just as bothersome in movies. No woman would ever really fight crime in anything but flat shoes. Then there’s the whore “joke” heard ’round the world. By the time the comment is made Drax and every other member of that team knows her better. It should have never been uttered, especially since it was done in an extremely negative way when Peter Quill’s sexual escapades were made into something comedic. I mean, she turned down Peter Quill once in the film. Where does that comment even come from?

    It’s also odd that a character like Gamora, during her big screen debut, does get wrapped up in a romance angle with Peter Quill. This team is not meant to breed romance. It’s a group of misfits. Not even in the current Brian Michael Bendis penned “Guardians of the Galaxy” is Gamora paired up with Peter Quill. She ended up falling into a stereotypical female role instead of the strong, independent character that she actually is.

    Nebula and Glenn Close’s Nova Prime were relegated to just a little more than a cameo. Nebula was an extremely one dimensional character. Something we’ve come to almost expect for villains in superhero movies. Her entire story relies on her wanting to get Gamora back for her deception against Thanos – a man that has abused her and pretty much turned her into a robot. The few lines she has are very basic and almost throwaway. Even when she gets the chance to shine in a fight with Gamora, it’s short and Nebula eventually gets away by simply running from her problems.

    Nova Prime was no better. As leader of the Nova Corps, you would expect that she would get more screen time than John C. Reilly, who played an outer space beat cop. Nova Prime’s entire screen time consisted of her being scared or being the typical hard ass.

    All of this is what scares me about an Inhumans movie. If history tells us anything, the silent Black Bolt will still be the lead in every sense with Medusa acting as a mouthpiece and love interest. What we should see is a regal Queen who leads her people in every sense. A strong, extremely powerful woman who will not only challenge the views of her husband but the views of the rest of the Royal Family.

    Furthermore, when it comes to the Royal Family, Medusa’s sister Crystal plays an equally important role. When it comes to Crystal though, this can be one aspect that the movie can improve on from the Gamora and Nebula relationship. They can give this kind of familial relationship some depth; Nebula came off as little more than a jealous sister, and here was not much shown about their dynamic.

    Continued below

    While Medusand Crystal don’t always have the greatest relationship (Medusa helped force her into marriage during “Secret Invasion,” for example) they are much more complicated than ‘daddy didn’t love me more’. There’s power involved thanks to both being a part of the Royal Family. Even further complicating things is Crystal’s ties to Quicksilver, an Earth mutant; their relationship introduces him into the world of the Inhumans which causes more harm than good, in turn further complicating Crystal and Medusa’s relationship.

    Featuring all of this could be a huge step in cinematic storytelling since women often times fall into cattiness and not something much deeper.

    Casting would not be simple. For roles like this, care has to be taken. Neither Medusa nor Crystal should be seen as a sex symbol and should never be treated as such, though this doesn’t in any way mean she can’t be a part of a romance storyline; on the contrary, the love between Black Bolt and Medusa should be shown — but it should be done in a mature, realistic way where the mutual respect is the focus. Medusa is not damsels in distress, and Medusa wouldn’t constantly make bad choices and cause an even bigger disaster through her love for Black Bolt. It’s a mature relationship and should be shown like that. And if Marvel introduces Quicksilver to Crystal, the same should be done here as well.

    Let me make something very clear: I am critical because Marvel Comics is doing a lot of great stuff at the moment when it comes to female characters. I expect the movies to follow suit and do the same.

    Marvel has a real opportunity with Inhumans because this could be their first real female fronted film. It would be done in a back door sense, but it could still be that movie. With the success of Lucy there should be no fear from movie studios to create action movies with a female lead.

    With the addition of this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will now have Hope Van Dyne (who I predict will be the movie Wasp), Medusa, Crystal, Sif and Scarlet Witch in addition to the non-powered Black Widow, Agent Carter and Maria Hill. Super powered women are coming to the films but it will all fall apart if the scripting is not strong and a feminist approach is not taken.

    What also can’t happen is a misrepresentation of what the movie is. Medusa should be in the forefront of marketing and feature heavily in trailers. She would and should be the most important character of this film.

    Marvel Comics has taken real strides toward creating more female centric comic series that resonate with all readers. “She-Hulk,” “Captain Marvel,” “Black Widow” and “Ms. Marvel” are currently holding strong in sales with their respective series, and this is not because it’s only women buying the titles– men are too, and men have become vocal about their support of these books.  Kevin Feige and the rest of Marvel Studios needs to pay attention to readership in addition to the box office and note that there is no fear in audiences about a female led action movie franchise.

    The time is right. Movie studios are all about making money, so why box out half the audience?


    //TAGS | Multiversity Rewind

    Jess Camacho

    Jess is from New Jersey. She loves comic books, pizza, wrestling and the Mets. She can be seen talking comics here and at Geeked Out Nation. Follow her on Twitter @JessCamNJ for the hottest pro wrestling takes.

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