I had high expectations for Captain Marvel… very high. This was one of the first super heroes in the Marvel cinematic universe that was a woman (well, except for Black Widow and Scarlett Witch!) But… she is definitely the first to headline her own movie. So, of course, it’s a thing.
The problem is, the movie fell short for me. The character development just wasn’t there. She was a woman who was a badass (aren’t we all?), but we didn’t get to understand what drove her. Why did she want to be a pilot? What was her relationship with her parents really like? Was she ever scared? Did she ever think about giving up?
The movie gave us a woman who was strong and powerful, but it did not do the hard work of filling out her backstory enough to make her human. This can happen with any character on the screen – male or female. The problem is when you are billing a movie as a vehicle of empowerment for women, and you don’t showcase the depth of her character, it can also make the cause almost feel one-dimensional. It overly simplifies what it means to be strong in a world that can easily feel threatened by that. It can even overly simplify the definition of strength itself.
The ability to fight and carry a rocket in your hands or knock a bunch of folks to the ground like Captain Marvel is just one dimension of strength. But, there are more. There is a kind of strength that doesn't get top billing. We often define strength in terms of what we do instead of who we are. And, this is a problem.
It is easy to believe the definition of womanhood and manhood that society has defined for us. These lists of words and characteristics often fall short of describing the full complexity of who we are and who were created to be.
These lists become lies that whisper in our ears that we are predestined to cookie cutter roles. That strength is something that is measured in our muscle tone and not in our character. At first, these definitions feel like they are helping us figure out who we are, but over time, they can often feel shallow, limiting and like a box that is too small to fill.
Like those definitions, the character of Captain Marvel falls short, but it does give girls a woman super hero to look up to. They may not notice the lack of depth as easily as those of us who have been fighting the battle for a longer period of time.
As my friends know, I love a good battle metaphor. The idea of suiting up and fighting for what I believe in is a huge passion and driver of mine.
Let me be clear when I use the word “battle” here.
This is not a battle against people in this world. I don’t believe in fighting against people. This is not a battle that diminishes or demonizes men or women who feel differently. It is a battle that we fight for every single person, regardless of race or gender, to be valued and treated equally in all aspects of life as we know it. It is a battle of ideas.
There are good ideas and there are bad ideas – and they can both catch like wildfire. It can often be hard to tell one from the other at the beginning. It takes time and testing.
I wasn’t always this way. I remember realizing that we are meant to fight for the lives we hope for and to be the people we are created to be right after college.
After graduating, I fell in love for the first time. He was my best friend, and in the end, it was a very toxic dynamic and I needed to end it. I remember feeling like God told me that I had a choice. There were two paths on offer. One with this man and one with God – and I got to choose.
When I let him know it was over, I realized that life was never meant to be easy. Leaving was hard, but it’s also what I needed to do if I was going to grow and move forward. It sucked. And, that was life. And if we only make the easy choices then things will stay status quo and will not change.
Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I’m so grateful for it. I would not have the life I have today or the partner that I have in James, if I had not made that decision. I would have been believing the lie that this was as good as it gets. I would have been settling for less than I could be.
That decision also taught me that if we want to grow and if we want to challenge the ideas in this world that are wreaking havoc in our lives – then we need to be prepared for the fight within.
There is a revolutionary moment at the end of the movie when “Captain Marvel” makes a similar choice. (SPOILER ALERT: if you haven’t seen it, you may want to skip the next three paragraphs.)
Captain Marvel is being held captive by the Supreme intelligence leader of the Kree, the alien race that she’s been living with and fighting for since she lost her memory in a crash she can’t quite remember. Throughout the movie, they’ve told her that she wouldn’t be able to control her powers if it wasn’t for them and a piece of technology that they’ve placed in her neck.
In the scene, she realizes that the chip in her neck isn’t helping her – it’s holding her back. She says:
“I’ve been fighting with one hand behind my back. What happens when I’m finally set free?”
Once she pulls the chip out, the powers that were previously confined to her hands explode throughout her body. She becomes unstoppable.
The truth is that the power to change and be ourselves to the fullest, regardless of predefined roles and definitions, has always existed within us. We just need to point out the lies we’ve been believing for what they are: limits that we are meant to break. Limits that are keeping us from being less than we were created to be.
And, once broken, like Captain Marvel, we will be unstoppable.