Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige may be the world's most paradoxical figure this weekend. Basking in a groundswell of love over Guardians of the Galaxy, he's also coming under continual fire for the studio's failure when it comes to treating female superheroes fairly. Yesterday, in an interview with Comic Book Resources, Feige tried to be positive about all of the steps his studio has taken to feature more women.
Unfortunately, he appears to have forgotten that he's the Marvel executive with the power to make the movie he says he "believes in" actually happen.
" I very much believe in doing it," Feige told CBR.
I very much believe that it's unfair to say, "People don't want to see movies with female heroes," then list five movies that were not very good, therefore, people didn't go to the movies because they weren't good movies, versus [because] they were female leads. And they don't mention Hunger Games, Frozen, Divergent. You can go back to Kill Bill or Aliens. These are all female-led movies. It can certainly be done. I hope we do it sooner rather than later.
The problem? Feige himself is the one with the power to greenlight a female-led superhero movie. Instead, he keeps insisting, as he did again in this interview, that the timing isn't right for a female superhero movie:
I think it comes down to timing, which is what I've sort of always said, and it comes down to us being able to tell the right story.
Feige's deflection once again leaves the rest of us to scratch our heads and wonder: if not now, when?
In addition to Marvel fans' by–now–default demand for a Black Widow movie, along with the long-rumored Captain Marvel movie that has yet to materialize, backlash ensued earlier this week over the studio's erasure of female superhero Wasp, one of the founding members of the Avengers. It's true that Marvel Studios has taken some positive steps forward, namely through the Agent Carter TV series, its well-received female ensemble for the Avengers series and Guardians of the Galaxy, and the recent trademarking of Squirrel Girl for a potential move to screen. But on the whole, fans remain dissatisfied. It doesn't help that during the studio's most recent spate of major film announcements in October, it revealed there were no plans for a female superhero film in development, nor would there be until 2017 at the earliest.
And despite Feige later teasing fans with vague mentions of a Black Widow movie being "in development," Comic-Con 2014 came and went without any major announcements on that front, leaving us more or less where we were a year ago in the quest for a female-led Marvel film.
The frustration is palpable, and Feige knows it. His listing of The Hunger Games and Frozen, et. al., is a direct address to Hollywood's exclusion myth that male audiences won't go see movies featuring women. It's also an indirect nod to the myth of the fake geek girl, an acknowledgment that Marvel's audience is both increasingly diverse and increasingly willing to support diversity in comics and onscreen.
So why isn't it happening? Feige says it's a question of franchise-juggling:
[W]e 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 it does 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.
What's disingenuous about this answer is that Black Widow, of course, is already part of a franchise that's currently very much under development. And given that he's mentioned it in the past, we suspect that if a Black Widow film were really seriously under development, we'd have been treated to a major announcement about it at Comic-Con last weekend, not complete avoidance of the topic from Feige now.
But Feige's vagueness and evasion isn't even the most unfortunate thing about his responses to CBR; it's that he asks us to accept that this is an issue of franchise-juggling and chess matches. The question of whether half the world's population should be allowed to see themselves represented in mainstream media, playing a wide variety of complex roles, isn't something that should be left up to a managerial strategy.
Moreover, Feige's insistence that a female superhero film has to have just the right story dismisses Black Widow's already-complex backstory and her layered personality, as played by Scarlett Johansson. If innumerable fanfic writers have taken the time to fill in the question marks we have about the "red on her ledger," and what happened between her and Hawkeye in Budapest, why is Marvel lagging so far behind?
Ultimately, Feige's interview may leave fans feeling more unsatisfied than they were before. He also went on to profess staunch support for the beleaguered Ant-Man, despite the recent departures of yet more members of the production. But hey—at least we're getting more CGI characters like the ones we enjoyed in Guardians in the upcoming Age of Ultron.
CGI animation to bring characters to life? High on Marvel's priority list.
Giving real women major on-screen representation? Not so much.
You can read the full interview with Feige here at CBR.
Photo via tales2astonish/Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)