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Captain Marvel: Age, Representation, and Disappointment

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Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel. This woman has been through some s—. I’d like to say the word “stuff,” but let’s all be honest, if you’re a decorated USAF graduate who’s worked in military intelligence, worked for NASA at their request, been captured by an alien race then had your DNA changed, written a book, written for a magazine, worked with the X-men, fought the X-men, worked with the Avengers, fought against the Avengers, worked with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and currently run your own spaceship and team?

“Stuff” isn’t a big enough or powerful enough word to describe what you’ve been through. You have been in the s— and seen the s— and you are still here to tell the tale.

Despite comics being, well, comics, Captain Marvel is one of the more mature female characters we have in the Marvel Universe. Assuming, based on what she’s done being a squished-up comic timeline, she has to be, at the very least, in her early 30s. Since she earned a BA from the USAF academy, she was 21 by the time she worked in military intelligence. Give each of her jobs approximately a year of life, and she’s at the very least 31. At the least. However, more likely, Captain Marvel is in her late 30s or early 40s.

Older geekwomen read the Captain Marvel series precisely for this reason. We have been through our own stuff. We have seen the world. Carol Danvers is our hero. She is tough but kind. She loves her cat-like alien pet. She has a heart and soul, but she will also blow things to smithereens when necessary. A friend of mine described her as a “broad,” not a girl. That’s what she is, one tough broad.

For the last two years, we women have held our collective breath waiting for the casting announcement for Captain Marvel. We floated our favorites. We wrote lists of our favorites. Some of our favorites publicly stated they would love the role.

We asked for Katee Sackhoff (born 1980). We asked for Natalie Dormer (born 1982). We asked for Kathryn Winnick (born 1977). We asked for Kate McKinnon (born 1984).

But no. Not one of these actresses, all of whom have already hit the Big 3-0 age mark were given to us.

No, Marvel. You gave us Brie Larson (born 1989). A 27-year-old former Disney actress.

We don’t really have anything against Ms. Larson as a person or as an actress. We’re all pretty convinced from her resume that she’s fine at the acting thing, no doubt. I’m also sure that she’s probably a really nice person. I don’t doubt, based on her IMDB, that’s she’s been through the Hollywood wringer enough times to know what being cast in something like this means. For that reason, honestly, I don’t want to sound like I’m disparaging her. I’m disparaging what she represents. (Please, Ms. Larson, I beg that you understand, it’s not you as a person.)

But, see, that’s kind of our big issue here, Marvel. She doesn’t represent us. She doesn’t represent our maturity. She doesn’t represent our community.

Geek women have been called unicorns or talked down to or ignored. We have been shunted to the side or made into sexual objects for the things we like. We have had to prove ourselves time and again. Here, we have a moment in time where one of our heroes can finally come to the big screen in her own movie. Here we have Captain Marvel, one of the definitive female characters in the Marvel Universe, and…

We get talked down to, ignored, shunted to the side, and ultimately through the choice of a young actress, treated like sexual objects.


First, let’s talk age. Hollywood has made it clear time and again that women over 30 should either be bitter old maids to be mocked or grandmothers. Time and again, younger actresses are chosen to play older ages because they look better. Time and again, maturity is considered something to be looked down upon, to be considered unattractive, to be derided.

We had a plethora of women over the age of 30 who wanted to be involved in this production. In an industry where a woman’s age defines her worth, Marvel chose to go the easy route. Marvel chose to go with the 27-year-old former Disney actress, ostensibly at the behest of their parent company. Marvel and Disney again propagate the misogynistic ideal that beauty and youth are worth more than experience and maturity.

Second, let’s talk community. The geek community has proven that it will buy things and spend money and promote what it loves. Four over-30 candidates, who are well known in the community for their work in the productions geeks love, were available. Battlestar Galactica is iconic. Game of Thrones is both geeky and mainstream. Vikings is on the History Channel, and if that doesn’t make something geeky, I don’t know what would. Ghostbusters has been one of the iconic geek movies for over 20 years. Four candidates. All of them part of our community. All of them women over 30. Not one of them was actually floated through the vetting process to the best of our knowledge. Katee Sackhoff admitted that she wanted the role. Many of us felt that she would be awesome. (For the records, I’m totally Team Sackhoff, so I admit my bias there.)

Marvel recognized the importance of appealing to the geek community for Doctor Strange. If there is a single actor revered and loved in the geek community, it is Benedict Cumberbatch. When it came to a male actor, Marvel was willing to listen to the geek community. When it came to the Black Panther movie, Marvel listened and cast Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o. Marvel does know how to listen. To men. This is what makes the non-geek community over-youthful actress in Captain Marvel most upsetting (see the comments here at The Mary Sue). Marvel will listen to its male contingent. Women were ignored. Again.

We deserved a say in this. This is our hero. This was our chance to be represented in a meaningful way in the movies as opposed to being a sidekick to the men. This was the moment that the female Marvel geeks were going to get their Wonder Woman.

And Marvel, you let us down. You let us down so hard.

I am disappoint. Very disappoint.

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17 thoughts on “Captain Marvel: Age, Representation, and Disappointment

  1. She’s also the only Oscar winner out of all the actresses you mention. I’m sure that counts for something (makes no difference to me, but I’m sure the Disney bean counters are paying attention – always looks good on a trailer/poster, when you get to say ‘Academy Award Winner’). Also, by the time she appears in Infinity War, she’ll be over 30. I’ve liked her since I saw her in Scott Pilgrim, and honestly I think she’s the best actress amongst the actresses you mentioned (though Kate McKinnon is great). I just think Hollywood went with the new hot property

    1. Which is fair. I don’t doubt her ability to do well in the role or her actinig chops. I dislike what she represents, particularly when women across the board were vociferous in their requests. As far as other award winning/nominated actresses, Charlize Theron was another request that women had put out. I chose the first four that came up in conversations. Emily Blunt was another name floated. Also, Dormer was nominated for SAG and Gemini awards. Also, even at 30 for Infinity Gauntlet, she will still be younger than the character should be.

      I agree with you about her skill, and I don’t doubt she’ll do an excellent job. I do dislike what the choice represents.

  2. It would be extremely difficult to graduate from the Academy by 21, more likely 22, and equally unlikely to be in the intelligence field as a second lieutenant with no experience. She would be more likely to see that in a second or third assignment, maybe coming out of OSI, when she was 26 or so. Yes, it’s comic book reality, but if you’re trying for a more accurate timeline…

  3. Thank you, Karen, for saying what I’ve been saying forever. I get that Brie Larsen is a good actress. Truly I do. But all the acting in the world will not make you older and mature like CM actually is. The fact that they did go younger simply tells me that they want to do multiple movies and are afraid that whoever is playing will be too old when they get there. Never mind that Robert Downey Jr was into his 40s when IRONMAN started. It’s a guy thing that they get distinguished when older and women become less viable to film. I am frustrated that perfectly capable actresses were passed over because of their age. What else could it be? Katee Sackhoff, who I was always pulling for, totally had the geek cred and was badass as Starbuck in BSG. Emily Blunt shocked everyone with Edge of Tomorrow and would’ve been great as well. Even Charlize Theron, fresh from Furiosa, would have been amazing. So now I guess we just settle for what could have been and hope that our expectations aren’t too skewed. I want the movie to be great. At this point, my disappointment is making it more meh, sorry to say.

    1. “Never mind that Robert Downey Jr was into his 40s when IRONMAN started. It’s a guy thing that they get distinguished when older and women become less viable to film”

      Just want to point out that Jon Favreau has talked about how Marvel Studio originally completed rejected the idea of Robert Downey Jr. to play Iron Man because they felt he was too old. Downey had to work hard to convince them to give him the part.

  4. You’re complaining about rounding error. Maybe it’s time to grow up, since you’re so old.

  5. “I don’t want to sound like I’m disparaging her.”

    It definitely sounds like you’re disparaging her when you call her “a 27-year-old former Disney actress”. In the context of ‘look at these choices that are better’, saying “former Disney actress” sounds like you’re implying she’s not as good or worthy (“oh, she worked for DISNEY”).

  6. A few responses. First, I was trying to leave this separate from the post. Several people have commented privately about the “Disney actress” comment. “Disney” is a very fraught thing for women. The Disney beauty ideal is one tbat comes with a lot of baggage and one that holds women to a very strict beauty standard of age and whiteness (see how they changed Merida when she was officially named a Disney princess).

    I’m bummed that my paragraph saying I’m sure she can do it and I’m sure she’s fine and it’s not her specifically but what she represents was missed. I will apologize for a lack of clarity in my writing to the extent people think I was harsh on HER as an actress or person.

    I refuse to apologize for feeling that choosing a 27 y/o Captain Marvel but a 39 y/o T’Challa propagates a beauty standard that could have been changed and being angry about what it says about my value as a woman of 38 and my looks.

    1. I still don’t understand your grounds for labeling Larson as a “former Disney actress” at all (and you make a point of calling her that TWICE in the article). She didn’t build her acting career with Disney like Vanessa Hudgens or Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus. As far as I can tell, she starred in ONE Disney Channel original movie, where she played a real-life female racecar driver.

      Brie is an Oscar-, Golden Globe- and Screen Actors Guild-winning actress, who happened to also appear in a Disney Channel drama 13 years ago. If you were writing about The Dark Knight Rises today, would you refer to “former Disney actress Anne Hathaway” because 15 years ago, she was in The Princess Diaries? Would you refer to Bryan Cranston as “former Disney actor Bryan Cranston” because he was in the Disney Channel original movie Twas the Night in 2001?

      It’s unnecessarily reductive and demeaning to an accomplished actress, not to mention misleading.

    2. Can’t have them whities, cause that’s racist. I’m sure you’d have been gushing if they made Morgan Freeman dress up like a woman (Think Willem Dafoe in Boondock Saints) with a purple wig. That might have soothed your SJW tendencies.

      Anyone else remember when Geek Dad was good? Been so long…

      Really regret funding this crapfest when the law bills came rolling in.

  7. By the time the movie comes out she will be over 30. Every movie has reimagined the back story and origin story a bit.

  8. Captain Marvel comes out less than 7 months before Brie Larson turns 30. What exactly is the problem? Now, I love looking up the ages of “mothers” onscreen to find out they’d have had to be 20 or 14 or 8 when they had those kids, and Hollywood does have a problem with this. But this is the age of Ming-Na Wen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mariska Hargitay and Sandra Bullock being stars (and sex symbols) well past 50.

  9. Given that you chose to describe an Oscar winner as a “former Disney actress,” then yes, you are disparaging her. One of the most accomplished performers and talents in her field, and that is your description? It’s especially ironic you consciously write about her that way after listing Carol’s accomplishments.

    I’ll tell you what: watch Short Term 12 and Room. Visit her Instagram or her Twitter to see just how positive (really, genuinely positive, not in the “fake Hollywood” kinda way) this intelligent-as-hell and kindhearted woman will be to a new generation of little girls and teenagers who will look up to her, or whose simple presence feels like a rush of fresh water in the (so far) macho mundo of the MCU.

    Or that is way too much time to invest in a former Disney star, I recommend watching this:

    Which is all the proof you need that if Carol Danvers existed, she’d be damn proud this woman were playing her.

    Yes, there is very much a larger problem at play with Hollywood casting when it comes to women. To deny Larson the role when she’s not even had it for a week, though? To not even consider it? To not even try to see what positives could come out this casting? Not much of a favor to the cause. (This opinion would be shared by Kelly Sue DeConnic, by the way.)

  10. I can not believe they did this to one of the best superheroes of all time. Captain Marvel comic books were so popular they were the only ones coming out every two weeks instead of once a month. At that time Superman did not have magical powers such as flying & he could only, “Jump over tall buildings in a single bound”. Whereas Captain Marvel magically could fly. What R they going to do next? Make Wonder Woman A man or transgender. Disgusted Captain Marvel fan.

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