March, 13 2019
Captain Marvel: Another Blockbuster, Another Bunch of Misogynist Haters

The release of Captain Marvel has unleashed a barrage of criticism by the usual misogynist haters.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Culture
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For over the last four years, we have seen misogynistic backlashes to several women-led blockbusters, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Wonder Woman. I should have seen it coming, but the hatred against Captain Marvel still surprises me, considering that it is a straightforward blockbuster (certified PG-13 in most countries) and considering that significant hatred is directed at the lead actor, Brie Larson, who is a conventionally attractive white woman.

When the first trailer appeared, I had anticipated a couple of “criticism” against the movie. The first is that the title character does not smile enough. The second is the actress doesn’t look powerful enough. Many comic artists retort that several male superheroes hardly smile either, like Batman or The Punisher, yet they are admired for their “grittiness” and “focus”.

Disney and Marvel then released videos and images on Larson’s workouts, not to counter the critics (many are not athletic people themselves), but to promote the movie and to create further buzz on the actress. Most modern celebrities, after all, maintain strict physical conditioning on par with professional athletes.

The best part of the trailer is a supercut of Larson’s character, Carol Danvers, falling and then rising again throughout her life. It’s one of the most anticipated parts of the movie, and I know that’s the deal breaker for the misogynist nerds. It smells of girl power.

My path to allyship began with my disgust at sexism and misogyny in mid-2010s video game culture, and, indeed, it was a time of change. Feminism and progressive politics have made bigger marks in pop culture, away from the early 2010s’ bro culture. The vicious misogyny in video game communities itself came out of restlessness since more women played and programmed video game, pop culture websites published articles written by women of color and LGBT+ gamers, and more gamers were exposed to anti-feminist and far-right messages online.

Star Wars (1977) is sometimes attributed as the movie that ended the anti-establishment American New Wave of 1960s and 1970s, and recovers the heroism of the Anglo-Saxon man. Ghostbusters (1984) is a Reaganite bro movie, where the human antagonist is the Environmental Protection Agency. With The Force Awakens (2015), Ghostbusters (2016), and The Last Jedi (2017), anti-feminists believed that Hollywood has insulted them, since the sequels and the reboot do not feature any Anglo-Saxon male protagonist.

The trolls attacked actresses of color with the triad of racism, misogyny, and fatphobia that made comedian Leslie Jones and debutant actress Kelly Marie Tran closed their social media accounts despite their newfound fames. In return, many of the trolls had their own accounts banned, got fired from work after their real identities exposed; while professional provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos were refused visa in several countries.

There were also racist campaigns to bring down the rating of Black Panther (2018), from making up negative reviews to spreading fake news that white people were assaulted by black audience. In Indonesia, there were several racist jokes on the movie and the cast, based on American memes and through our own racism. But luckily, there was no personal hate campaign directed against any actor of Black Panther.

In fact, now Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and Alita: Battle Angel are used by the anti-feminists as examples of “good comic book movies”, in contrast to Captain Marvel. It seems that the personal attacks against Brie Larson began after she stated that we need more film critics who are not white men. With that comment, Larson is portrayed as a man-hater, and is negatively compared to Gal Gadot. I, however, still remember all the hatred against Wonder Woman two years ago, including a Facebook campaign among American Republicans to watch Baywatch instead, since WW is a “Social Justice Warrior” movie.

As the charges against Larson got more ridiculous (“She can’t act”, “Her face is full of hatred”, “Her woke act is already ruining Disney”), I wondered what made these boys and men so upset at Larson following her comment on critics. As you’d expect, most of her haters are white men, although their comments and memes are already replicated by Indonesian boys and men commenting negatively on Captain Marvel’s promotion.

Some residents of Sweden think that the far-right in United States and United Kingdom hate Sweden because it doesn’t act as a “proper blonde country,” with its social democracy and feminist foreign policy. Maybe Brie Larson is hated because she doesn’t act as a “proper blonde woman.” She’s not the only white female celebrity who raises a feminist issue, but she’s the first actress to lead Marvel’s first superheroine movie. For these haters, she’s not just a trespasser to their nerdy world, but also a traitor to their whiteness. Remember their frustration when Taylor Swift revealed that she’s a Democratic voter?

You might have heard this from your friends: You have to watch Captain Marvel if you’re a cat lover. If you’re a member of the Generation X who grew up in the 1990s, I also recommend the movie – the “girl power” vibe, the soundtracks, the alien versus government agent trope. It won’t be the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe family, and it didn’t give me the spiritual ecstasy I experienced when watching Wonder Woman for the first time, but I’m always down for second viewing.

I watched Captain Marvel in a full house theatre, surrounded by teenagers who liked it, and I was glad that Indonesian youth could be more mature than American grown-ups. The toy store Kidzstation offers several variations of Captain Marvel dolls. It might be the first time ever a superhero toy lineup is marketed to girls instead of boys, at least in Southeast Asia.

I know this kind of world seems oppressing for the misogynists, so why don’t they wise up, get a therapy (many feminists regularly see a therapist), and save themselves from the toxin that is eating them. Maybe then they’ll find the happiness they long for.

Read Mario’s take on flat-earthers and anti-vaccine peoples and follow @MarioRustan on Twitter.

Ilustrasi oleh Sarah Arifin

Mario Rustan writes opinion pieces for The Jakarta Post and is working on some other online projects and was featured in Guardian Football and SBS Radio. His dream job is still teaching High School History by day and writing for feminism by night.