Warning: this article contains the tiniest, most minimal potential spoiler ever. *I* don’t think its remotely a plot spoiler and have deliberately been as vague as possible about the surrounding story but if you haven’t seen it yet you may wish to bookmark this and come back after you’ve seen it. You have been warned.
There is lots to be said about the representation of women in comics and the films based on them. I should probably write about the sexualised way female characters are drawn, from their costumes to their poses, and what this says about the industry as a whole. I should probably write about how female characters are often either completely two-dimensional (yes, that was an art joke, you’re welcome) or their backstory is largely informed by gendered violence. I should probably write about the creators pushing back against the industry and campaigning to write complex, not sexual female characters – Gail Simone and Mags Visaggio to name just two (and if you haven’t read Kim and Kim then frankly I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life). I should probably write a long think piece on the mess that has been Black Widow’s journey through the Marvel films.
I should probably write about all those things, but I’m not going to. At least not today. I want to talk about a tiny, inconsequential moment in Avengers: Infinity War.
I spoke about this moment in length to my male friend, it had passed him by entirely. I mentioned it to my female friend, she knew exactly what I meant and felt the same as me about it. It was a moment of tony, quiet, powerful feminism in the midst of a giant blockbuster action film. It was a moment for me of pure joy in a film I was already enjoying immensely.
Scarlet Witch is in the middle of the battle, about to get her arse kicked by a baddie. The following bit of dialogue occurs.
Baddie: I told you you’d die alone.
Black Widow: She’s not alone.
That’s it. I said it was small. But let’s unpack this moment. Scarlet Witch is in danger, admittedly from a female baddie, and possibly about to die a violent death and she thinks she’s alone. The baddie thinks she’s alone. But she’s not, Black Widow and Okoye are there. She is being saved by *women.* It wasn’t her alone against the world. It wasn’t some coincidence or deus-ex-machina that saved her. It wasn’t one of the many, many, many male superheroes in the film sweeping in to save her. It was women.
In Infinity War, I counted 19 significant male characters on the heroes side (by which I mean those who have an actual consequence to the plot and reasonable screen time) and 8 females. It would have been easy, statistically likely even, for a male to be available at this point in the plot to save her. It would certainly not have been surprising. But it was 2 of those 8 women coming to the rescue.
So what does this moment tell us? When women are in danger, look to other women. When women need to stand up against the seemingly infinite powers (geddit?) that oppress us, it is other women we must turn to. We are stronger together, no matter what differences divide us, whether we are powerful generals, spies or witches.
When women stand together, we are strong. If that’s not a message for the #MeToo era, then I don’t know what is.