Neoliberalism and gender inequality in the Marvel universe

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Martin Scorsese’s infamous criticism of Marvel films as “not cinema” connects to his belief that in superhero movies nothing is risked because they are so heavily ‘market-researched’ and ‘audience tested’. Such cinema does not challenge the mind, or the imagination and Marvel superheroines are particularly one-dimensional as their sexual appeal is always on display. Although it might seem that the rise of superheroines in the Marvel cinematic universe promises to provide progressive constructions of sexuality and gender, unfortunately the franchise sustains sexist patterns of representation. For example, Captain Marvel comes across as Captain America’s female offspring whilst Black Widow exhibits all the qualities of a Hollywood femme fatale whose identity is wedded to her sexuality. To create valid cinema in the twenty-first century, one must be prepared to craft complex characters – especially female – who challenge convention in the pursuit of embracing the unpredictable spectrum of human identity and experience. This chapter examines the phenomenon of the “superheroine” in the films Captain Marvel (2019) and Black Widow (2021) with a view to exploring the limits and possibilities of female identity in the context of neoliberalist franchise cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender, Feminist and Queer Studies
Subtitle of host publicationPower, Privilege and Inequality in a Time of Neoliberal Conservatism
EditorsDonna Bridges, Clifford Lewis, Elizabeth Wulff, Chelsea Litchfield, Larissa Bamberry
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003316954
ISBN (Print)9781032328294
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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