By David Futrelle
Captain Marvel has been in theaters for two and a half months now, but the baby men of the internet are still finding excuses to throw tantrums over it.
The latest? An extended scene, posted online, featuring the titular character stealing a motorcycle from a random creep after he patronizingly asks her to smile; instead of punching him or throwing him through a window, like a normal action movie star, she gets her way by squeezing the creep’s hand real hard.
Here’s the scene, which is all of a minute long.
The scene is a clear homage to a similar if much more violent scene in Terminator 2, in which a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger appropriates a motorcycle from a biker after squeezing his hand real hard (and then throwing him onto a hot stove, throwing another guy through a window, and thoroughly beating up a good portion of an ornery looking biker gang).
But the angry dudes (and a few angry gals) of the internet have reacted to Captain Marvel’s too-firm handshake as if Brie Larson — the actress herself, not the character she’s playing — had gone on a crime spree in Los Angeles.
Leading the charge against the motorcycle-stealing superlady? A motley assortment of professional shit-stirrers on the right, including the alt-right adjacent YouTube blabber Tim Pool, video-prankster-turned-joke-congressional-candidate Joey “Salads” Saladino, self-professed debate champion Ben Shapiro, and one of Ben’s employees at his vanity publication the Daily Wire.
Schow’s Daily Wire post on the subject is somehow even more embarrassing than her tweets about it. She begins by taking issue with the shorter version of the scene in the film itself, in which the Lady Captain simply steals the bike — no hand-squeezing necessary.
Hooray for feminism! A man creepily asked for a smile, so she commits grand theft auto. That’s not at all a disproportionate or insane response.
But in her mind the extended scene is oh so much worse, turning the superheroine into a supervillain. “Let’s recap,” Schow writes, working herself into high dudgeon.
After a jerk suggested he would help her in a creepy way and asked for a smile, Danvers [Captain Marvel] crushed his hand, carjacked him, took his clothes, and stole items from a nearby clothing store and broke traffic laws. And this is supposed to be a celebration of feminism and rebuke of toxic masculinity?
In the original scene, Danvers committed grand theft auto. In the extended scene, she commits assault, a carjacking, a mugging, shoplifting, and a possible driving felony.
I am shocked — shocked! — to see lawbreaking by the main character in an action movie!
If these, er, “critiques” of Captain Marvel weren’t so obviously in bad faith, I would have to wonder if any of these critics had ever seen an action movie before. Or, indeed, any movie.
The trope of a movie hero or heroine stealing a car — or a truck, or a horse, or a motorcyle, or a spaceship — to get to where they need to go is nearly as old as the movies themselves.
Action movie heroes and heroines break the rules — and the laws — all the time. We don’t go to action movies to see blameless goody-goodies obeying the traffic laws in car chases, or watching and waiting for the police when a villain starts wreaking havoc. We go to see larger-than-life characters beating the crap out of bad guys — and we don’t much care if their violence is sometimes disproportionate, or if there’s a bit of collateral damage (to people, to buildings, to entire cities) along the way.
In the original John Wick movie, for example, the titular hero seeks revenge after some thugs kill his dog — and in the process he manages to kill 77 people. (His body count across all three John Wick films? An even more staggering 299.) Yet we still root for the guy.
The critics of Captain Marvel’s motorcycle theft are not only forgetting that this is a MOVIE and not real life; they’re also completely ignoring the plot of the film — and the character arc of the air-force-pilot-turned alien-human-hybrid who became Captain Marvel.
When she arrives back on earth at the start of the film – and steals the motorcycle she needs to complete her mission — she’s basically a brainwashed, emotionless killing machine working for a race of aliens called the kree. Over the course of the film she regains some of her humanity. That’s called character development.
As human beings, we’re all flawed, and we like our heroes to be, like us, somewhat less than perfect — because that’s what enables us to relate to them. Our heroes may be reluctant — like Humphrey Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca — or roguish scoundrels with a heart of gold, like Han Solo. They may have a dark side they wrestle with. Sometimes they win this struggle (like Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel); sometimes they lose (Darth Vader, Walter White).
Everyone who goes to movies knows all of this — and is happy to accept these tropes when the flawed hero in question is male. But once it’s a woman in that
scuba superhero suit, all of that knowledge seems to drain right out of some men’s (and some women’s) brains.
Some, like the right-wing shitstirrers who helped to gin up this phony controversy in the first place, really do seem to have trouble distinguishing between movies and real life.
A number of critics seemed to think the clip reflected a certain sort of rank bigotry directed against males — especially white males, and even more especially against those who like to go around saying crude and patronizing things about (or to) women.
Others demanded a sort of moral blamelessness from Captain Marvel that no one would demand from a male superhero. She’s a terrible role model, they cried. Just think of the children! And the adults! And all of the other superheroes that look up to her!
Dudes, this is a movie, not a WikiHow video. No one is recommending that women literally steal a motorcycle every time a creep asks them to smile. It’s a fantasy in a film that’s all about fantasy. The scene is funny because it allows women (and men) to indulge a harmless fantasy of taking violent revenge against some of the most irritating men on the planet.
Let’s face it, perfect characters are boring, and make for boring movies. And they’re not good role models either, because no one can truly relate to them. It’s better for girls to see female characters struggle with their flaws than to demand that they emulate someone who’s flawless in every ways — and constantly find themselves coming up short.
But the real issue here isn’t character flaws. If the writers of Captain Marvel had made their central character pure and blameless in every way, angry dudes would be complaining about that too – how come she’s perfect, they would whine, while all the men have flaws?
No, the issue here is the fact that this superhero is a woman that a retrograde internet mob has decided isn’t deferential enough to men. And so they will grab on anything they can in order to make bad faith demands on Marvel and Disney in order to get them to stop making action movies with female leads. There’s no real point in arguing with these people. Just turn to them, like Captain Marvel herself, and ask with a smirk “What, no smile?”
UPDATE: And here’s that line in gif form.
UPDATE 2: Oh, look, it’s Ben Shapiro, who was so indignant about Captain Marvel stealing a motorcycle, applauding the latest John Wick movie, in which Mr. Wink kills 94 dudes:
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