According to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is female: Not only is Captain Marvel the number one movie at the box office with over $760 million, Captain Marvel is now the leader of Marvel’s film franchise.
“When we found out that Brie Larson might be interested in joining our world, we had a number of meetings,” Feige said in the official Captain Marvel Movie Special magazine. “She was a huge fan of the character in the comics. One of the highlights of my career at Marvel was introducing her at Comic-Con and having her come out on stage and stand there with literally almost everybody else from our movies. There she was at the forefront, and it was a great foreshadowing – not just for how audiences are going to embrace Brie as this character, but also for how Captain Marvel is about to take the lead and be at the forefront of the entire Cinematic Universe.”
It’s highly speculated that the current leaders of the MCU — original Avengers Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — will exit the franchise after next month’s finale, Avengers: Endgame. So it makes sense that Marvel would be looking for new stars to occupy the center of their universe. But for Feige to state that Captain Marvel — the first female superhero to earn a solo film in the franchise — will lead the next phase of the MCU is monumental.
Over the past two years, Marvel has finally begun telling stories that don’t center white male characters, starting with 2018’s Black Panther. This is a cue they took from the late Stan Lee, the creator of the franchise’s comic book heroes. “Let’s lay it right on the line,” Lee wrote in 1968. “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.” Feige thinks of Marvel Studios as “the current stewards” of the characters Lee introduced to the world, “and all of them were created in that spirit of those ‘Soapboxes,’” Feige said. “That was very much what Stan’s worldview was, and that’s what these movies represent...it’s the right way to be. It is the way the world should be. And one of the great things about movies is you get to showcase the world that you want to reflect and the way you want the world to be.”
Placing Captain Marvel at the center and forefront of Marvel’s cinematic world sets the tone for the future of their films, one that is diverse and inclusive. And their current slate of upcoming films are doubling down on that promise: in the works currently are Shang-Chi, which will feature Marvel’s first Asian superhero, and The Eternals, for which Marvel is reportedly searching for an openly LGBTQ+ actor to play what could be the franchise’s first explicitly queer character.
And let’s not forget that there are already queer characters embedded in the MCU whose roles and stories could be expanded to include their canon identities. Carol Denvers is speculated to be a legendary lesbian superhero — even if it’s not explicitly addressed in the film. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok) and Florence Kasumba’s Ayo (Black Panther) both had scenes cut from their respective films that confirmed their queerness. Loki is genderqueer in the comics universe, and that’s something that could be explored in the upcoming Loki show for Disney’s new streaming service.
After years of centering white, cis, heterosexual male stories, Marvel is finally putting women and people of color at the center of their cinematic universe, and might do the same for queer people in the future — if they follow through on their promises. As a wise woman once said: I would like to see it.