A Marvel Theory About What All Female Characters in Phase 4 Have in Common Could Predict Their Outcome Too
From the beginning, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had strong women. But there’s a difference between featuring or highlighting women that are strong or strong-willed in your movies and actually having a strongly fleshed-out female character. Because Marvel has actually been lacking in the latter.
It wasn’t until recently that more of their female characters became better written and more in-depth. And when that started to happen, some fans started to notice that they also had one thing in common: they started to waver from the side of fully “good.” [Spoiler for Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and all current Disney+ shows]
A lot more female characters are the driving force in Marvel right now in Phase 4
Captain Marvel was a big deal because it was MCU’s first female superhero movie. But it took a whole decade of male-fronted movies in the MCU before it happened. Even then, a lot of the women in the MCU (Carol Danvers included) weren’t that complex. It could be argued that the men weren’t either unless a ton of time had been spent on them like Tony Stark, who had a really decent character progression and redemption arc. But at least the other men were leading solo movies.
Fast forward to Phase 4, and that’s starting to change. The first title out of the gate was WandaVision, which was not only about a woman and starred a woman, but was about her trauma and how she dealt with it (or didn’t). It was about a woman who constantly lost people in her life, so much that she accidentally holds an entire town hostage in her grief. It’s a TV show, so it gave audiences a lot more time to sit with the character and develop her.
And it doesn’t stop there.
There’s Sylvie in Loki, who is a “bad guy” at first, but her motives seem valid near the end of the season. Then there’s Yelena Belova from Black Widow and even Natasha herself, who fans have known for years but gained so much story in one movie. Yelena and Natasha also have hardships that shape them and urge them on, whether for good or bad.
A fan theory pointed out that these deepening female characters are set up to be “villains”
Between those women, and the most recent additions of Katy and Xu Xialing from Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, not only are more women being added to Marvel movies and shows, but they’re in bigger roles. They’re more complex too.
With that being said, one TikTok pointed out an interesting pattern between a lot of these women.
“POV: You’re watching all the new Marvel Phase 4 content when you realize…” the user wrote in their video. “All of the female characters with in-depth and complex backstories and trauma are going to be the villains.”
They have a bit of a point, and it’s less of a theory as more of an observation. Wanda Maximoff’s seen as the perpetrator by the residents of Westview for holding them hostage. Sylvie started off as misunderstood, yet Loki was able to dig into her motives. It wasn’t until her whole livelihood and mission were threatened that she realized maybe she was wrong before following through with her murderous act.
In The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, Karli Morgenthau leads a violent group but it started off for good reasons against a system that doesn’t care for refugees. There’s some trepidation on her behalf, but she does still do terrible things for her cause. And Shang-Chi’s Xialing is very obviously starting another Ten Rings which involves some former Widows.
These women are morally gray instead of plain bad
However, all of these women are set up in a way that audiences get attached to them. Or at least see their side of things further than if they were some mustache-twisting villain in a lair somewhere. Their trauma, grief, and backstories are all on display and even in movie form, the writing does a good job of hashing out why they are the way they are. Again, they’re fully dimensional characters.
Even looking at Sharon Carter, who is definitely more devious as the Power Broker: she was screwed over by not only people in power but former Avengers themselves, right? Because she doesn’t have superpowers and because she was never pardoned, even when she was Blipped back, she had to go back on the run and find a way to make her own money, no matter how unethical.
But with all these complex women come one complex question: Do we root for them?
Now, this isn’t to say certain things make bad deeds OK. But seeing all of their stories definitely gives audiences a chance to have a full understanding of what they’re going into. And if the comment section of that TikTok is any indication, the answer to the “Should we root for them?” question is, “If you so please.”
Xu Xialing was deprived of fight training her whole life and now inherited her father’s compound and assets. She’s currently training a ton of women, including some former Widows. It makes sense for some to want her to succeed to a certain degree.
And with Wanda, she’s seen as more of the perpetrator by the townpeople of Westview as opposed to actually being one. She never did anything on purpose (yet) and was pretty remorseful. However, her pain, suffering, and grief seem to be fueling her to find her children. Who knows what that could do to her later on. However, if she becomes the Big Bad in Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, she’ll be bringing a legion of fans with her as well.