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Your “Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema” Debate Is Silencing Female Fans Once Again

Tony Stark and Peter Quill in Avengers: Infinity War

The debate over whether or not the Marvel Cinematic Universe is “cinema” should never have started, but it should have ended when Martin Scorsese wrote a letter saying that he doesn’t understand them and can’t comprehend movie theaters and how people like to see action in movie theaters. That should be have been it. Instead, the debate keeps going, and each new day I find myself angrier and angrier because, yet again, I feel as if women and people of color who are fans of comics and superheroes are being silenced by these white male Hollywood types who think they know things.

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Remember the days of gatekeeping? Well, it’s easy to remember since they’re still happening but, in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the idea of quizzing one fan over another has dissipated a bit. With that comes a sigh of relief from many, including myself, because for years, we were quizzed on our knowledge of all things nerdy because it was seen as a “male” thing.

Now, however, with this new ridiculous discussion over whether or not the films of the MCU are “cinema,” we’re being gatekept once again. Hear me out: Women finally get to talk about Marvel movies, we’re seeing female and PoC representation start to take over the previously white male sphere, and now, suddenly, they’re not cinema? There’s a problem with them?

Growing up, I had an older brother who dedicated our relationship to teaching me about all things nerdy. My mom loves to tell the story about how he would say, “I’m going to teach him all about superheroes and Star Wars and Star Trek” before I was born, and then when it turned out that I was a girl, all he did was change his “him” to a “her” and kept the same mentality about me. Sure, we’ve gone through times when I hit puberty and suddenly the heroes I loved flying around were also hot to me (never forget my love of Tobey Maguire), but that never stopped him from talking to me about all things deemed “nerdy.” To this day, I’ll send him stuff on Captain America or Batman, and we scream about it together (much to my mother’s distress).

Flash forward to now, and I respect that my brother never thought to look at me as though I wouldn’t like the same nerdy shit he did. He wanted to share something he loved with his little sibling, and that’s exactly what he did. I didn’t even really understand gatekeeping until I got to high school and some guy thought I could only like Twilight and not Harry Potter too.

It’s a mentality that men have where they think they have to quiz someone who doesn’t fit into their idea of the “norm.” And, for the first time in a really long time, it didn’t feel that way with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We were all in this together. We all grew and learned about these heroes, and sure, throughout the growth of the MCU, many of us went to the comics to learn more about them, but there was still a level of understanding that many of us were experiencing this together and no one really questioned our love of Marvel.

And now, suddenly, after decades of superhero movies where white men flew high and proud or became detectives of Gotham, these movies are suddenly not worthy of respect? Why? Because women are slowly starting to be represented? Because the next phase of Marvel includes multiple heroes of color and Disney and Marvel are, in some ways, starting to listen to fans and giving us the heroes we see represented in their comics?

It doesn’t seem fair, and I feel like even trying to fight this makes me sound whiny, but for years, I’ve had to listen to men go “did you know that Bucky Barnes is from Indiana?” like I don’t know how to read, and now that I finally have a leg up in this race and can talk about my superheroes who are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m being silenced by white male directors and white male actors who like to think that the MCU isn’t up to their archaic standards of “cinema.”

Do you know how many times I’ve had to show my tattoos to men to shut them up? How many times they quiz me and the only time they’ll be quiet is if a man tells them I’m a nerd? I was wearing an Indiana Jones shirt and a man thought that was an open invitation to start asking me questions to see if I really knew anything about the movies. If I were a man, that would never happen, and that’s not fair.

So yes, excuse me that I, for the first time in a really long time, feel as if I can openly talk about Marvel and be respected. I don’t have to flash my Spider-Man tattoo to shut someone up. I can talk about the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline for Tony Stark and not be questioned about it. Also, the definition of cinema is “the production of movies as an art or industry,” which means that, by definition, these movies fall into the category of cinema.

To put it frankly, it’s bullshit, and I’m exhausted. If I want to talk about the character arc of Tony Stark from Iron Man to Avengers: Endgame or write a thinkpiece on how Bucky Barnes wouldn’t have wanted the shield in the MCU despite his connection to it in the comics, that’s my right. I don’t have to look at your 20th mafia movie and respect it when you don’t respect that, to many, these movies mean more than just a couple of heroes shooting things out of the sky.

(image: Marvel Entertainment)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh.

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