Avengers Analysis – The Feminist Evolution from ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Avengers: Endgame’: Thor & Captain America: The First Avenger

Moving on to the next two films, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, NOTE: There will be spoilers!

Chris Hemsworth, Thor
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Thor:

Sophistication: Thor introduces the first intergalactic superhero into the MCU. It introduces the world of Asgard and the first truly interesting and layered villain with Loki. The story is somewhat Shakespearean with a two sons in a rivalry where one feels entitled and the other feels betrayed.

Contribution to the overall Avengers storyline: Thor introduces the character of Thor, who will become an Avenger. His brother, Loki, will become, first, a major villain, and then a sometimes ally, maybe? We also learn about the nine realms and we are introduced to the idea of the infinity stones in the post-credit tag scene.

Infinity Stones: None yet.

Tom Hiddleston, Loki, Thor
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Villain: This film is the introduction to Loki, still the best villain in the MCU. We learn his backstory as he does, learning that he is adopted, and we see how his resentment towards Thor develops to the breaking point.

Feminist Level: The movie does a serviceable job of being feminist, particularly when it is a movie about a man and his relationship with his father and brother. There is even some objectification of Thor, while none of any of the female characters. Jane has a focus on her work, which she does not detract from after meeting Thor.

Natalie Portman, Jane Foster, Kat Dennings, Darcy, Thor
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Does it pass the Bechdel Test: Yes (Jane and Darcy talk)

Does it pass the Race Bechdel Test: No

Ratio of Male:Female Characters:

Male: (12)

Thor

Loki

Odin

Erik Selvig

Agent Coulson

Heimdall

Volstagg

Hogun

Fandral

Agent Sitwell

Clint Barton/Hawkeye

Nick Fury

Female: (4)

Frigga

Sif

Jane Foster

Darcy Lewis

-3 for more than triple the number of male characters to female characters

+1 for Jane being an astrophysicist

+1 for Darcy as the comedic sidekick

+1 for Jane not being narratively “punished” for her career

+1 for Sif being a warrior and telling Thor off for trying to take credit for her accomplishments

+1 for Frigga being a complicated and competent character

Total: 7/10 – A big improvement over Iron Man 2, though it is worth pointing out that the things that are feminist in Thor are things that should be present in every film. Next we’re headed to the 1940’s so…

Is the film worth watching: Yes


Chris Evans, Steve Rogers, Captain America
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Captain America: The First Avenger:

Sophistication: Captain America: The First Avenger is the first MCU film to employ the traditional storyline of the hero being exposed to some substance/energy/accident that leads to them developing powers. In this case, the difference is that Steve Rogers chooses to undergo the experiment, and he receives his powers not from it going wrong, but from it going right. The way he is chosen as the candidate, because of his good heart, is embodied in the line in response to being asked if he wants to kill Nazis: “I don’t want to kill anyone. But I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.” Additionally, Rogers demonstrates his abilities through his intellect rather than his physical strength, even though that strength is a defining characteristic of Captain America. Throughout the film, his partner is Agent Peggy Carter, who while somewhat of a love interest, is more capable than that as well. The film also spends a long time with Rogers waiting in the wings, not able to participate in the war in the way he wants to, but rather as essentially a mascot. Another place where Captain America: The First Avenger deviates from your average superhero movie is in its ending. While Steve Rogers saves the day, taking the Tesseract into the ocean, he sacrifices himself along with it.

Chris Evans, Steve Rogers, Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter, Captain America
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Contribution to the Overall Avengers Storyline: This film has a lot of major contributions. It gives us the origin of Tony Stark and Stark Technologies through Howard Stark, Tony’s father. We get the Tesseract, which contains the first Infinity Stone. We also meet Peggy Carter, who, along with Howard Stark, is instrumental in the formation of SHIELD. We also meet and lose Bucky, which will be important later, and we learn about vibranium, and see it in action when Peggy shoots it as a demonstration.

Infinity Stones: The Tesseract is introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger. It will show up again, and it contains the Space Stone.

Hugo Weaving, Red Skull, Captain America
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Villain: Red Skull is a good villain as he is a Nazi and puts into place so many elements of the story that will come back later, such as the Tesseract, and his scientist, Dr. Zola, who will return, sort of, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and in a brief appearance in Agent Carter. They are also responsible for developing the serum that made Steve Rogers into Captain America, which is also essentially how we got the Hulk. Red Skull and his people are responsible for Bucky’s death, or so we think, which is how we end up with the Winter Soldier and the return of Bucky as himself in Captain America: Civil War.

Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter, Captain America
Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Feminist Level: This film has the most feminist viewpoint so far in the MCU in the guise of Peggy Carter, which is odd as it takes place in the past. However, it presents the character of Peggy Carter as Steve Rogers equal, not someone who needs saving. She’s a fighter and in the military, too. This allows her to be a character that we care about in her own right, not just in relation to Steve Rogers, which is demonstrated by the Agent Carter television series spin-off that ran for two seasons on ABC.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test: No

Does it pass the Race Bechdel Test: No

Ratio of Male:Female Characters:

Male: (8)

Steve Rogers

Bucky Barnes

Colonel Phillips

Red Skull

Howard Stark

Heinz Kruger

Dr. Erskine

Dum Dum Dugan

Female: (1)

Peggy Carter

-3 for more than triple the number of male characters to female characters

+1 for Peggy being very capable

+1 for Peggy being in a position of authority

Total: 4/10 – No improvement on the score, but this film does have an improvement of its portrayal of the one female character in the film. Unfortunately, she is the only female character in the film.

Is the film worth watching: Yes

 

Avengers Analysis – The Feminist Evolution from ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Avengers: Endgame’: Thor: The Dark World & Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Avengers Analysis – The Feminist Evolution from ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Avengers: Endgame’: The Avengers & Iron Man 3

Avengers Analysis – The Feminist Evolution from ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Avengers: Endgame’: Iron Man & Iron Man 2

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