Initiating fangirl rage in 3...2...1...
News broke yesterday that Marvel - and their parent company, Disney - had once again decided that female character didn't need to be feature on merchandise associated with a Mega-blockbuster. That's right Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are barely featured on the merchandise for Avengers: Age of Ultron. And that's really...disappointing.
I can't speak for Marvel/Disney marketing execs, but they seem to be laboring under the illusion that women and girls aren't part of their fanbase, or that they will be happy to enjoy only male-centered merch. Perhaps the later is more likely. After all, women have been supportive and vocal fans of lots of different media that has given them token or little representation, why change the formula? Well, for Marvel there are a lot of reasons they should know better and strive for change.
For one thing the female fanbase for Marvel is massive and growing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is huge among fangirls - I know this because I'm one of those fangirls and I can tell you with certainty women love this universe. But women are also a increasingly large chunk of the readership of traditional comics and female led comics titles are dominating the charts. But these are fangirls, meaning we aren't just content to consume, we question and transform and hold media to certain standards. We know Marvel has problems with representation, and we are at the tipping point between hoping for better of sighing in defeat.
Fangirls are, in my anecdotal experience, getting tired of Marvel's marginalization of women. Yes, it's great that we are finally getting a female led MCU film with Captain Marvel and that women are writing the screenplay - but that movie is coming out in 2018, ten years into things. Agent Carter is still on the bubble, despite being a critical hit and a huge fandom draw. The idea of a Black Widow movie is given token acknowledgement then ignored. The Avengers didn't pass the Bechdel test, even though it was written by fangirl hero Joss Whedon. We've never had a female big bad in the MCU. All these little things add up and the fandom notices. Add on to this that, even after the uproar about Gamora being deleted from Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise, the bigwigs still think it's okay to do the same to the women of AOU and we fans are getting understandably put off.
Now, I don't know if Marvel/Disney even cares about potentially losing female audiences, since we aren't a key demographic, just a happy accident. But it's something important to consider, especially when this is a brand that has such influence on the dreams and ideals of little kids - boys and girls. When a company has the power to send a message it shouldn't be that women can be erased and only men matter; it should be that we ALL are heroes.