Brie Larson is the next hero to hit theaters in Captain Marvel, Marvel Studio’s first female-led film. It stars Larson as Carol Danvers, an officer for the U.S. Air Force who becomes Captain Marvel when Earth gets caught in a galactic war between two alien races: the Skrulls and the Kree. With the film less than one month from being released, the Academy Award-winning actress plans to use her position as the film’s lead to bring inclusivity to her press tour.
In a recent interview for Marie Claire, Larson personally chose Keah Brown, a journalist of color with cerebral palsy, to conduct the interview. Brown said she was thrilled, stating, “I was thrilled you requested me to interview you. I thought, ‘This is game-changing.’ It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve had. Nobody usually wants to take a chance on a disabled journalist.” On being asked the reasons for choosing Brown as the interviewer for the piece, Larson states, “About a year ago, I started paying attention to what my press days looked like and the critics reviewing movies, and noticed it appeared to be overwhelmingly white male.”
She added, “So, I spoke to Dr. Stacy Smith at the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, who put together a study to confirm that. Moving forward, I decided to make sure my press days were more inclusive. After speaking with you, the film critic Valerie Complex and a few other women of colour, it sounded like across the board they weren’t getting the same opportunities as others. When I talked to the facilities that weren’t providing it, they all had different excuses.”
Larson, an ardent supporter of the Time’s Up movement’s initiative to protect women from harassment and end inequality in the workplace, is no stranger to advocating for gender-equality. Having noticed an overwhelming amount of white male journalists and critics, Larson is taking steps to include marginalized voices who haven’t been getting the same opportunities as others.
Naturally, and unfortunately, this didn’t sit well with some people, namely with fragile manchildren. A quick trip to the comments section of any article covering this story or a YouTube search for Brie Larson or Captain Marvel will reveal scores of impotent rants decrying Larson’s decision, accusing her of being a racist and a sexist for discriminating against white men. Nowhere in the interview does Larson say she doesn’t want any white men at press junkets but that hasn’t stopped them from spreading misinformation. Apparently, wanting to also include more journalists of color and women at press junkets alongside white male journalists signals the end of days for all white male journalists. I don’t know how, but these guys seem to think so.
Last year, Larson made similar headlines at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards where she talked about gender inequality in the film criticism industry. She stated, “I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him! I want to know what it meant to women of color, biracial women, to teen women of color.” There are some that are using that quote as their proof that Larson doesn’t care about what white male critics have to say, but they’re missing the point.
Larson isn’t talking about excluding white men, she’s talking about including marginalized voices, such as women of color. “Am I saying I hate white dudes? No, I am not,” she stated. “What I am saying is if you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color, there is an insanely low chance a woman of color will have a chance to see your movie and review your movie.”
There are loads of talented female critics and critics of color who aren’t being afforded the same opportunities as many white male critics at large publications. Larson has spoken to women of color who have experienced it and she wants to do something to help change that. Since Larson is the star of an upcoming blockbuster picture, she’s getting a lot of press and attention which she is using to call attention to this issue, and rightfully so. But we should remember that this isn’t a problem that just came out of nowhere overnight. Women of color have been speaking about their experiences and have been written off or ignored. The fact that it took a white person to call attention to it and get people talking should be indicative that the industry needs a change.
If you don’t want to look at it that way, then let’s look at it from the perspective of criticism as an art form. The study conducted by USC Annenberg, which Larson mentioned in the quote earlier, found that white male critics outnumber underrepresented female critics 27 to 1. That’s a lot of critics reviewing films from the same perspective, a white male perspective. That’s not to say that white male critics can’t be insightful in their critiques, because they can and are. But, bringing in more people with different perspectives and interpretations will allow the art form of film criticism to grow and broaden. Having a more diverse press and critic pool can only be a good thing, as it provides a wider range of opinions and interpretations of films.
Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8th.
(Image by: Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Entertainment)