It's International Women's Day, and Marvel Studios is celebrating by premiering its woman-led blockbuster film, Captain Marvel. The highly anticipated movie follows its female protagonist, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), aided by Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), as they are thrust into a galactic war.
While the plot sounds like the usual Marvel superhero fare, comic book dudebros were mad that a woman superhero movie existed and they got even madder when Larson made comments about upending Hollywood's patriarchy: "I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him,” Larson reportedly said. The Mens Rights Activists subReddit guys got even madder when Jackson compared Trump and Trump's Black friends to an enslaver and his enslaved: "He's got a bigger plantation," Jackson said of the latest president with a history of racism and misogyny. As a result, Captain Marvel was flooded with many negative reviews before the film even premiered, prompting Rotten Tomatoes to change its rules.
Despite the drummed-up controversy, Captain Marvel is on track for a $150 million opening weekend. In the wake of the film’s premiere, Shadow And Act spoke with Lynch about her castmates speaking out against sexism and racism.
"I have not heard all of their comments, so I don’t know exactly what was said because we're doing separate junkets in different parts of the world, but I mean, if we don’t talk about these things then nothing is going to get done," Lynch told Shadow And Act.
"If different races don’t talk about things, nothing is going to change. So we have to recognize that these shifts that have been happening in the industry and in the world aren’t just happening on their own," she said. "It’s because we are being vocal. So if we stop being vocal then we’ll be stagnant and stuck and then that’s when the reverse of the world starts happening," she said.
Lashana Lynch at the Captain Marvel premiere | Getty
Lynch emphasized her love for Larson (that's mirrored on-screen, considering Larson's Carol has no romantic love interest; instead, the best-friend love between Carol and Maria is the heart of the film) and Jackson, saying she knows they were just speaking up for themes that the movie represents.
And for Lynch, “this movie represents so much for the Black community.”
It might not be Black Panther, but Lynch's Maria Rambeau and her daughter Monica Rambeau (This Is Us star Akira Akbar) do offer something for Black women and girls who don't often get to show up and show out in superhero films. Although Maria doesn’t wear a cape, Lynch’s character emerges as a superhero in her own right—albeit in a more human,“bad-ass,” #BlackGirlMagic way.
Maria is a Black single mother “raising a young queen,” who also happens to be an Air Force pilot in the '90s–a time when there were significantly less women, let alone Black women. “They very rarely get their chance to shine in their world,” Lynch said of Black female Air Force pilots. “They are out there fighting and it feels like, finally, we are able to say ‘thank you’ for their work,” she said.
For Lynch, Maria’s single motherhood should also be celebrated. “We’re able to shine a light on single mothers, who literally are superheroes for their children, and who do an incredible job. We need to celebrate her [Maria] and celebrate the fact that she’s a single mother. Being a single mother, a Black single mother, that narrative on screen is oftentimes represented as a struggle–that’s simply not true for a lot of people’s lives.”
There are two magical moments in the film between Maria and her young daughter, one where Maria declines an opportunity to fly into space to fight aliens and Monica asks her to consider the example she's setting for her daughter by not saving the world. Maria relents. “Monica is saying ‘me, as the daughter, I support you and I am here for you and I want you to live your best life, finally, because you’ve injected so much power within me,” Lynch said of that moment.
The other is when young Monica watches Carol take off to the stars. Monica stares up in wonder, foreshadowing Monica's own superhero future. #BlackGirlWonder is definitely groundbreaking in Captain Marvel.
“She’s a woman in charge," Lynch said of her character. "She knows her own truth. She’s used her past experiences to enable her to raise someone who is able to use her voice.”
That mother-daughter chemistry between Lynch and Akbar and the wisdom-giving role-reversal between the two was also mirrored in their offscreen relationship. “I genuinely love that child,” Lynch said. “I just pretended she was my acting coach for the duration [of filming]. I’d ask her what her thoughts were, she’d give me them, I’d run with them and then, suddenly, we create beautiful moments on screen.”
Lynch also created warm moments with Jackson on screen, which she attributes to their characters' unspoken bond in Blackness.
“I think when two cultures see each other in different parts of the world, they just have an understanding–a natural understanding and a natural kind of chin up to each other, and a ‘thank you’ for existing and ‘thank you for your power,’ Lynch said. “It’s not commented on but it’s a nice storyline throughout the movie.”
Lynch hopes that is the future of Black representation on film: "Marvel is making waves with cutting out what others, maybe, think communities want and actually just giving what people deserve,” Lynch said. “It’s not explained that Maria is a Black mother because she’s just a mother that happens to be Black. I think that’s what we need to hone in on when it comes to representation,” Lynch says. “We don’t have to explain where we come from and who we are, it’s already represented when we see each other on-screen. We shouldn’t have to explain every part of our culture, just be living it on screen.”
As for the future of Maria Rambeau in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lynch doesn't really know. But she does know that, “This is just the beginning of representation.”