Captain Marvel: Not High, Far, or Fast Enough For Me
Disclosure: This isn’t a review; it’s a response. There are minimal spoilers. And before you take the title and run with it, I liked the movie.
I don’t look at popular media for my story anymore. I don’t look outside my experience for my story. I am creating my story because I have learned that only I am qualified to tell this story. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy flitting in and out other people’s narratives and sharing in their experiences. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hearing other people’s stories. I just don’t see myself in them and I no longer try.
That has been the interesting part of my journey — learning that I am a story teller of my own and realizing that I don’t have to look farther to tell my story…to tell many stories. That my unique perspective and approach is enough. I’m slowly learning to trust my ability to do that, but I keep finding that my story cannot and will not be contained to two-dimensional space. It demands more.
This is something I have come to terms with and explains my initial response to Captain Marvel. I didn’t go to the theater looking for a feminist hero story. I wasn’t looking for my hero because my hero is not and will never be Captain Marvel. She comes from struggle, but not from my struggle. My shit is higher level than that and my high-level shit ain’t gonna be found there. That’s not to say it wasn’t a fun movie, because it was. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it because I did. I’ll probably even see it again on $5 day. But this isn’t my story and it doesn’t resonate with me.
That lack of resonance is weird because I am intimately familiar with aspects of her struggle. I know what it’s like to work with people and be taught that I’m too much. To have my every mistake be used as proof that I shouldn’t have tried in the first place, that what I’m doing isn’t meant for people like me. My life has been one of proving again and again that the space I take, the spaces I make are valid and deserve to exist. I know what it is to be told time and time again that I don’t belong and what it means to say fuck it and do it anyway.
And when I’m successful, it’s either a fluke or the work of whoever is closest to me, as long as it isn’t another Black womxn. Cuz Black womxn aren’t supposed to be successful or accomplished on their own. In fact, when we are there had to be some magical force at work because Black Girl Magic, right? But not me. Never me.
And I accepted that. I accepted that “truth” and numbed myself to it because I do not have the endurance or strength to fight every fight. I won’t win every fight and I will never know which fight will be the one to end me. Like Carol, I’ve had to learn to see the subtle manipulations of people around me. The not so subtle power plays to reassert their perceived dominance. The hints that while I may have created, organized, and curated something, that someone else actually holds the power. I’ve experienced the constant hints that I am the problem with everything, regardless of the fact that my track record says otherwise. I’ve accepted that living my life and flexing my strength is a huge problem for some folks and I have decided not to make their issues with me into my personal problem. Cuz it’s not.
And that is just one of the ways that Captain Marvel loses me, because while I am familiar with her struggle, she can’t take it further. Race doesn’t play a role in her struggle so being in that space where my multiple oppressions are rendered invisible at any given time is not a part of her story.
Carol Danvers knew what it was to be less than for being a girl and a womxn but has no idea what it is to be less for being Black girl or a Black womxn. She doesn’t know the exclusion that happens in predominantly white womxn-centered spaces. She doesn’t know the doubt that is tilled into ever aspect of our being. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be seen as everyone’s ladder to greatness while simultaneously being hailed as the source of everyone’s woes. Regardless of whether it’s true. Regardless of how much you try to conform. Regardless of the knowledge that the people around you are less capable, less resourceful, less competent. Regardless of knowing they are full of shit, she doesn’t know what it’s like to consistently lack the agency to change that shit, because everyone around you enjoys the tiny bit of power they derive from reinforcing the norms that deem you less.
And while she knows some of the self-doubt that comes with the incessant gaslighting, she doesn’t know what it is to be the enemy of men who share your complexion and the enemy of those who only share your gender. Also, I didn’t need to see yet another white woman find her wings and fly. I needed to see a Black woman get her free. Seeing Maria and Monica so close to that space but denied access hurt in a whole different way.
I feel like Veruca Salt when it comes to Black womxn in Marvel movies. I don’t fucking care how, I want my Black womxn superhero now. I am 100% tired of being told that progress takes time and I need to be patient. Every time I’m told this, I find myself less and less enamored with the franchise and while, yes, I am still a fan, I’m actively looking to either find or create the Black womxn superhero I want to see. They may not have a cape and be able to fly but they will rock their fucking world and reshape that shit. I am ready for the real. I want to see someone who shares my struggle out there making the universe bend to their will because that shit is inspiring and amazing and joyful. I want some motherfucking Black womxn joy in my superhero movies, y’all and I fucking want it now.
I don’t want her story to be born in sexual trauma or oppression. I want her to be assertive, powerful, obnoxious, and so damn capable that people are confused about how to talk to her. I want them to fail repeatedly at “dealing with her.” I want her to handle her shit and then go home and cry because she never asked to be this but damnit it’s necessary. And I want to see her properly rewarded for saving the fucking planet from whatever threat…unless they treat her like a threat and then I hope she knocks the whole shit over.
I want to see Black womxn thriving and winning. And I cannot stress this enough, I WANT IT NOW!
Not High, Far, or Fast Enough For Me
I know I’m supposed to be super happy about Captain Marvel. I do enjoy the MCU. And, I mean, there were some relatable moments, like Carol learning that everything she believed about her life was a lie. That her enemies were actually refugees and that she was part of the oppressive force murdering them. I should feel good that breaking that belief system helped her reject the control they had over her. I mean, that was part of my journey, too…learning that the people I’d been taught were heroes were actually cruel, vicious, and merciless murderers. In a weird way, that’s another part of my journey because we’re told in mass media that Black people, Black womxn aren’t superheroes. Yet, every day I interact with Black womxn working endlessly to change the world around them…to make things better and safer as best they can. I’ve opened my eyes to see that there are Black womxn creators out here building and reshaping worlds in their image, and kicking ass doing so. I’ve learned that what’s popular and easily visible isn’t all there is, and now I am looking constantly to debunk that shit. I know everything is coated in bullshit and I have to constantly run my hose to clear the muck out the way.
I get that she spent the entire movie fighting expectations and the limits set on her. I know that is a huge part of my story. But I don’t need to find my story in whiteness anymore. I don’t want to keep living that life.
I want more and I want it now.
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