A Captain Marvel Hot Take
At our Issues on Issues: Marvel Retrospective I was asked a really good question. (Actually I was asked a lot of really good questions.) This one focused on the Captain Marvel movie and if I thought it suffered because of the lack of romance. Short answer-Absolutely NOT. The long answer is more complicated.
Captain Marvel is an origin story and it suffers from that a bit. I thought the beginning was slow, spending way too much time on the Kree rather than ramping into what it ultimately is...an identity story.
While I enjoyed Wonder Woman (it’s impossible not to get teary during the No Man’s Land scene) it felt like more of a Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor movie. Additionally, Diana is very often depicted through the male gaze in the form of wide-eyed male reaction shots to her appearance, both when she is showing more skin and dressed in more conservative period appropriate clothing; and Steve Trevor's overbearing guidance and protection as he leads her around while trying to reign her in.
This is not the case with Captain Marvel. And while in some ways, Carol is also a fish out of water when she first comes to earth, her relationship with Nick Fury starts as an alliance against a common enemy rather than an infatuation. He seems more interested in seeing what she will do next rather than trying to direct her. Visually, despite the character's previous comic book costumes, this version of Carol is covered because that is how you should be when you are riding a motorcycle, or fighting in space. She chooses the colors she wants to fly and even in her “magical girl” transformation scene, when we finally see Carol take full ownership of her power, there is no costume change or full visual transformation; instead it’s an addition to the base; she becomes more, not different.
Carol finds herself through friendships, and a connection to her past, rather than through romantic love. Her connection to the Rambeau's, both Maria and Monica, is a critical part of her background and highlights the importance of female relationships and mutual support; and the relationship that develops with Nick Fury is one that comes from trust and respect. Nick Fury is very much along for the ride, but it’s clear that Carol is the one behind the wheel, driving full tilt toward her better self.
Romance is only one kind of relationship, and giving female characters a chance to explore other types of relationships is a critical part of making well rounded female characters who are more representative and realistic.