Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Let’s Not Blame Carol Danvers Please

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It’s easy to walk away from The Marvels and think Carol Danvers did something wrong. Taken at face value, the plot presents the idea that Carol going after the Supreme Intelligence is the cause for all the danger she and the universe face throughout the movie. From the very first scene she shares with any Kree, she is the Annihilator, the one responsible for the decrepit state of their homeworld, the enemy Dar-Benn seeks personal vengeance against after failing to stop her on Hala. Carol does nothing to really argue against this, taking the burden of Hala’s destruction onto her shoulders.

Here’s the thing; we shouldn’t take this all at face value.

Carol Danvers, Kamala Khan, and Monic Rambeau in action against Dar-Benn

Let’s look at the facts of the situation. The Kree and the Supreme Intelligence enslaved Carol Danvers, mind-wiped her, and used her as a weapon. She eventually figures all of this out back in the original Captain Marvel, and it is this rebellion that serves as the main conflict of the movie. Her act of striking back at the Kree isn’t some unwarranted violence, it is a former slave striking back at her oppressor.

What’s the alternative here, that Carol Danvers just…not care that this fascist intergalactic power that enslaved her and exerts the largest influence throughout the galaxy is out there doing to others what they did to her? Especially when she has the power at her disposal to stop them? This is the responsibility of the kind of power she wields.

I might feel differently if The Marvels told us that Carol destroying the Supreme Intelligence was directly responsible for Hala becoming uninhabitable. For example, if it directly controlled the planet’s star, directly controlled its atmosphere, water, etc., and so its loss meant all these things were doomed. Yeah, in that case, you could say Carol Danvers was to blame.

We are explicitly told this is not the case, though. The Kree ruin Hala on their own. Their civil war, and whatever weapons they unleash on each other, is the cause for making their homeworld uninhabitable. How is it Carol’s fault that a bunch of fascists got punched in the nose and decided that the best solution was to tear each other to pieces to fill a power void?

That’s what happened. A bunch of greedy, power-hungry fascists saw a chance to nab power and doomed Hala in the process. Even if you argue that, say, the loss of the Supreme Intelligence left the Kree rudderless in a storm, well, again, it is not her fault that a nation of conquerors decided to eat themselves.

Maybe there would be an argument here if Carol had picked some random civilization she was unfamiliar with and ignorantly assumed destroying an evil leader would make things better. She knew the Kree, though. She lived with them, fought with them, and understood their society. So the idea of Carol maybe picking the wrong time to be the benevolent savior also rings false. She picked the right place and the right time to destroy a force that caused suffering throughout the universe, as well as her own suffering.

Even we, as viewers, know this. The Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel both show us the imperialistic and genocidal ambitions of the Kree. We know damn well that they were an evil force to be fought and beaten. Their rage towards Carol Danvers is not righteous or justified. It is the angry lashing out of a bunch of brutal, fascist babies who wouldn’t admit their own fault in destroying their home.

Now, as I said before, you can see Carol’s own regrets and use that as the biggest argument that she did something wrong. When the hero herself views destroying the Supreme Intelligence as a mistake, then the audience must agree with her, right? And I can see the argument that Carol should have stuck around to help Hala after her attack on the Supreme Intelligence. But really, does anyone truly see that as a viable option? She had just attacked the planet. She had cut the head off the snake and upended their civilization. They hated her.

Why in the world would Carol think she could have done anything besides leave afterwards. Does anyone actually think the Kree would have let her help them?

It feels like The Marvels trusts the audience to understand the difference between Carol Danvers feeling regret for what happened to Hala and her actual culpability in its downfall. We can view her regrets as part of her characterization, without buying into the Kree’s propaganda.

That’s without even mentioning how her regret over Hala ties into her larger regrets and fears about Earth, the Skrulls, Monica and Maria, the Blip, her history as a Kree soldier, and the ten thousand other things that have jaded her throughout her life. Carol Danvers, as of The Marvels, comes across as a self-deprecating person who too easily blames herself for the things she wishes had gone differently. These are the things that make heroes, well, heroes. They see their powers as something that should make them capable of protecting everyone and assume they are at fault when bad things happen.

It is our job, as the audience, to understand when superheroes are right or wrong in their self-incrimination. Carol’s guilt over Hala was not just specifically about Hala. It was one regret lumped in with many that she does not differentiate from. It was also an easy excuse to avoid going home, where she would have to face Monica and the situation she actually regretted most.

I also understand the appeal of having genuinely interesting motivations for Dar-Benn. A villain whose main motivation is revenge for a wrong perpetrated on her by the hero is interesting, as is her overall goal of restoring Hala.

The problem is when this tips over into woobifying villains and making them out to be softer and more sympathetic than they actually are, and Dar-Benn shouldn’t be exaggeratedly softened anymore than Carol should be unfairly demonized. This lady was happy to slaughter multiple planets that didn’t deserve it, just because she held a grudge.

I guess we’ll see where the conversation goes, or what conversation even exists. MCU fans seem to have taken sides regarding The Marvels well before the movie came out, and honest conversation is probably going to be nonexistent for a while. Carol will get more hate than she deserves for reasons having nothing to do with the character.

But among what conversation does exist, I hope we can recognize what The Marvels actually wanted to say about Carol Danvers.

Images Courtesy of Marvel Studios

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