“But what if she gets fat?”
That was the comment that sent the audience into cackles during the first end credits scene of Ant-Man. There she was, Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Janet Van Dyne, seeing the Wasp prototype suit for the first time, and before she could even get her line ‘It’s about time’ out of her mouth, the audience is howling at the idea that she might gain weight and not fit into the suit.
Forty-eight people are laughing and one fan feels like she’s heard this story before.
The fact that I even have to write this is sad to me. My experience with the Ant-Man film was fine. Though it is not the greatest Marvel film ever made, it is certainly not the worst. The plot was an interesting heist set up, the characters were fun to watch and learn about, the action sequences were amazing, the suit was so cool, and Scott’s daughter stole the show every time she was on screen. However, the film does suffer from the overused random-guy-is-more-suited-for-this-mission-than-the-woman-who-has-trained-all-her-life-and-has-more-experience syndrome, but at the very least the film addresses that it is doing this and makes a conscious effort to explain why.
However, the incident at the end of the film proves to me that you cannot just explain away women because society still suffers consequences from it.
Picture this: the first few credits have finished rolling. Hank and Hope are back on screen in the basement, where Hank reveals that he and Janet had been working on the next step in the Wasp’s technology. The metal door slides back and a beautiful, powerful, blue and gold suit, complete with iridescent metal wings, is revealed. My breath catches, I can’t believe it! I had been thinking that Wasp wasn’t going to be in this universe at all, and now that I see the possibility of her return, the mantle taken up by her amazing daughter, I am ecstatic! And then…
“But what if she gets fat!” yells a little middle school girl three chairs down from me.
The entire theater, including her mom and friends, bursts into laughter.
Hope’s empowering “It’s about time” is drowned out by the laughter.
I am heartbroken.
One of my favorite female heroes, the founder of the Avengers, the namer of the Avengers, is being mocked by an entire theater of people over the possibility that she might gain weight and not fit into the suit.
We were all collectively excited when Scott got his suit.
Only one person didn’t laugh when Hope got hers.
The fact that a young girl said this makes it all the worse. That was the first thing she noticed about this female role model: her size and figure. That was the first thing she has been conditioned to notice.
Erasing strong female characters is a bad thing.
Teaching girls that they are how they look is a bad thing.
Placing men into positions of power when there is clearly a woman who could do it better is a bad thing.
Because by the time a real strong female character comes along, by the time we do try to change the game, by the time we try to start giving young girls strong, empowering female superheroes, it will already be too late.
Instead of being excited about seeing a woman on the big screen, I know of at least one little girl who was concerned about Hope’s weight.
What does that say about society’s message to girls?
Marvel has some of the greatest female characters ever written. Not using them is sending a message. Killing them off before they can appear on screen is sending a message. Exploring them as love interests instead of interesting characters is sending a message.
46.6% of comic and comic movie fans are female. I think it’s time Marvel, and society, started acting like it.