In recent years, Marvel has come under fire by large sections of its fanbase for how the company’s female characters are utilized and developed. Things have gotten better, to be sure, and that’s far more obvious in the company’s small screen output than its cinematic side. And when it comes to the comic book programming on Netflix, the creative teams have created several fantastic women by apparently not putting gender at the forefront of every decision. Here’s how Daredevil executive producer and Marvel bigwig Jeph Loeb explained why this isn’t an issue.
For Marvel, we’ve never looked at any of our characters in terms of gender, race or religion. It truly is about, who is the best character for the story? If that character happens to be a woman, fantastic. When we were doing Jessica Jones and we started talking about the character of Jeri Hogarth, in the comics, that character is a 50-year-old white guy. When we started talking about who could play that part, the idea of Carrie-Anne Moss playing that role defined that role and it changed it for us in a way that made it a story about a woman who was having an affair and was destroying a marriage, as opposed to a man who was having an affair and destroying a marriage. In Daredevil, it was incredibly important to us that not only Elektra but Karen, played by Deborah Ann Woll, never felt like the girlfriend. She had to have a story that was her own and that really felt like she had earned her place as part of the ongoing tapestry that is Daredevil’s story. This is not entirely new to Marvel. This is something that we’ve been doing.
It’s kind of weird that Loeb mentions not viewing a character in terms of religion in an interview about Daredevil, considering Daredevil is the show where religion plays the biggest part, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
More so than any other how or movie before it, Jessica Jones delivered not just one or two strong female roles, but an entire series full of them. It’s certainly a tough time to try and outshine David Tennant’s Kilgrave controlling everyone’s minds and causing chaos, but Krysten Ritter’s titular P.I. is one of the most well-rounded live-action Marvel characters of any gender in any format, and totally stood out in 2015 TV. And though Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri and Rachael Taylor’s Trish initially seem like they’re just going to play into stock stereotypes, they become more complex and nuanced as the series goes by, strengthening the drama as a whole. Could things have been as successful if all of them were men? Certainly, but it’s encouraging that we don’t really have to worry about it. Plus, the name of the show would sound weird.
Unfortunately, not all Marvel projects are quite as equal. I mean, even if nobody there is specifically thinking about gender when developing the stories, there are still way too many men filling up the roles in Marvel’s movies, while the TV side of things has been much more successful at letting both genders get their time. While female villains are nearly absent in the films, both Agent Carter Season 2 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have delivered on that front, and Alfre Woodard will raise some hell on Luke Cage later this year.
Loeb, who spoke with Collider about Daredevil Season 2 introducing Elodie Yung’s Elektra, had this to say about her character.
Regardless of whether or not you are seduced by Elektra’s charms, the challenge that she brings to Matt and to the story, in terms of how you’re a hero, what you fight for and what you believe in, has nothing to do with whether you’re a man or a woman. It has to do with what you’re doing as a hero.
So while Marvel might not be thinking about gender when they’re making Netflix shows and other things, viewers will always be thinking about it, so it’s great that their lack of attention has led to more women taking bigger roles. Now we just have to somehow suffer through the time until a whole new season of Jessica Jones gets here.