Marvel Women Are “No Nonsense Mommies”
By Veronica Letourneau
Photo: IndieWire – Source
The term “No Nonsense Mommies” for the Marvel women comes from YouTube personality Comic Book Girl 19 (Danika Lee Massey) in her review about the Disney+ show Loki called “LOKI and the Curse of No Fun Marvel Mommies” (Source); she points out the glaring trend in Marvel superheroes who are women: they are either no fun, serious, or motherly (most of the time being all three).
Comic Book Girl 19’s criticism comes from the fact that in the show Loki there are a variety of variants from different time lines and universes, all but one being male, and they have a number of different personalities with one base attribute, a trickster who enjoys their mischief. The one female variant, Sylvie, is a trickster, but she is in no way having fun with it. To date, she has spent the entire show on a mission to get revenge and takes that revenge very seriously. Even when there is an opportunity to have fun and be reckless, as the main character Loki does by getting drunk on a train to the end of a planet's existence, she doesn’t. All she does is complain about Loki’s recklessness and stress about their next move, moving into position as the one in charge who has to babysit the childish variant she is stuck with. The argument could be made that this is a rational reaction to getting revenge, but those people would be forgetting the entire set up to the first Avengers film where Loki is getting revenge from his father and brother rejecting him and not accepting him as an equal by taking over a planet and having fun doing so.
While being a “no nonsense mommy” character is not necessarily a bad thing, it can even be logical for some of the plotlines –such as with the assistant to an eccentric billionaire Pepper Potts in Iron Man, the spy Black Widow throughout the films, and the guarded victim of fatherly abuse Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol. 2– it starts to become problematic once they are all like this. This argument would never be made for Bucky Barnes or Steve Rogers being “no nonsense daddies,” because they are some of the only male characters like this.
Valkyrie may have some alcohol issues in the beginning making her seem irresponsible at first, but throughout her time in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame she is always serious, never having fun, and babysitting the male heroes. In Thor: Ragnarok, she looks after Hulk as his mentor and interacts in a son-mother dynamic while talking to him as if he is a child. In Avenger’s: Endgame she looks after a drunk, depressed Thor and the New Asgard he is neglecting.
The Wasp falls into a similar category as Valkyrie, though without the alcohol issues, as she also babysits Scott Lang throughout the two Ant-Man movies and is seemingly not enjoying her time throughout the films.
While Gamora is the love interest of Peter Quill, she also takes on the role of replacement mommy for him; a visual example of this is when she asks Peter to take her hand and he sees his dying mother. Throughout both films she also has to corral the rest of the group while the others get to be unhinged. Gamora is also very guarded and serious, as she was a child of abuse and has never known a moment of leisure nor fun. This is all justifiable for Gamora’s character, but still contributes to the pattern. Peter and Rocket are also victims of abuse and still “mess around” and it can be said that people act differently to abuse, but why did it have to be Gamora who is the one who acts serious and guarded but not the male characters.
The only time Captain Marvel is smiling and enjoying herself as a “superpowered” hero is the moment in the film Captain Marvel, where she is with 11-year-old Monica Rambeau, in a mother-daughter-like interaction, picking a color for her new superhero suit.
There are several Marvel women who do not fall into this category, but there is a specific reason as to why: the women are either child-like (or minors) or they are the evil villains of the story. Characters such as Shuri from Black Panther or Kate Bishop from Hawkeye are in their early twenties, still considerably young and not yet fully matured, so they are allowed to have fun. Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy is mentally immature, this can either be because her alien species does not develop mentally quickly or perhaps that Mantis is only a few years old. Michelle Jones from the Spider-Man franchise, while being a little gloomy can at times have fun, but she is still an adolescent, so she is still allowed to be irresponsible.
Yelena to some degree could be considered an “anti-hero”, but she is used as an antagonist in the DisneyPlus show Hawkeye. A fully fledged female villain enjoying their villainy is Hela from Thor: Ragnarok. Hela in this film is cracking jokes, having fun being cruelly creative with her powers, and reveling in her self-righteousness.
This trend does not end, as even in the latest film Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, (Spoilers ahead) the main antagonist of the film is an angry mother, Scarlet Witch, who destroys all that gets in her way of being with her children from another universe. The Scarlet Witch is miserable, and as stated before, it fits her character but adds to the trend.
By following this pattern throughout the films, Marvel reveals their writers' views of women, that once you (a woman) are past the age of twenty-five and need to be taken seriously, you cannot be reckless nor take pleasure in your work. You must be serious, you must be responsible, and you must take care of those who are not. In Disney’s effort to be progressive and not infantilize women, Marvel has put their women characters in a box. If Marvel wishes to have more inclusivity and diversity in their female characters, they have to break this mold. They have to create more of a variety of character personalities.
A strong successful female character who is not a “no nonsense mommy” is DC’s flagship character Wonder Woman. Throughout her time in the first film, she is naïve, brave, curious, confident, and fun. This character was not taken seriously at first for the sole reason of her being a woman (and the time period). However, by having confidence in herself and proving her bravery she was able to be taken seriously by her comrades. While I do not want Marvel to now start having hundreds of Wonder Women in their films, I do want to point out that a variety is possible and will add more layers of realism to Marvel's roster of female characters.