>Our Own Worlds<

A Speculative Fiction Community for Independent Writers & Readers

Behind the Curtain: Story Arc Validity: Non-Masculine Voices

3 min read

by Sarah Buhrman

Crossposted from Patreon

Captain Marvel, who has a great story arc

There is a new story arc in town. Yeah, I saw the movie, Captain Marvel. I may have, at one point, called into the darkened theater “Kitty!” If you’ve seen the movie, you know why this would happen.

As with so many things, if it’s a movie I love AND it happens to feature a woman lead or leads, I read the social media/blogging commentary surrounding it. It’s fascinating to see what others got out of the movies. It’s also fascinating to see the push-back from haters who assure us all that it’s not because it stars a woman. Really. They promise.

A meme about the Captain Marvel story arc is making the rounds on social media. The general idea is that some guys don’t think the story was very good. The response is that the story doesn’t follow a typically masculine story arc, and therefore cannot be judged by that metric.

Wait, what? A typically masculine story arc? What fresh SWJ stuff is this?


Well, it’s that instead of a head-to-head battle at the climax, well… The main antagonist challenges Carol to a fight, but he knows she can pwn him hard with her power, so he challenges her to fight without her power as that’s the only chance he has. This is especially poignant since the entire movie has been about him and a freaky-controlling AI have been telling Carol to NOT use her powers because she is too emotional.

Mind you, they wiped her memory, kidnapped her, brainwashed/gaslighted her at every turn, tricked her into participating in genocide, attacked her planet – twice, killed her mentor, threatened her BFF, implanted a device to impede her use of her new powers, and told her that the reason she couldn’t use her powers fully was that she had feelings (as opposed to the damn device they stuck in her head).

She heard how she was a substandard member of her “team” (fake, alien team that was really her handlers) because she was emotional and would often fail the first few times of trying things. She was told she shouldn’t use her powers because she was emotional and might fail.

She Might… Or

The whole movie showed people telling her she couldn’t do things. Because a woman tried to be a USAF pilot in the 80s. Because a girl engaged in rough-n-tumble “boy” stuff. Because a human fought, and fought alongside, aliens. Because she fell a few times. Because she was emotionally driven to do what she saw as being right.

The movie showed her getting beaten, falling down, failing… and getting back up and trying again. EMOTIONALLY.

Then this jerk tells her she should prove herself to him by fighting him without the powers she had only just fully embraced and used. And she tells him she doesn’t NEED to prove herself.

That’s right. He demanded a chance to beat her, and she whatevered his ass.

The Story of Us

This is the story of women. Women don’t succeed because they are equal to men. They have to be better. And then some jerk still demands a chance to beat her so she can prove herself to him on his terms. (To be fair, this is also the story of other minorities, as well.)

The problem is, even a story arc that focuses on a primarily minority experience is filtered by #WhiteMen and judged by them based on their standards. That’s why there is so much conflict and confusion about the new Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel, and even Black Panther.

But these stories are becoming more popular. Horrors and thrillers focused on black experiences, women’s experiences, are more common… and successful!  Superheros that aren’t #WhiteMen are more common… and successful!

We need to embrace the diversity in story lines by not measuring all story arcs on the metrics of the #WhiteMen experience. Women, POCs, non-neurotypicals, differently abled – our story arcs are valid, too.

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