Super Assistants, Quirky BFFs, and Other Awesome Female Characters in the Marvel Movieverse

The Marvel movieverse has brought us many wonderful things, from the perfection of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man to the now legendary superhero team-up of The Avengers, but more than anything else, I’m grateful for the cool, quippy female characters that the studio has included in their films. Traditionally, female characters in superhero movies have been either The Love Interest or The Action Girl– personality-less ciphers whose primary function is to cater to the male gaze. It’s depressing for any superhero fan, but doubly so for female superhero fans.

However, the Marvel movieverse, specifically the films that come from Marvel Studios, has done an excellent job of incorporating interesting, multifaceted female characters into the stories of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Avengers. The women who populate the Marvel world are vivid and varied. Each one of them is heroic in her own right, even the ones without superpowers. They don’t exist merely to give Tony or Captain America someone to save, their presence adds to the story. More importantly, by integrating so many fierce and funny women into the Marvelverse, the studio is sending a positive message to young superhero fans (both male and female alike). Now, if only the studio would green light a Black Widow movie, all would be right in the world.

Pepper Potts: Iron Man upended all of our preconceived notions about what a superhero movie should be. The hero was a brilliant, snarky playboy who sucked at that whole secret identity thing and his designated love interest, Pepper Potts, was a fast-talking, capable assistant who seemed to have stepped right out of a George Cukor film. She wasn’t in awe of Tony, her job was and is to keep Tony’s enormous ego in check. The two of them have always interacted–and bantered–as equals. Perhaps what was most astonishing about Pepper when we initially met her was that in the first film, she saved the day while Tony kept the big bad occupied.

Since then, Pepper has risen in the ranks at Stark Industries and become a powerful businesswoman. Privately, she and Tony have settled into an honest, complex adult relationship that gives the films an emotional punch that is usually lacking in the genre. Without Pepper, Tony wouldn’t be able function and I fear that the franchise wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

Natasha Romanoff: Natasha isn’t just the only female Avenger, she’s also the scariest, non-green member of the team. As Loki so eloquently put it, the deadly super spy’s “ledger is dripping red.” The moral ambiguity of the character combined with Scarlett Johansson’s steely performance makes Natasha a truly unique character in the Marvel universe.

She’s darker than her cohorts, and capable of slipping on any persona necessary to get the job done. She’s a badass, yes, but there’s always more going on beneath the surface where Natasha is concerned, and in The Avengers, the character emerged as one of the franchise’s true MVPs.

Darcy Lewis: Like Pepper, Darcy is reminiscent of the classic Hollywood screwball characters of the ’30s and ’40s. As Jane Foster’s best friend, she brought some much needed levity and realism to the world of Thor. Her sharp observational skills often came in handy as she and Jane were unraveling the mystery of who Thor was, but her biggest contribution to the franchise was that she was the first integral female character who wasn’t in love with one of the heroes.

Her normalcy is as refreshing as her good-natured quipping. Darcy is primarily a faithful friend and a college student who feels very strongly about having her iPod taken away. Honestly, the franchise could use a few more wry observers like Darcy.

Sif: As the Asgardian Goddess of War, Sif is a fearless fighter, who occasionally has trouble taking orders. She’s also the closest thing Thor has to a best friend. Back in Asgard, she was the first to suspect Loki of treason, and her battle skills made her quite the asset in the fight to bring him down.

Sif carries herself with a regal confidence that sends the message that she’s not someone to be trifled with, and with some help from Jane and Darcy, she made Thor the Marvelverse’s most lady positive film yet.

Peggy Carter: As a female officer in World War II, Peggy is a fascinating character. She exists within a male-centric world, which means she’s constantly proving herself as a soldier. There is a guardedness to Peggy that only Captain America can seem to break through, but even he has to work at it. Her strength is an admirable quality, but there is something especially cool about the way she can embody the feminine bombshell ideal on the outside, and still be a soldier at her core.

Maria Hill: Maria Hill is one of the few people who is brave enough to go toe-to-toe with Nick Fury. From the moment the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent first appeared in The Avengers, it was clear she was going to continue Marvel’s tradition of bringing us awesome, powerful female characters. She spends most of the film being unapologetically no-nonsense. If she has a concern, she voices it, but when it comes time to fight her loyalty is unwavering.

The first time we ever saw Maria she was chasing after Loki with little to no regard for her own safety. She’s a top-notch agent, and a character I can’t wait to see more of.

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