The superhero outfits of women in the Marvel universe are getting some critical side-eye — just ask Elizabeth Olsen. In a recent interview with Elle, Olsen spoke about Scarlet Witch’s revealing costume, meditating on the work these movies still have to do to better represent women and their bodies. But the 29-year-old Ingrid Goes West star (and little sis to ’90s icons, Mary-Kate and Ashely) also noted the strides blockbuster films have made recently toward inclusivity. Case-in-point? The Avengers: Infinity War, headlined by its resoundingly diverse cast, just hit theaters in a $630 million box office-smashing opening last weekend.
When asked about her character’s low-cut costume, Olsen was quick to underscore the gentle tweaks she’d make to the Scarlet Witch’s apparel to re-focus attention on the character’s mind-bending magic. "It would just not be a cleavage corset. I like corsets, but I’d like it to be higher," she explained. "Everyone has these things that cover them — Tessa Thompson does, Scarlett [Johansson] does. I would like to cover up a bit. It’s funny because sometimes I look around and I’m just like— wow, I’m the only one who has cleavage, and that’s a constant joke because they haven’t really evolved my superhero costume that much."
Of course, this isn’t the first time superhero movies have come under scrutiny for overtly sexualizing its kickass heroines and their often-skimpy clothing. For example, Zack Snyder’s DC Justice League caught critics’ attention last November for its scantily-clad portrayal of Amazonian women — especially when compared to those featured in Patty Jenkins’ acclaimed Wonder Woman.
Still, despite the films’ tendency to occasionally emphasize female characters’ bust-lines over their stunning powers, Olsen also applauded the movies’ slow shift toward inclusivity — a change emblematic of Hollywood’s growing investment in spotlighting a wider variety of storylines and interpretations of beauty.
"That’s why I like working with Marvel, because its almost like they’re not trying to slap anyone over the head with it, but they recognize that they have such a huge platform, and they’re using it to be as inclusive as they can with their storylines and representing the world," she told Elle. "That’s why [Black] Panther felt like such a huge thing in culture, and they’re aware of it, and their goal is to not make the same stories that have happened over and over and over again."
Helmed by a star-studded cast that included Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan, February’s breakout Black Panther ushered in a new genre of Marvel films — one devoted to telling culturally sensitive, exuberantly inclusive storylines celebrating a multiplicity of voices (while also breaking a few box-office records along the way). And as women like Oslen continue to speak out about the ways their characters are treated or dressed differently than their male colleagues, it’s hard to imagine that the Marvel universe won’t continue to evolve and change. While they haven’t reached full ethnic or gender parity yet, superhero movies feel like they’ve already come a long way, thanks in no small part to directorial influences like Ryan Coogler and DC’s Jenkins.
One sign the tides of the superhero world are already changing? The way viewers hold the creators accountable, calling out the ways they’ve come to expect smarter, more socially conscious narratives from their favorite comic book brands.
"I really wanted #Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch to have an independent movie," one Avengers fan tweeted, highlighting the comic book movie audience’s growing appetite for smart, empathetic, female-driven storytelling.
It seems like Olsen and her viewers are all thinking along the same lines. Maybe Jenkins can step in and help with this hero’s progression, too.
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