Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The WAGs of Marvel (Are Way Cooler Than Their Boyfriends)

It had better treat them well.
In honor of the Avengers movie coming out this Friday, and the inevitable weeks which it will blast our eyeballs with its awesomeness, I thought we should take a minute to honor the less spotlit characters from the franchise. While Marvel and DC tend to come up about even on female superheroes (at least until the New 52 premiered, and DC retconned all awesomeness out of its franchise--Marvel is currently winning), Marvel has a history of treating its WAGs better.

By WAGs, I mean Wives And Girlfriends. The characters ancillary to the story, but who are invariably included in order to "humanize" the hero. Some films (Green Lantern) just throw a pair of breasts on screen and assume that their job is done. But here, we want to celebrate the recent spate of Marvel movies for creating characters who are actually cool in their own right. Some of them so cool that you actually want the hero to have to earn the right to date them.

So we have, in no particular order, the WAGs of Marvel. (And Darcy.)

Captain America, Peggy Carter

I don't even really feel like I have to make an argument why Agent Carter is fricking fantastic, but I will, because I love you all that much. Peggy Carter is established from the beginning of the film as an independent, career-minded woman in a time when that wasn't exactly a common option. Carter decided not only to join the military in WWII, she went into Intelligence, then forced her way to the front lines. She's clearly incredibly talented, and doesn't need a boyfriend, not even one as cool as Captain America.

In all honesty, she likes him better as Steve Rogers, the incredibly awkward, shrimpy guy from Queens, who just wants to take a girl dancing. That alone would put her on this list, but when she catches Steve kissing another woman, she very calmly picks up a gun and shoots at him and his as-yet-untested shield. Damn girl! You have to appreciate that she not only appreciates the right things about him, but has an appropriate level of respect for herself. Girl accepts no cheaters.

Plus, after Steve is encased in ice and lost, Agent Carter goes on to help found SHIELD. Tell me that's not badass.

Thor, Dr. Jane Foster

Dr. Foster has a lot of things going for her. One, she's really hot. Like super-duper, played by Natalie Portman hot. It's not bad. Two, she's wicked smart. She has her doctorate in astrophysics or something, and is clearly only in her late twenties, which is just plain impressive, even if she is marooned in the desert with her mentor and the world's worst (best) intern. Three, she's dedicated to her research, and capable of putting together evidence that no one else can to create fantastic results. Like, say, finding a god in the middle of the desert.

Why does that make her a cool WAG? Well, simply put, she's another girl who made her career a high priority. She's only in the movie because she's scientifically interested in Thor. Yes, he's ridiculously attractive. But he does most of the actual pursuing. She spends more time thinking about his astronomic origins than she does about scoodly-pooping. Their eventual romance is built up based on mutual respect, and heroics. What's cooler than that?

X-Men: First Class, Moira MacTaggert

Moira's a little bit of a cheat here, since she's not officially anyone's anything in X-Men, but I qualify her as counting, since Charles does kiss her at the end of the film (SPOILERS!), and because she is one of the major obstacles in the Charles/Erik epic romance. The other obstacles being Raven and Charles' obliviousness. Erik is not oblivious. He is just patient.


Moira is a CIA agent in the 1960s. Seeing a trend here? She's clearly good at her job, even if they don't tend to give her a lot of credit. She's willing to do what it takes to get her man, even if that means stripping down to her underwear to sneak into a nightclub, or take up with a bunch of weirdo mutants to save the world. The mission is her calling, and if she can keep the mission going, while also romancing a hot genetics professor? More the better. But Moira knows herself. She knows that she's strong, even if she's not a mutant. She is willing to fight with superhumans, willing to die on a beach with them, and willing to stand up to certain death to save humans she doesn't even know. Hell. Yes.

Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Pepper Potts

How is Pepper awesome? Let us count the ways. One, after putting up with Tony Stark for who knows how many years, she not only manages to run his life while he's off being a superhero, she also runs his company, both officially and unofficially. Two, even though she's clearly been harboring some feelings for her aforementioned employer for some time, she doesn't let him slide by easily when he admits that he loves her back. She gives him plenty of shit for the hell he's put her through. Three, when push comes to shove, Pepper not only knows exactly what all of Tony's businesses are doing, precisely how he likes his coffee, and the best way to get his attention when he's working, she's also pretty good at saving his butt when he's in trouble, even if it means getting in touch with SHIELD.

Oh, and four, Pepper is entirely capable of telling Tony to go to hell when he's spent weeks being a complete ass to her. Even when you can see that it pains her, and even when she knows it makes her look like a bitch, she knows what she's worth, and she knows how to respect herself. High five.

Thor, Darcy Lewis

Okay, so this is another unofficial entry, but come on! Can you blame me? Darcy was by far the most interesting and entertaining character in Thor, and she didn't have a single super-power or special-ability. Hell, she isn't even very good at her job.

She is, however, awesome at giving the exact right reaction to a situation. Crazy guy gets up after he's been hit by a van and starts spouting off some seriously insane nonsense and looking vaguely threatening? TAZE HIM! Sure, he actually did turn out to be an alien/god, and he wasn't crazy after all, exactly, but in the circumstances, who would you rather have at your back? Someone who wants to hear the crazy person out, or someone who is willing to taze a god for you? Think about it. And later, when they're hanging with Thor, she's the only one who actually undertakes to teach him about the world he's stranded in. Pop-tarts, Facebook, diners, she's actually helping him to function in the world, which is a pretty important job, if you think about it.

And really, come on, who can't relate to a girl who, faced with the possible end of the world, loss of her job, and the removal of all the research she's been working on, all she can think about is how much she damn well wants her iPod back. My kind of girl.

Anticipated: The Amazing Spiderman, Gwen Stacy

This one's more of a guess than anything else, but based on the trailers I've seen, and the little I know about the project, I have a sneaking suspicion that Gwen Stacy is going to be a pretty cool love interest for Peter. She's career-minded (where have we heard that before?), very smart, capable of taking care of herself, and a bit less, shall we say, irritating? Than Mary-Jane was. I didn't love Mary-Jane, and I'm hoping to be won over by the fair Ms. Stacy. It helps that I love Emma Stone.

Overall, though, I think we should take a minute and be thankful. Being a strong female character doesn't always mean being a woman who can punch a man across the room. While, yes, it sometimes means that, and I'm as guilty as anyone, of focussing on the characters who can do that, being a strong female character really means a character who is sure of herself in her situation. She knows who she is, and is comfortable enough in that to even be a wuss sometimes. Being a strong female character doesn't mean never relying on a man, or never having a romance, it just means that the sfc isn't defined by her relationship with others. She's defined by herself and herself alone.

And in the case of these lovely ladies, they're strong enough to be themselves, and cool enough to admit that they want to be themselves with somebody else. Good for them.

(Except for Darcy, but, hey, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being single. And if you say there is, she has a taser with your name on it, buddy.)

There is nothing wrong with being single! SAY IT!

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