As excited as I am about the prospect of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie actually being a way to introduce Carol Danvers to The Avengers franchise as Captain Marvel, I’m starting to have concerns about some of the casting rumors swirling the movie. None of this is for certain, of course, but the latest buzz has Emily Blunt in talks to play the fighter-jock-turned-superheroine. I dearly love Ms. Blunt, who can do everything from sexy to hilariously, neurotically competitive. But the fact that she’s in the conversation at all raises an issue that I’ve noticed in the conversation about a female version of The Expendables, too: even as we improve the action roles available for women, Hollywood stays rather inflexible when it comes to what kind of female bodies are desirable and viable.
When word came the ensemble project was in production, the director of The Expendables 2 came up with his dream cast list, which included only one woman who is primarily an action actress. I made the point at the time that it would be nice if the movie went after actresses who specialized in action films, and had the fighting styles and physiques to match. And that’s what’s happened, starting with the additions of Gina Carano and Katee Sackhoff.
I don’t want to say that there should be strict body-type requirements for certain kinds of roles. But it’s striking that the kinds of shoulders and muscle development that are a prerequisite for male action stars don’t help women land the same kinds of roles. Good fight choreography can help suspend disbelief, which is why it was exciting and upsetting to see Scarlett Johansson face off against a ripped and sleeveless Jeremy Renner in The Avengers. But if the casting in that franchise and Angelina Jolie’s career or any indication, the ability to look great in an evening gown and to miraculously avoid sweating off your lipstick even in tense circumstances is at least as important as the ability to look physically intimidating or land a plausible punch. Blunt can do both of those things. But I’d rather see Sackhoff, who has played a tough fighter pilot before, as Carol Danvers, and to see Hollywood value a woman’s physical strength as much as her face and dress size.