I had a lot of doubts about Brie Larson from the moment she was cast as Captain Marvel. Not doubts about her acting—she is a good actress. But she’s much younger than Carol Danvers is normally portrayed, and she didn’t seem like Carol, not the messy Carol I knew from my childhood or the revamped boss bitch introduced by Kelly Sue DeConnick in 2012. But then we started to see Larson in action, and I was won over. She has the smirk, the strut, the That Bitch vibe the best version of Carol Danvers emanates from the page. And in a new cover profile from InStyle, promoting Captain Marvel, Larson talks about her activism and what she’s taken away from portraying Carol Danvers—and how that portrayal IS activism—and while there is a tiny sliver in my heart of hearts that still kinda wishes Marvel had cast a forty-something actress to play Carol, I am glad Brie Larson will be Carol Danvers for a generation of young girls. This doesn’t seem like just a career stop for her, Larson seems to understand the impact these characters can have, the impression she can make as a powerful, flawed, funny, do-or-die heroine.
She is interviewed by Sana Amanat, a Marvel Comics editor and writer who co-created Kamala Khan, a teenaged Muslim-American heroine who idolizes Captain Marvel. That’s a nice touch, a particularly astute call from InStyle to pair a comic book writer and actress, two people in the sorority of care-taking these generational heroines that mean so much to so many. (Someone get Gail Simone to interview Gal Gadot.) The typical setup of “why take this role” prompts Larson to talk about the inherent activism of playing “earth’s mightiest hero”, who happens to be a woman:
“This could be my form of activism: doing a film that can play all over the world and be in more places than I can be physically.”
And she compares Carol to Indiana Jones, which settles my nerd anxiety and appeases my inner Indy fangirl. Of Indiana Jones she says, “I couldn’t think of a female equivalent. […] There was Sigourney Weaver in Alien, of course, but there wasn’t enough of that spectrum of confidence and sass and a little bit of a mess, just a mix of everything. Women weren’t allowed to do that.”
Contrasting Carol and Indy is brilliant. Carol has a similar vibe of expertise, ability, confidence, humor, and human-disaster as Indiana Jones. I can’t believe I haven’t realized that before, but this is the kind of thing that makes me feel good about Larson playing Carol. She gets it.
She also understands what position starring in a Marvel movie gets her. For her press tour, Larson is emphasizing inclusive representation in the press and critical ranks, and she’s committed to wearing mostly female designers at her publicity stops. As she says, “Inclusion has to be a choice; it’s not happening naturally. […] You really have to fight for it.” I’ll be interested to see, when Captain Marvel 2 rolls around, if she can get Marvel to accept her inclusion rider.
Brie Larson has always kept a low profile in Hollywood. She has famous friends—this interview references a post-Oscar discussion with her friend, Jennifer Lawrence—and she has been steadily rising in profile over the last few years. But even as an Oscar winner and newly minted Marvel star, she still flies under the radar. Captain Marvel opens in a month, and will be the biggest boost to her profile since she won an Oscar. With the kind of fame Marvel brings comes a certain type of power, and it will be worth watching Larson to see what does when she gets that kind of pull. She’s already exerted some pull, advocating for Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. But, should she become one of Marvel’s biggest stars, what else can she do? I used to have no opinion on Brie Larson, but lately she’s become very interesting to watch. And if nothing else, at least we know Carol Danvers is in good hands.