As a company, Marvel has a long history of displaying an impressive maturity on social issues and has long been a creative beacon of equality. Some fans have criticized the Marvel Cinematic Universe for falling foul of Hollywood tropes and simplifying or flattening the personalities of some of the female characters. Others have felt that Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow is needlessly sexualized, with every fight sequence seeming to involve her wrapping her legs around someone’s head and striking a sexy pose to commemorate each downed henchman.
The legacy of the comics themselves, however, is unquestionable and continues to this day. 2011 saw the Spiderman series rebooted with a black character donning the web slinger’s outfit for the first time. Marvel’s positive portrayal of women shows that their value as scientists is equal to their male counterparts and has been one of the factors that have helped contribute to an increasingly diverse scientific community. There is still much to be done in encouraging young girls and women to pursue science educationally, the gaps in terms of both pay and opportunities are rapidly shrinking.
What is interesting is that Marvel has a knack for portraying nurses as fully fleshed out characters whose roles extend beyond what one might think of as the ‘traditional’ roles of a female nurse, making them as relevant to the story as the main hero.
OK, maybe we’re cheating a little bit here; Claire is, in fact, a doctor, not a nurse, at least in the comics. In real life, if you happen to have a BSN or MSN in nursing you could follow it up with a nurse practitioner doctorate degree and kick-start your career, as online doctoral nursing programs are more affordable and accessible than ever.
In MCU, Rosario Dawson expertly brought the character of Claire Temple to life for the recent run of Defenders-related Netflix shows, which comprise the Television part of the MCU. Not only is she pretty handy in a fight thanks to her study of martial arts but Claire is also shown to be a strong and capable doctor who is heavily guided by her moral compass. While she is not considered a superhero, she provides emotional support and insight as well as advice to other main characters, so she is definitely an important character.
The original Jane Foster was a nurse, but Natalie Portman’s portrayal of the character is an accomplished astrophysicist. The comic book version of Jane is much more fleshed out and is also shown to be particularly humble owing to the death of her mother when she was a child. Over the course of the comics, Jane is offered the opportunity become a God but declines the opportunity, displaying characteristic humility.
Portrayed by Amy Adams in Doctor Strange, Christine Palmer’s character has suffered an even more dramatic transition from page to screen than Jane Foster. On screen, Christine Palmer works alongside Stephen Strange and at one point the two discuss a major breakthrough made while working together. Stephen Strange displays a level of respect towards her that shows he considers her to be his equal despite his nominally higher status as a doctor. In the comics, Christine Palmer was better known as Night Nurse and appeared alongside the X-Men rather than Doctor Strange.
Marvel continues to impress with its well developed and interesting characters and is continuing to take the lead in reflecting the best social attitudes of the day.