Why It’s Time to Stop Making Movies with Agendas- It Doesn’t Work

A few weeks after the release of Captain Marvel, I worked up the courage to see the movie. This was despite the not-so-friendly reviews  and the claims of how it was “probably one of the worst marvel movies.” But, ignoring all the negativity, I soldiered on and went in with reasonable expectations for a fun film. I was met with one of the most forced movies I’ve seen in my lifetime. “Why was it?” I asked myself. Day and night, I stayed up, restless, that question bouncing back and forth in my mind. I would wake up in cold sweats, pleading to the gods for the answer. “What could have made Captain Marvel such a lack luster film?” I would ask myself while making my bed. “Could it have been the acting?” I asked while tying my shoes. “Could it have been the writing?” I asked while driving to school. “Could it have been the visual effects? The cinematography? The directing? The casting?” The questions went on and on, with no answers in sight. Then, during my spanish test, me pegó; it hit me. Captain Marvel was a bad film because of its reliance on an agenda. 

Photo Taken From Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel challenges her male counterpart, Yon-Rogg, in battle. During the film, Captain Marvel is pitted against men for seemingly no reason but to try to push a femist message.

“An agenda? What’s an agenda?” I hear you asking yourself. Movies created with agendas are “any major motion picture which clearly pushes a sociopolitical agenda, and has little substance beyond that.” The key phrase there is the fact that it has little substance beyond the movie’s agenda itself. Agenda based films are created to push something onto the audience, whether that be religious views, political views, LGBTQ+ views, feminist views, or any other biased view. Now, I’m not saying movies can’t use these values as messages throughout their films.

A well constructed film should have its values and agendas displayed by its messages and should not be what the film revolves around. The agenda can’t be the story; the agenda should be represented throughout the story. That being said, films still decide to completely ignore these basics,  instead choosing to shove their beliefs down the viewer’s throat in the most biased, unsubtle, and unenjoyable way possible. 

Let’s take another look at Captain Marvel. I said at the beginning that I realized the film was bad because of its agenda. But what was it? The entire film was created to push an extremely heavy (and unfounded) feminist message. Captain Marvel takes the idea of feminism and women empowerment and crumples it into a ball, throws it into the mud, picks it back up, uncrumples it, and then lights it on fire. There are scenes of Carol Danvers in direct conflict with men and the filmmakers have the audacity to claim that this is a positive feminist message. These scenes have no direct relevance to the overarching story and are only there in an attempt to create a feminist message: but it doesn’t. It tries to push this idea, instead of embedding the feminist values into the plot and story, which would successfully display the message the movie intended.

A film that blows Captain Marvel’s use of a feminist message out of the water is Hidden Figures, a 2017 drama that depicted the brains behind the launch of John Glenn into orbit. This film scored a fan score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, demolishing the Marvel blunder’s 53 percent. My guess as to why this film was received better by audiences is the way it used a feminist message. Yes, you heard me right, the reason Hidden Figures is a better film than Captain Marvel is because of its use of the exact same message. But what differs? 

Hidden Figures, for one, allows us to bond with the characters, and grow a relationship with them. They are likeable, and you root for them to win. With Captain Marvel, you are just begging for her to get knocked into orbit by Thanos. The second reason is that Hidden Figures portrays these women as powerful, intelligent, and those who defy “the man’s” beliefs that they would get nowhere in life. But this message isn’t a situation, it is the theme of the entire film. Almost nobody, not even their fellow male scientist counterparts, believe they are going to help. But throughout the length of the film, they overcome their obstacles, proving how strong they really are, and they don’t need to physically assault anyone to do it. The feminism is all proved through the story being told.

Photo Taken From IMDB
In the film Hidden Figures, the protagonists are tasked to help get a man to space, despite racial and gender hurdles that they must get through to do it. Hidden Figures is a fantastic representation of feminism and empowerment in film, showing that it’s very possible to make a good film with the same message.

In Captain Marvel, this uplifting and inspiring message is instead replaced by scenes where she breaks a mans hand for flirting with her, or the one where her own father gets mad at her for getting in a go-cart accident, or the one where her drill instructor gets mad at her for falling down, or the one where her coworker says she can’t be a pilot. The list drags on and on. These situations, while trying to show the same message, only depict a different, unintended, agenda: let’s show people that this character is bigger and badder than men so that it proves how powerful she is. Captain Marvel throws subtly out the window, in favor of obvious messaging, assuming that the audience is blind and can’t find hidden meanings throughout a film by themselves.

Another very common agenda in film is religion; a touchy subject. A belief by a lot of Christian filmmakers is that their films shouldn’t be subtle;the message of God shouldn’t be shrouded by the film. Christian films are generally made by pastors and preachers who aren’t looking necessarily looking “to make art … [they] are [looking] to build up and preach the gospel, [and they] use film to do it,” as stated by Thomas Torrey, a filmmaker who has worked with preachers Alex Kendrick and Steven Kendrick on Christian films before. But the ideology that you can just ignore the art of film to try to get your message across is, frankly, absurd. A lot of Christian films aren’t received well and that’s particularly because the non Christians who see the film don’t like the forced agenda. 

One of the arguments used by the filmmakers and actors themselves is that movies are only made for the target audience. There’s one problem with that. THEY ARE. You cannot cut off a viewer and say the film is not for them, making their opinion invalid. That’s just not logical. Movies are made for the viewer, no matter their race, age, mental state, economic status, sexuality, religious beliefs, or gender is. Filmmakers can not pick and choose who looks at, absorbs, and reviews their films, because that is not how the film industry works. Every single human has a right to watch films and judge it based on its failures and successes. And with that, their background does not make one person’s review more credible than someone else’s. Films can be criticized by any reviewer, and that’s just how film critiques work.

With all of these films considered, it is necessary that filmmakers understand how to correctly portray the messages behind their films. Captain Marvel was received with a huge amount of backlash from fans and critics alike, due to its poor structure and bad execution of its overarching feminist message. Most Christian films, like God’s not Dead, toss aside the basics of filmmaking in favor of pushing their messages, resulting in the perception that the films are offensive. Some movies, like Hidden Figures, and the upcoming Black Widow movie portray their characters as more than just an agenda, but as an actual strong character that can inspire all. As moviegoers, we need to inform Hollywood of what we really think about bad agenda filmmaking and support the movies that actually deliver their message in an elegant and enjoyable fashion.