The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

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.

View Comments (15)

Comments (15)

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  • G

    GeraldNov 16, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    Oh my God. It’s out of control now.

    I was even informed that there was a serious attempt to get “white people” to not go see Black Panther 2 on opening day. Instead, white devil must buy a ticket and give it to an African American. In addition to which, crackers must buy a second ticket to guard the doors of the BP2 theater to make sure other honkies don’t interfere with African Americans enjoying their movie.

    How is this not extremely racist towards Caucasian Americans AND African Americans? I as a white straight male am supposed to walk up to a complete African American stranger and hand him a movie ticket? Then what? Pat him on the head and shoo him off to run to the theater like Charlie running with his silver ticket? As an American veteran I am appalled. I cannot fathom how my fellow Americans would act if I gave them a ticket to an all black movie. I don’t blame the leaders of this attempted movement, I blame the entertainment industry foremost and also the media for hyping a racial divide that was beginning to heal.

    I used to go to the movies, read a book, or watch television to escape the real world and all its apparently awful defects (one of these defects is apparently the African American community are unable to purchase their own ticket). Now when I go to a movie I’m bombarded with woke culture, race issues, politics, how evil the American ALL WHITE military is (thanks Black Adam for totally shitting on the things I did in Iraq to try to help) and how movies, television, and even video games like Grand Theft Auto who fought for their right of freedom of expression, all are being toned down for a more “modern audience.”

    What the hell? We as a society are catering to the super rich and their whiney feelings about how they think entertainment should be marketed. John Leguizamo recently came out bashing the new Super Mario Bros because there were not enough people of color. Newsflash John, Mario and Luigi are fictional characters with Italian personalities and accents. Not hispanic. Not African American.

    And that brings me to another topic – why can’t the movie industry stick to original source material when creating a film based off a comic or book. There was a huge outcry of about 500 arse lickers trying to look progressive about the mistreatment of women and lack of diversity in the fictional HBO special Game of Thrones. I picked up the novel Game of Thrones when I was 12. And even then I recognized the similarities between that world and our middle ages in Europe (Side note: Games of Thrones is only the first novel in a series called A Song of Ice and Fire that will never end due to the authors hatred of fans and his love of driving rascals and high cholesterol).

    The middle ages in Europe was not a fun place. Yes horrible things were done to women. Yes there was racism and slavery and the worst possible judicial system. Neighbor accused you of being a cheating devil worshiping hippy? Off to the inquisition.

    My point is your changing an authors material that was beloved by so many people that a few producers decided to go ahead and adapt the original work into a movie. AWESOME FOR US WHO LOVED THE SOURCE MATERIAL! But when the movie is made, your so excited you couldn’t sleep the night before the premier. When you wake up and you finally see your favorite characters come to life… they’re not the characters you fell in love with. Suddenly your favorite character is transgender, his best friend (your second all time favorite character) who was originally a man is now a female bisexual prop put in the movie to appease the LGBTQ community.

    Why does LGBTQ not find that offensive? The studio couldn’t find a great script about a wonderful woman struggling with her sexuality but instead of that being the main drive for the film, it’s backseat to this woman’s personality. A personality that makes everyone love her by the end.

    I don’t know maybe I’m high
    But my points are
    1) I’m paying to be entertained by something to get away from fox News and CNN and the rest of the toxic stupidity that is setting back race relations. Are we soon going to have black seating and white seating again? I don’t want some damn agenda (propaganda) in my entertainment like I live in North Korea.

    2) If you are adapting something to the big screen like a comic for the love of all that is nerdy don’t change things to fit your narrative that

    I’m not done. Obviously from the tyoe-os and grammatically incorrect trailing thoughts I’m exhausted. Ill finish this later I hope I can edit it well enough that my concerns are understood.

  • E

    EthanDec 11, 2019 at 7:54 am

    I agree with this statement, and wish to add something that has been on my mind.
    Captain Marvel (putting aside the agenda and just talking about the movie) was honestly not that great of a movie. The characters weren’t 100% believable and the storyline was kinda generic.
    The main thing I wanted to say, however, (don’t get me wrong, I’m all for equality of all races, religions, sexes, etc) is that at times I felt the movie was pushing more of a “Females are superior to Males” message rather than “Females and Males are equal”, with the protagonists being nearly all female and the antagonists beng nearly all male for example. While of course I want female equal opportunity, I feel like this movie has almost taken a radical stance in some instances that I’m not behind.
    Thanks Chris for the awesome article!

  • M

    Max WigginsDec 10, 2019 at 9:49 am

    fortgame movie

  • B

    Bill ZhangDec 9, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid is great.

    Dork Diaries is trash.

  • J

    John TucciDec 7, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    this article is amazing in every way.

  • S

    Sofia AloiaDec 5, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    I first clicked on this article because of the artwork it showed as a thumbnail. The image of Captain Marvel holding an anti-men sign made me slightly angry because I think that the movie did not have such a harsh message and was ready to defend it. As I read the article, however, I noticed that I was being VERY biased. The thumbnail mixed with the fact that this article was not written by a girl or woman made me feel it was an inaccurate view and that is 100% my mistake. The article did a great job stating the argument in an academic way with valid points to back it up. In the end, I agree. The message in Captain Marvel is great, female empowerment is great, but it was presented all wrong. The analysis of Hidden Figures was so accurate. Great job, Chris, and I apologize for making such quick judgement.

  • T

    TomDec 5, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    I haven’t seen Captain Marvel, but from what I’ve read in this article, the problem seems to be that it’s too preachy. That is, it sacrifices the important balance between message and plot in order to cater to a particular demographic. A shame to be sure, but most other Marvel movies for the most part don’t have that problem. Black Panther, for instance, does feature a black protagonist, but it keeps up its message of empowerment for people of color without sacrificing its plot. Also, it sounds like the problem with Captain Marvel isn’t so much feminism as it is straight up misandry, which, I must stress is a different thing entirely from feminism. feminism seeks to achieve equality of the sexes. Misandry is basically blasting the male sex for every little thing. Under equality-based feminism, men’s issues are addressed alongside women’s issues. Misandry, on the other hand, is no better than misogyny. It bashes men for simply existing. To misandrists, if you belong to the male sex, you are a sexist pervert. But feminism acknowledges the problems faced by both sexes in our society. Ignore the misandrists. They give feminism a bad name.

  • S

    Shayna DennisDec 5, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you for the response, Chris! After reading this comment, I know realize more of where you’re coming from, and honestly, I have to agree with both you and Ansel. While I’m not a fan of the word agenda as it often has negative connotations, parts of Captain Marvel came off to me as a “man sux, woman better” movie, rather than an actual feminist or equal rights type movie. From my own interpretation, however, I believe a message that was meant to be pulled from this movie was something along the lines of “if you have a dream and someone puts you down, keep persevering and be who you are.” Oh well, though, seems like Marvel missed the mark for this one.
    Thanks once again for replying and keep up the good work!

  • A

    Ansel JohnsonDec 5, 2019 at 9:29 am

    I would like to point out as well that the part that makes her character bad isn’t the female empowerment it’s the fact that Captain Marvel as a person is not empowering because it portrays her always fighting men which isn’t nearly as empowering as say wonder woman in which you see the protagonist protecting the highly vulnerable male soldiers in the WWI environment. Wonder Woman was an empowering movie with an empowering character. Captain Marvel on the other hand acts in a way that would be completely unacceptable if it was a male led movie. Even if the goal was for her to be an empowering character, she comes across more like a villain than a hero, harassing every other character in the movie whether she is “on their side” or not.

    All in all well written article Chris.

  • J

    JamoDec 5, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Can we get Kuehl back pleasseeee

  • J

    JamoDec 5, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Can we get Kuehl back please.

  • C

    Chris KathmanDec 5, 2019 at 9:19 am

    Shayna, Thanks so much for reading the article and responding! I see where you’re coming from, but I think it’s a little too late for Marvel movies to be using the “It’s made for kids” card (considering in the movie right before this they killed half of the marvel universe right on screen). Having a target audience is absolutely something that play into films- Animated films like Frozen, Onward, The Lego Movie, are all obviously made for kids to enjoy, and movies like Logan or Deadpool are obviously made for adults- Marvel movies are starting to fall into the same grey area that Star Wars has, with the movies being ambiguous whether they’re made for kids or adults (on the one hand they market the movie towards kids with the toys, but on the other they’ll cut Snoke in half or stab Harrison Ford) Movies are definitely allowed to have a target audience, that’s just about knowing who to market a film towards, but even if the film is made for younger audiences (excluding the fact that marvel is most definitely for all ages, but leaning more for a mature audience- i.e. Winter Soldier, Infinity War, Endgame, Ragnarok, etc.) it doesn’t give it a “get out of jail free card” for being a good film. Take The Lego Movie, Into The Spider-Verse, or more films that are made for kids, but genuinely great films all around. Captain Marvel tries to defend it’s lazy storytelling by saying “it’s not for you it’s for the girls!” but that’s not a sound defense. All movies should be held to a standard of good filmmaking, and not forgiven depending on the intended demographic of the film.

  • G

    GeorgieDec 4, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    respectful, educated, and well written!! good job chris! this is so awesome

  • S

    Shayna DennisDec 4, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    While I do understand where you’re coming from, I will respectfully disagree. More often than not, movies do have a target audience, and they should be allowed to. For example, most(if not all) Disney movies are targeted to kids, but violent movies or one’s with profanity, are meant to be for adults. Captain Marvel, in my opinion, was Disney’s not-so-great attempt at remaking Wonder Woman, but it was meant to be for young girls as a way for them to have a role model, inspiration, and representation. Look at the first Avengers movie; there’s only one female main character who barely has any significance and is often regarded as simply a love interest or eye candy. This movie, on the other hand, has a female lead and fairly diverse cast. Not the best movie, but an alright message.

  • D

    Darius RahmanianDec 4, 2019 at 9:57 am

    Confirmed Sage Kino. Captain Marvel is a boring, hamfisted, poorly written, marvel movie that simply aims to capitalize on sois and feminists. She has no purpose, she doesn’t even really know why she is there other than to beat up Skrulls, there is no tension, there is no character arc, no vested stakes. Bad movie, bad message.