It's 1998 and I am wearing a crop top and striped track pants, carrying a Spice Girls-branded lollipop bucket as a purse and high-kicking my way down the street, pulling peace signs and yelling "girl power!"

I have tattoos drawn clumsily in black Vivid on my arms, designed to look as close as it possibly can to Sporty Spice's actual ink. My Spice Girls cassette tape is tucked firmly in my bag and I know all the lyrics to every sexually suggestive song I'm too young to understand.

This was my childhood. This was - remarkably - my understanding of feminism, a woman's place in the world, and the possibilities before us.


As I watched the Spice Girls stomp around in giant platforms bossing around the boys, they were the embodiment of what I understood feminism to be at the time.

I thought that was the era of Girl Power. I understand now how limited I was - especially in the era of Captain Marvel.

The film came out yesterday, just in time for International Women's Day today, and there truly couldn't be a better time for it because we've never seen a hero quite like this one, especially not one who happens to be a woman.

Set firmly in the 90s - my original era of Girl Power - it follows Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson) as she tries to uncover the mysteries of her past and help put an end to a long-running war between her people, the Kree and their enemies, the Skrulls.

At face value, it's just another action-packed, Marvel space-adventure. But underneath, it's a very human tale.

While Captain Marvel is indeed a woman, this isn't a feminist movie so much as it is humanist. What it does perfectly is take attributes previously assigned by gender, and just made them human, in a realm where planets are identified by numbers and a pager has a range of "three or four galaxies", reminding us that ultimately, we're not that different.

It's not just that she does things like race go-karts and fly fighter planes, it's that she does them without questioning whether she can or should, without making a big deal out of any of it. She has the cocky, flippant sense of humour usually only afforded to the Iron Men and Star Lords of the world, and for the first time ever, she's a hero who actually embraces and enjoys her powers.

All too often our heroes are either resentful of their power or so weighed down by the responsibility of having it that they don't actually get to enjoy it.


Captain Marvel on the other hand, has it and isn't afraid to use it. In moments where her counterparts would usually "take the high road" and not use their power, she does. Because why wouldn't you?

For her, embracing her power is like being set free, especially after she's been held back for years by a man who claimed to be acting in her best interests.

But the real beauty of Captain Marvel lies in what doesn't happen. No one gets fridged (when a character - usually a woman - is killed to further the motivations or storyline of another - usually a man), no one's harbouring a secret crush, and it doesn't take a disaster to spur our hero on.

Instead, it's a wholesome as hell pep talk from her best friend Maria, who looks her in the eye and tells her how amazing, strong and capable she is and how she was already a hero - powers or not.

Similarly, it's Maria's daughter who gives her mum the pep talk she needs to spring into action asking her: What kind of example do you want to set for your daughter?

Challenging the idea of what a "good mum" is - the one who turns down an adventure to stay with her daughter, or the one who uses her unique skill set and circumstances to help save the world, while leaving her daughter in good hands. The answer is both. But what's important is she has the choice and is free to make it without judgement.

On the flipside of this is characters like Fury, who have previously only been extra macho and stoic, suddenly taking a backseat to Captain Marvel, becoming obsessed with a cute cat and going off to keep Maria's daughter busy while the real heroes talk shop.

Then there's the literal gender-swapping in the case of Mar-Vell, who was originally a man in the comics but here becomes a woman who our hero can look up to and learn from.

To me, Captain Marvel feels like real progress. A hero who happens to be female, as opposed to Wonder Woman whose heroism was completely tied to her gender identity as an Amazon princess.

A hero who enjoys being a hero, who is willing to accept she's wrong, to learn and change, and who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, but never takes the consequences too lightly.

Most of Marvel's other female heroes are sidekicks to or reiterations of male characters, but it finally feels like we're reaching a point where "girl power" is not a thing we have to dress up and high kick about.

It's just here. Finally.

Jo Hunkin sits down with the cast & directors of Captain Marvel to talk about the next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.