Earlier in April, Black Panther, one of Marvel’s most female-centric movies to date, with by far its most diverse cast, beat Titanic’s box office record to become the third-highest grossing movie of all time in the USA. And this is merely a sign of things to come, with movies like Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson in the titular role, and the highly anticipated X-Men: Dark Phoenix, with Sophie Turner in the lead as Jean Grey/Phoenix, lined up for release in the next year.
We all know that female superheroes are nothing new. What has changed in the past three or four years, and especially since the box office smash-hit success of Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman in 2017, which became the most successful superhero origin movie ever, is that female superheroes are finally becoming financially lucrative.
And it’s in this climate that Marvel released its series Runaways, which features the first ever female-dominated superhero team to be seen on TV or film, about six teens reuniting to defeat their evil parents.
The leading ladies of Runaways
The cast of Runaways is two-thirds female – four of the six teenagers are girls, and they were all born with abilities that they’re only just learning to control. They band together when they discover that their parents belong to a dark organisation called The Pride, which demands a human sacrifice every 25 years.
And the predominance of female characters isn’t the only way this superhero series upends stereotypes of the genre: the cast is racially diverse; the churchgoing “good” girl (Karolina, played by Virginia Gardner) is lesbian, and there’s an intriguing chemistry between her and one of the other girls in the group; and Chase, the “jock” character, is one of the most intelligent of the lot.
Karolina, whose superpowers include being able to fly, is the first openly queer character in the Marvel universe. In an interview with L’Officiel after the show made its US debut, Gardner spoke about fans getting in touch with her on social media to share their experience of finally seeing a queer teen represented on TV.
“I think our show is creating a really positive message for the younger generation,” she said, “and hopefully we can start changing the world.”
Lyrica Okano, who plays the witch Nico, said that she feels the same responsibility to represent teens who might otherwise not see relatable characters on a mainstream TV series.
“I feel I give a voice to all the Asian kids out there who have been looking for someone to relate to and look up to,” she said.
The youngest character on the show, Molly, is played by Allegra Acosta, who says Runaways is an important show for young girls of all backgrounds to see.
“Molly wears whatever she wants. She says whatever she wants. She learns whatever she wants,” Acosta says, which makes Molly an unusually strong young heroine.
Ariela Barer plays the sharp-tongued feminist Gert, who has a telepathic dinosaur and a gargantuan crush on Chase – and Barer says that these contradictions are what make Gert so real.
“The show is about subverting tropes. With [Gert and Chase] it’s really empowering… To give a girl that same tenacity and that sense to just go after him unapologetically and to never think ‘Am I good enough for him?’”.
Barer believes that Runaways is exactly the show that young people need today:
“It’s nice to show these underdog characters and give them a voice when they come to terms with authorities they trusted and now can’t rely on anymore. They get to stand up and reclaim their power.”
But it’s not just for teens – critics love it too
Aside from its “complex”, “inspiring”, “racially diverse” (Newsweek) main characters, Runaways offers a fun, thrilling mystery that’s well-written and easy to watch. It’s no wonder NPR calls Runaways “compelling” and “addictive”, since it comes from the pens of multi-award-winning comic book writer Brian K Vaughan and Joss Whedon, who has gifted us other mega-popular TV series, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.
Other big names behind the series include showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who co-created Gossip Girl, and Oscar-nominated documentary director Brett Morgan, the mind behind the riveting Cobain: Montage of Heck.
And Hulu obviously agrees with IndieWire that Runaways is “one of Marvel’s most promising series to date” – they ordered Season 2 before Season 1 had even finished. DM
All 10 episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are available first and only on Showmax. Also available to stream are Cobain: Montage of Heck and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Showmax offers a 14-day free trial and comes at no cost to DStv Premium customers. Sign up to watch »
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