In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, heroines have received villainous treatment. After the famous alleged workplace stalker and reported creep, Joss Whedon included a forced hysterectomy in Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow’s backstory in Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie in which Romanoff has described herself as a “monster” because of this, the MCU’s poor portrayal of their female heroes has been an appalling pattern.

Of Black Widow martyring herself to motivate the boys in Avengers: Endgame at every MCU heroine meeting for the first time before teaming up against Thanos – apparently so Disney could have a gif for International Women’s Day – nearly every other Marvel movie has featured a disappointing portrayal of its female characters, often betraying the fans who invest in them. The string of poor female portrayals sadly continues with Dr. Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) in Thor: Love and Thunder.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

When it was announced in 2019 at San Diego Comic-Con that Natalie Portman would reprise her role and reprise the role of The Mighty Thor, fans were thrilled. It’s been, according to Thor in the film, “eight years, seven months, and six days” since Portman and the MCU – I mean Jane and Thor – broke up. Every appearance in a Thor-related movie afterThe dark world referred to Foster as Thor’s ex-girlfriend through several off-screen appearances. Now that she’s returned for the first time in nearly a decade, love and thunder saddles famed astrophysicist Jane Foster with a grueling diagnosis of, *sigh*, stage 4 cancer.

The first image of Jane Foster’s return reveals that she is having an MRI before her diagnosis. Her old friends Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy (Kat Dennings) tell her that finding a cure would be difficult. Thinking all hope is lost, Foster searches for Thor’s ex-hammer, Mjolnir, in New Asgard to see if his magic can heal her. Due to a spell Thor put on her years ago, she is able to wield Mjolnir, which gives her the power of Thor. Unfortunately, this great power comes at a price: each time she channels it, she becomes more physically ill.

It should be mentioned that Jane’s cancer was not a random choice. It actually connects to the comics. In 2014, writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman crafted Jane Foster’s pseudonym Mighty Thor and the story of cancer. According to Marvel’s official website, “Each time she transformed into Thor, it purged her of all toxins and chemotherapy, inadvertently weakening her and accelerating her cancer from stage 1 to stage 4. “

While faithful to the source material, Jane’s script came at arguably the worst time. The majority of Phase Four film production consistently put the heroines in negative positions. The phase may have started with Black Widow finally getting a solo movie, but it wasn’t until after she sacrificed herself in End of Game.

In another case, Spider-Man: No Coming Home kills Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) to motivate Peter Parker. While May isn’t a hero per se, her influence as Peter’s supportive parent figure was monumental. Her death was an intentional twist on the “Uncle Ben” tradition of Peter’s heroism, even until she uttered the line “with great yadda comes great capacity for yaddability” just before her passing. Given the ratio of women to men who were killed as storylines in these films, the death seems somewhat tasteless.

This brings us to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which still makes me cringe at how badly every female heroine was treated there. Remember how Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) solo series, Wanda Vision, explored grief in an authentic and convincing way? Well, all that character progression was thrown out the window in Mom. Her only motivation in the film is her desire to be a mom. It’s basically her only character trait, as she spews lines like “I’m not a monster, I’m a mother” and goes on a murderous multiversal tour. Then there’s America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who got his start in the MCU only to serve primarily as a walking plot device, taking Stephen Strange from one multiverse to another as they ran from Wanda.

The sins of No coming home and Multiverse of Madness refer strongly to love and thunder. The film’s other female heroine, King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who was a brilliant highlight in Thor: Ragnarok, is mostly ignored. Jane and Thor embark on a quest to save the children of New Asgard from the clutches of Gorr the Butcher God (played by Christian Bale), Valkyrie joins them, but has little time to shine.

Given how much the queer character has been hailed as a major step forward in progress in the MCU, it was disappointing that in this film she was essentially the third wheel of the two star-crossed lovers – only there for the vibes and nothing. else. She is even injured halfway through the story, which sends her home to heal and sit backstage before the film’s climax.

Don’t even get me started with Lady Sif, who has been one of Thor’s sidekicks since the first movie in 2011. screen than almost everyone. other. This recurs in Love and Thunder.

Four deep phases, the way women have been portrayed in the MCU has been pretty heartbreaking – and it’s not getting better. The moment I saw Foster get an MRI, I groaned loudly.

Jane’s cancer didn’t need to stick to the playbook. Because Foster was kicked out of the franchise long before Thanos wiped out half the world for five whole years, the fact that his big comeback is so tragic seems more superficial than stimulating. Jane has more agency this time around than when she last appeared, when she was more of a plot than a character in her own right. So why take this route? The poor streak of average female representation in the MCU continues to sink deeper into the rabbit hole.