How Marvel is Shedding Light on Domestic Violence
Pop culture is always a reflection of the society we live in, and sometimes, it’s focused around really difficult scenarios such as domestic violence and sexual abuse. The Marvel media company does its share of representation, bringing stories about these topics into the limelight, and showing that domestic violence is not uncommon and is very traumatic. Throughout a few different storylines, Marvel highlights violence and abuse, and how it’s been received says a lot about the culture surrounding domestic violence around the world.
Domestic violence is defined as the emotional or physical abuse toward an intimate partner, and it occurs everywhere — to both women and men. Every minute, 20 people experience this form of abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This often occurs at many different stages of a relationship, whether it be something relatively new or a former relationship that becomes dangerous even after it has ended.
The law frequently fails victims, as it tends to not take the issue of domestic violence very seriously. This can be really dangerous for victims, as attempting to address the abuse can result in minimal protection, as well as an angry partner. Even after a relationship, former partners can be a risk, sometimes stalking their exes, which can be really scary for the other person.
Just this year, a teen in Brighton, England was murdered by her stalker after going to the police to file a report. Instead of being taken seriously and protected, she received a fine for what the police force considered a waste of their time. An investigation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found that this is a common scenario, as victims don’t often receive the protection they need from policeto stay safe from their stalkers.
Some laws even protect those committing domestic violence. Specific state laws create loopholes that make it legal for a person to sexually assault their spouse, which can prevent legal action from being taken on behalf of victims. Even when a victim attempts to hold their spouse accountable by going through the medical and legal processes, a huge backlog of 200,000 rape kits make it a difficult and sometimes hopeless process to go through.
This abuse is a huge part of our culture, which is why it becomes a part of the entertainment we see on the big screen, as well as comic books and TV shows. There are many examples of this, including through the famous Jessica Jones storyline, and even in the movie Ant-Man.
Jessica Jones is a superhero who experiences a tremendous amount of abuse throughout her storyline. The Netflix series of Marvel’s Jessica Jones portrays her as a strong and powerful character who was under the control of the sadistic villain, Kilgrave. Throughout the series, you witness Jones struggling with the memory of her body being controlled by another person, and committing terrible, violent crimes like a puppet for Kilgrave.
For eight months, Jones was in a relationship with Kilgrave against her will, a victim of his powerful mind control that allowed him to control her every movement. He raped her throughout their long, farce of a relationship, and the memories of this haunt Jones in most episodes. The way the trauma of this relationship is conveyed is accurate for a lot of victims of domestic violence. Long after the abuse occurs, people struggle with the impact it has on their lives, even turning to substance abuse to cope with their trauma.
The 2015 blockbuster film contains a character who committed domestic violence. Hank Pym is the new Ant-Man Scott Lang’s mentor, and he’s recognized as having a series of mental health issues. Back when Hank Pym was Ant-Man, he intentionally strikes his wife who is also known as the superhero Wasp. The scene in the comic book shows him shouting, “Shut Up! I’ve got to do this! I’ve got to save the day before their eyes!” after Wasp tries to keep him from a fight.
The backhand throws Wasp back and is accompanied by a comic book “WHAK.” Although Pym isn’t the protagonist, this moment of casual physical abuse toward his wife is a detail that doesn’t go over well with some audiences. Some fans don’t feel the volatile character deserves any screen time, as he is a prime example of domestic violence gone unpunished. This very intentional and unreasonable reaction forever labeled the superhero as a wife-beater.
Unfortunately, the lighthearted nature of Marvel films make domestic violence a fleeting subject when it is mentioned. If addressed with more care, the films could provide a thoughtful and compelling window into domestic violence; alas, it hasn’t been as thoroughly or seriously as it should be. Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that has millions of victims, and can be traumatic and fatal for many people. This issue should be addressed seriously, but Marvel does help shed light on the issue by including these storylines throughout their films and shows.