The MCU's Phase 4 has undeniably been the most controversial chapter of the franchise yet for a number of reasons. Among the most notable have been the VFX, the absence of certain classic heroes, and the increasing focus on diversity - with many beginning to call the franchise "woke."
Marvel Studios took ten years and eighteen movies before it finally released a movie that didn't star a white male protagonist with Black Panther. But even after that, it took another year before a female hero got a chance in the spotlight with her in solo movie Captain Marvel, despite Black Widow being around from the first Avengers film.
Looking at the current Phase 4 slate, the MCU has made major strides when it comes to diversity, as more genders, sexual orientations, races, and cultures get the chance to be at the forefront. Most have been elated to see the developments, but others have pushed a negative spin on the shift.
Among the most infamous terms thrown around online has been the "M-She-U" - generally used as a means of criticizing the MCU for its increasing female representation. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has been the latest to fall victim to backlash as the series gets underway at Disney+, but Marvel has shown they're more than aware.
She-Hulk References Sexist MCU Fan Movement
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for She-Hulk Episode 3.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Episode 3 mocked the ongoing "M-She-U" controversy with a series of fictional tweets speaking against Jennifer Walters for being a female hero. The sequence follows months of backlash against the MCU from a select group of those who believe the franchise now has too many female heroes.
After displaying a series of news reports discussing Walters, the episode displayed a variety of social media posts and videos that shows the public reactions to She-Hulk. Each of these posts contains hateful messages from fictional users and is shown to be quickly gaining viral traction with likes, shares, and replies.
@HardSeltzerSteve begged for there to be "No more female superhero plz."
@DarbyDontCare questioned, "Why are you turning every superhero into a girl... [no one] asked for that!"
@NotHereToMakeFriends asked, "Why everything gotta be female now?"
@NeilIsntSorry32 made reference to modern cancel culture: "Wow. Someone find a reason to cancel #She-Hulk."
@momsFavorite noted a decline in male heroes since the #MeToo movement: "So we have a #MeToo movement and now all the male heroes are gone???"
One video even addresses the criticism of the Hulk being nerfed: "They took the Hulk's manhood away and gave it to a woman?"
Another video criticizes She-Hulk for being derivative of her cousin: "I have no problem with female heroes. I'm just saying: make your own."
Why Do Fans Think the MCU is Woke?
Looking at The Infinity Saga, 21 of the 23 movies (91%) were led by white males. But judging The Multiverse Saga just off Phase 4, as the rest of the Phase 6 slate has yet to be completed to judge the whole saga, only 5 of the 14 entries (36%) match that demographic, marking a sudden change in the ratio for many.
However, this dynamic shift has been a long time coming for the MCU, and it's exciting to see the franchise opening the doors to different types of characters. The Marvel universe has always been a diverse one with grand variety, so representing that on the big screen is only accurate to the comics.
Seeing this reference planted in a self-aware and meta show such as She-Hulk is only fitting and demonstrates Marvel Studios were fully expecting the backlash. This only reinforces the studio's commitment to pushing ahead with this diversity, no matter what response it may attract from a vocal minority on social media.
The suggestion that the MCU is turning into the "M-She-U" and is switching focus to female heroes is a ridiculous notion. Out of Phase 4's 14 projects, only six place women in the starring role. Although women may be becoming more integral to the overall picture, they're now sharing the spotlight, not stealing it.
Meeting female takes on existing heroes - such as Jennifer Walters' She-Hulk, Jane Foster's Mighty Thor, and Shuri's Black Panther - may bother some. But it's important to be aware that these characters have existed in the comics long before now, and are by no means a response to so-called "woke" culture. And even if there wasn't a precedence in the comics, prior stories shouldn't prevent Marvel Studios from striving to spotlight other perspectives in their projects.
Perhaps Marvel Studios will eventually further reinforce its commitment to its female heroes with an A-Force ensemble movie. After all, the all-female team was already teased in Avengers: Endgame's final battle and now has plenty more members available to make up the roster.
The first three episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are streaming now, exclusively on Disney+.