The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spotlighted some hard truths. Beyond its real-world parallels, our perspective on the MCU has changed with each episode. And on the heels of the finale, we can’t help but reflect on how we got here.
It feels like ages ago that an alien invaded Earth believing it was his right to do so. This madman imposed his will upon a whole planet. He wielded god-like power over an entire species. He took the lives of countless people, leaving the rest to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
In doing so, he became one of the most beloved characters in the MCU.
So why is it that many of the people who adore a monster are now so disappointed with Sharon Carter?
Easy. Loki is a man.
Angels and Demons
Relax, everybody. This is not an anti-Loki treatise. I’m writing this post with a Loki poster behind my chair, a Loki mug on my desk, and a Loki t-shirt on my back.
To be fair, the fact that one of the most charming, attractive men in Hollywood plays Loki helps his cause. But Emily VanCamp is no slouch. She’s a beautiful, talented actor who elevates any project. So why did the Power Broker reveal enrage so many people?
Because women shouldn’t veer from familial or cultural expectations.
Women shouldn’t put themselves first.
Women shouldn’t seize power in a man’s world.
The events of Civil War alone had a tremendous impact on the characters we love. Sam and Bucky’s respective ordeals changed them forever, and The Blip forced them to adapt even further. So many people are praising their growth in the TFATWS finale, and we’re among them. But it’s frustrating to then see comments like these:
“Omg wtf is wrong with Sharon? That is NOT who she is!”
“Since when is Sharon evil? That ain’t her.”
“Sharon is totally a Skrull. The Sharon we know would never turn her back on everything she stands for.”
Guess what, folks? Just like Sam and Bucky, the Sharon we once knew no longer exists. She, too, changed and grew – right out of the box that the patriarchy built for her. And people don’t know how to handle it.
A lot of people, women included, often don’t see misogyny because we’ve woven it so deeply into the fabric of society. But it’s in almost every facet of daily life, leaching into our brains like a toxin. And TFATWS called Marvel out on it by illustrating a simple fact:
Society treats men and women who behave the same way very differently.
A man who tramples others for a promotion is ambitious. A woman is a conniving bitch.
If a man sleeps around, he’s a ladies’ man. If a woman does the same, she’s a slut.
A man who logs extra time at the office is a good provider. A woman is neglecting her family.
Despite fighting for centuries for our right to exist, society still insists that men are our superiors. Misogyny boxes us into subservient roles & pushes us to suppress our own needs. Sharon Carter received the same cultural programming. And it’s likely that she felt familial pressure (either explicit or implicit) to follow in Aunt Peggy’s footsteps, whether she wanted to or not.
And follow she did.
Sharon joined S.H.I.E.L.D. She fought armed HYDRA agents. Then she sacrificed her life, her career, and her freedom for the greater good. And what did she get for it?
The same thing women always get when they put everyone else’s best interests ahead of their own.
She got fucked.
A Matter of Perspective
Let’s pretend the TFATWS finale had gone differently. The Power Broker is a previously unseen bad guy, a Wilson Fisk type. After the U.S. government branded her as a fugitive and the Avengers forgot her, Sharon has just been trying to survive in Madripoor.
Nonetheless, she helps Sam and Bucky neutralize Karli. Sam secures Sharon’s pardon and she reclaims her former post as a dutiful C.I.A. agent.
Talk about disappointing; that would be like watching a woman return to a man who beats her.
In reality, Sharon is the Power Broker. After the people for whom she gave everything betrayed her, she built a lucrative business from scratch using a canny brain and the skills S.H.I.E.L.D. taught her.
Now if Sharon’s turn infuriates you because she’s selling weapons, please see Exhibit A:
Even after Tony Stark stopped manufacturing weapons for the U.S. government, he continued making them for S.H.I.E.L.D. If memory serves, he also created a sentient murder-bot that leveled a city before nearly annihilating mankind. Check out our Iron Man episode for more on the many flaws of Tony, another beloved man.
Tony’s intentions were noble, but that didn’t make him any less responsible for a humanitarian disaster. The Sokovians would have been well within their rights to demand Tony’s arrest and incarceration.
But we love Tony, so we don’t like to go there, right?
And speaking of the U.S. government, let’s be real. American politicians wouldn’t condemn Sharon for illegally selling weapons to dangerous groups. They’d condemn her for cutting into their own profits.
If there’s one thing the U.S. government excels at, it’s creating and arming terrorists. Sharon’s just running their playbook.
In all fairness, some people’s disappointment over Sharon’s arc has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with heroism. For this discussion, see Exhibit B:
When Steve Rogers got his happy ending with Peggy Carter in Endgame, Marvel fandom divided into two camps:
Camp 1: Steve is a selfish bastard who abandoned his family, his country, and the world when they all needed him the most.
Camp 2: Steve did more than enough for his family, his country, and the world when they all needed him most and deserved his happiness.
I am a card-carrying member of Camp 2, which is one reason I was a human ball of snot leaving my Endgame theater.
Enough is Enough
Steve Rogers gave enough for his country even before S.H.I.E.L.D. defrosted him. He liberated a POW camp behind enemy lines. He defeated Red Skull. He saved countless lives by crashing the HYDRA bomber into the arctic, sacrificing his own life in the process.
And when Nick Fury resurrected him after 70 years, did he stop and smell the roses? Read a book on the beach?
No. He saved the world. Again, and again, and again.
It’s incredibly noble that all Steve wanted was a life with Peggy. Think about Michael Bay’s uber-patriotic Armageddon. Those roughnecks had quite the list of demands for saving the world, all of which seemed perfectly reasonable because, hello, they were saving the world.
So what does this have to do with Sharon Carter? Well, if you’re in Steve Rogers Camp 1, you likely see Sharon as a selfish bitch. I’ll make the same argument in her defense:
Sharon gave more than enough for others. She has every right to now put herself first.
We as women need to redefine selfishness. It’s been a weapon against us for far too long. We have to reframe it as a positive concept whereby we simply make our needs a priority in our own lives.
If more women embraced selfishness, we would be unstoppable.
Oh, and if you’re in Steve Rogers Camp 2 but still disappointed in Sharon Carter, you’ve got some hypocrisy on your chin. Might want to wipe that off.
A Final Note
Alice Walker, who knows a thing or two about feminism, once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
When the name “Power Broker” was first dropped on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it felt cheesy. But now it seems like the perfect title for a woman who not only refused to give up her power, but actively sought more.
Sharon Carter is unequivocally selfish, but that doesn’t make her evil or even wrong.
It makes her one powerful woman. And we can’t wait to see her again.