Date of Award

Spring 2023

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts




Amy McClure, Joanna Eiesele

Committee Member

Dr. Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar

Committee Member

Dr. Denise Cummings, Dr. William Svitavsky


Female characters depicted within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have faced unequal treatment and significant erasure since the origin of the franchise. As the series gained popularity and cultural discussions of representation grew, the MCU has since introduced more female characters. This then prompts concerns regarding the quality of that representation and how those female characters are treated within the franchise, and if that treatment has changed over time. Six films were selected from across the four first phases of the MCU for content analysis and data was compiled into two tables to quantifiably measure the depowerment aspect of fridging, which is excessive violence and disempowerment ascribed solely to female characters. The tools used to quantify and analyze includes the Bechdel Test (Bechdel, 1985, as cited in Selisker, 2015), the Smurfette Principle (Pollitt, 1991), and the Female Affiliation Complex (Gilbert & Gubar, 1988 as cited in Nichols, 2022). The Bechdel Test, Smurfette Principle, and Female Affiliation Complex all serve as theoretical frameworks for quantifiably measuring female representation within a piece of media. These three frameworks were then applied to the six films using the method of content analysis. This study found that female representation across the six films had increased both in quantity and quality, with the most drastic change occurring across the fourth phase of the MCU. These findings are indicative of an overall awareness of diversity that seems projected to increase as the franchise continues.

Rights Holder

Madison Green