I want to preface this article by saying that I really enjoyed The Avengers, and I in fact enjoyed the whole series leading up to it. I am a huge comic book movie fan, having seen every one of note made in my lifetime except for Spiderman 3 and Ghost Rider 2… for what I consider obvious reasons. I even sat through Elektra and Catwoman. I always keep an eye out for the women in superhero movies — Pepper Potts, Sif — because I am ever so tired of women in refrigerators and because damn it, I’m a woman, and when is it going to be my turn to have someone to look up to?
Maria Hill, perhaps because she’s badass without being a secretary (even though she’s sort of a second in command type, I’m okay with that because there’s a distinction between being a vital part of an organization and Batman’s Robin) or vamp (I love Black Widow, but she very much plays into female stereotypes and as neat-o as Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is, so does she). She’s simply what she is, and without ignoring her gender isn’t ruled by it. I love that, and Cobie Smulders (by the way, when I first saw her surname I thought someone was joking with the image title) does a fantastic job there.
I know that in the comics, she’s got a strong backstory that I might not be as enthused with. The issues with registration, the problems with Fury, fine. I haven’t read any of the superhero comics in any kind of serious way — at most I’ve flipped through the the Civil War series, because when I read comics I prefer the Charmed stuff, the Constantine: Hellblazier series, or Witchblade, mostly because I feel like I can actually follow the storyline instead of jumping into the middle of a morass, the way it feels most superhero stuff is structured.
But while I like comics, I’m not a purist. I like superhero movies, I’m a big fan of superhero movies, I don’t really care all that much about what she was in the comics and but they changed her from what she ought to be!. What I care about is how the characters appear on screen.
Maria Hill’s screen time was awesome. I mean, it was the Avengers, sure. Everybody’s screen time was awesome. The theater erupted into cheers at the HULK SMASH moment and heaven knows I laughed when Cap and Iron Man went at it. But it’s Cobie Smulder’s performance I keep coming back to, because the character of Maria Hill quite honestly blew me away. I’ve never looked at a woman in a superhero movie and had her resonate with me before. I want to grow up to be Maria Hill. I want to be that badass, that trusted, that in charge, that on a level playing field, that competent, that calm, cool, and collected.
Heck, I’m barely even articulate about why I like her so much. I love that she starts out in a fairly typical “female backup/sidekick” role, at first glance. She’s the administrative version of Coulson, except she’s not — the more I think about it, the more I realize that she’s the military version of Coulson. She runs the hovership, she fights, she commands. She wears a uniform, not a suit, and if it’s a fairly form-fitting jumpsuit, you know what? That’s okay, it doesn’t sexualize her or make her look ridiculous or patently interfere with her ability to do her job the way a spandex or leather suit would. It’s a sleep jumpsuit, no more annoying to me than any other Holywood version of a futuristic uniform.
If I could be any superhero, it would be her… and she’s not even a superhero. But you know what? I don’t care — Tony Stark doesn’t have any special “powers” and neither does Batman. I’m okay with Maria Hill just being awesome.