Ant-Man and the Wasp is a madcap adventure of a movie about Scott Lang learning to get out of Hope Van Dyne’s way while she takes care of business and saves the day. Unsurprisingly, Evangeline Lilly is one of the major reasons this is an indisputably factual statement.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter about her approach to bringing the Wasp to the big screen in all of her heroic glory, Lilly was candid about her desire to portray a superhero who reads as undeniably feminine. Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe has, in the past, been defined by hulking men punching the hell out of one another, Lilly explained how bringing Hope’s femininity to the fore was a top priority because she wanted audiences to understand that power comes in many forms:
In her fight scenes, as trivial as it might seem, I really pushed and fought for her to fight with elegance, grace and femininity. She moves differently than a man. I wanted her to have a signature style that little girls, like I was when I was a feminine, girly little girl, would be able to fall in love with, emulate and relate to in their own movements.
As important as that message was, however, Lilly was also understandably concerned that her advocating for making Hope a powerful, in-control character could lead to her being pigeonholed as difficult in the minds of fans who couldn’t wrap their minds around such a character. Even with those concerns in mind, Lilly was adamant about using her role as Hope to buck tradition:
“[A]dmittedly, something that I really challenged myself with is that it’s very easy for me to say to myself, “You know what, let the boys be boys, let them tell their stories, let them play with their toys, don’t get in the way with your perspective, because you’re just being irritating.” Because I think there is an unconscious message for little girls and women that when you challenge men in the midst of doing something juvenile or fun, then you’re a heavy, a killjoy, a ball and chain. And all my life I grew up thinking, “I swear I won’t be that way, I’ll be cool, I’ll be fun, I’m going to be the chick that can hang with the guys.”
And I really challenged myself on this film to shut out all of those critical voices, and the male pressures to conform and to really stand up and be a female voice in this world. And I wasn’t always successful. I still feel that fear of being of being this irritatingly school-marm type of thing.”
Even though that clip of Lilly commenting on the fact that male actors complain too much about their superhero costumes is making the rounds, what she’s saying here is important in a way that can’t be understated. One of the main reasons we had to wait so long for a big budget superhero film headlined by a woman is that people still make the assumption that women are not and cannot be powerful, especially if said power doesn’t conform to the ideas about those concepts that we assign to men.
As wild as it may seem, it’s still a radical act for someone to posit that femininity can be, and most often is, a modality of strength and brilliance—especially when we’re talking about depictions of women in pop culture. There are a whole slew of reasons to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, but if you were at all wavering on whether to see it in theaters this weekend, then let Lilly’s words be the thing to convince you to go.