This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Potential casting spoilers for Avengers 4 lie ahead. Spoiler for Ant-Man & The Wasp too.
There’s no getting around it: the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting old. Sure, it’s only been ten years since Iron Man kicked things off, but Marvel’s core stars – the ones who shepherded the fledgling cinematic universe into viability a decade ago – are starting to look more like the target audience’s dads than the target audience. Captain America’s beard might have been the most popular addition to Infinity War this side of Thanos, but it’s not exactly making him look any less like he’s pushing 40.
For those of us who came to the MCU in our 20s and 30s, that might not feel like a problem. We’re all going a little grey, aren’t we? But as Marvel’s comic readers have found out over the years, at some point you have to let go of the idea that these characters are your age. Eventually, you look in the mirror and see Agatha Harkness where once you saw the Scarlet Witch.
If the series is going to keep attracting audiences the size it currently does, the MCU needs to shed some of its years so that it looks attractive to younger audiences. Undoubtedly the company will re-cast heroes like Captain America and Iron Man in the future, but that’s not a solution right now – not mid-story, not while there’s still value in keeping the current crop of actors and their roles closely associated. The best way to achieve this is to bring in new, more youthful characters like Spider-Man, Black Panther’s Shuri, and, yes, the character in the title of this piece: Cassie Lang.
But why her, specifically? Let us convince you.
Consider this: you can guarantee that no-one at Marvel is making a movie right now without wondering how best to introduce a new generation of heroes to a new generation of viewers. That might mean adding more black characters, or more female heroes. It can also mean adding younger ones. The company, however belatedly, has to look beyond its historically safe audience of men and women aged 20-40 to ensure it doesn’t get complacent.
For that reason, it seems like no coincidence that the franchise’s latest movie – Ant-Man And The Wasp – gives some prominent scenes to Cassie Lang (Ant-Man’s daughter) who was also seen in the original Ant-Man and takes a slightly larger role here. In addition to giving the MCU its first recurring character below the age of fifteen, this movie also hints that she has designs, however nascent, on becoming her father’s sidekick. The Ant-Girl to her dad’s Ant-Man. Those ideas aren’t being put in the film for no reason. Clearly, Marvel has a plan for where to take her.
Where might that be? Well, as any sufficiently obsessive Marvel fan will tell you, Cassie – portrayed in both Ant-Man movies by Abby Ryder Fortson – has assumed two superheroic identities in the comics. In 1998 a series called A-Next showed a potential future of the Marvel Universe where Cassie had become the superhero ‘Stinger’, with size-changing abilities and Wasp-like wings. Later, in 2006, the ‘present day’ version of Cassie Lang joined the Young Avengers team under the code-name ‘Stature’, having gained the ability to change size after spending her childhood stealing Pym Particles from her father.
The fact that Emma Furhmann has been cast as an older Cassie in Avengers 4 – alongside the return of Iron Man 3’s precocious Harley (Ty Simpkins) – suggests, at the very least, that we’re going to see some of the Marvel kids return as teenagers. Could they even be Young Avengers? It’s a wild piece of speculation, but not outside the realm of possibility. It does, if nothing else, show that Marvel is looking at investing in its younger actors.
As it stands, Cassie is well-positioned to be the future face of the MCU. She’s young enough (under either actor) to return again and again before her age becomes even slightly in danger of eclipsing that of viewers, and she could also fill one of the many demographic gaps that Marvel Studios is currently neglecting. In a franchise riddled with ageing guys, she’s the best hope of getting a younger girl on screen, giving the MCU’s significant but oft-neglected female fanbase a character along the lines of Peter Parker. In the same way Black Panther finally acknowledged (and subsequently profited from) the enormous following superheroes have within black culture, this isn’t pandering – it’s just good business sense.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt Marvel to have a property that deliberately skews towards the younger end of their fandom. The tension between Cassie’s desire to be a superhero again even as her dad objected was explored in a recent Ant-Man series, providing an easy template for a future twist on an Ant-Man movie, and one that could work from the perspective of parent or child.
Indeed, coming at it from that angle would be no bad thing. Despite Marvel’s broad appeal, there’s a particular difficulty in parenting a young girl as a Marvel fan. DC and Warner has far broader age appeal and greater visibility for its female heroes in the likes of Teen Titans Go and its Super Hero Girls property, while the average Marvel movie risks being too scary, violent or boring for lots of younger children. Not only are there very few women, there are almost NO girls.
But Ant-Man And The Wasp opens with Scott teaching his daughter how to do a heist, and the film ends with her professing her intention to help others, like her dad does. When superhero movies are so often about dysfunctional parental relationships, Ant-Man occupies a unique position: Scott has a (broadly) healthy relationship with his daughter, and she with him. Cassie’s parents weren’t killed forcing her to swear revenge. She didn’t grow up in fantastical circumstances. She doesn’t have a secret destiny to fulfil.
In fact, it’s these unremarkable circumstances that make Cassie Lang an ideal choice of character to invest in, because she’s someone you can’t find anywhere else on screen: A normal child who wants to be a superhero because she’s seen how superheroes work. What kid wouldn’t relate to that?
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