That frazzled mom leaning over her toddler, identifying characters and purveying snacks during a “Captain Marvel” showing in Torrance on Friday night? That was me.
I took my 2-year-old daughter, whom I’ll simply call E, to see the latest Marvel blockbuster on opening night. Not because she was eager to see it, but because I was. And it was International Women’s Day. (Disney’s strategic release date was not lost on me.)
This was E’s first time watching a film in a theater, and I wanted to make it memorable, not just for an Instagram post.
Before the release of “Wonder Woman” in 2017, it had been decades before Hollywood deigned to showcase female warriors at the forefront of popcorn flicks. At age 31, I, like many women, finally saw our long-awaited female superhero on the big screen in Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince.
And on Friday, I hoped my young daughter would see it in “Captain Marvel” — the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s female-led superhero movie — and in Brie Larson’s portrayal of Carol Danvers. That, I figured, should be the new normal for her.
My husband took our princess-loving daughter to an NHL game at Staples Center earlier this week in hopes of instilling his love of sports in her. I hoped to do something similar, but for films and superheroes, and to mark IWD2019 in a fun and meaningful way.
We planned accordingly: I picked a 5:30 p.m. screening, bought our tickets online before they sold out, fed her and hyped up our mother-daughter date beforehand. We arrived early and made sure she used the potty, and I even indulged her with a few concession snacks.
E’s truncated nap that day meant she was perfectly happy staying home and calling it an early night. But the lure of donning a red and blue jacket inspired by Carol’s uniform appealed to her, and we were on our way.
Sitting among other adult fans, kids and — mercifully — other moms, we were about halfway through the previews when the “Frozen 2” trailer nearly derailed our night. That was it. E wanted to see it again, she wanted her friends Anna and Elsa. And she wanted them now.
I panicked. I asked her to try to watch some of the movie and let her know we could leave if she didn’t like it or felt scared. She instead asked for her pacifier, which we reserve for sleep, and cuddled up next to me as Carol took on humans, Skrulls and Krees.
While I was taken by Carol’s strength, resolve and humor, E, who stayed awake the whole time, was more interested in her cat Goose, Monica Rambeau — the young daughter of Carol’s fighter-pilot pal Maria — and a small Skrull refugee. That was fine. At least she was engaged. And out popped the pacifier in favor of some snacks and “Mama, who’s that?” questions.
A potty break during a pivotal scene briefly led us astray. So if someone could share with us the contents of Carol’s black box, I’d greatly appreciate it.
We made it through the film and the post-credits scenes without outbursts (from her or me!), and I was thrilled. I didn’t just want her to see the movie; I needed her to see Mommy also doing something she loved.
Sure, I was concerned about the film’s PG-13 rating, its volume and E’s extended screen time. But let me just say: This film was the exception for us, not the rule. Also, our showing up diminished misogynistic debates about ponytails and smiles and internet trolls’ efforts to bog down the film’s opening weekend. (Meanwhile, organizations such as Girls Inc. and We Have Stories also teamed up for the #CaptainMarvelChallenge to promote viewership and allow at-risk girls to see the movie.)
So why am I “sharenting” this right now? I suffered from postpartum depression, and the early months of our mother-daughter relationship weren’t as idyllic as I hoped they would be. Self-care, self-love and seeking out activities I enjoy are crucial to my mental and physical health. E seeing me take care of myself could potentially mean she won’t inherit some of my neuroses. And that matters to me, and hopefully to other struggling young moms out there.
Thus, watching Carol Danvers blast off and fall repeatedly, both on Earth and in outer space, as well as reclaim her intrinsic powers, deeply resonated with me beyond a simple moviegoing experience.
“What does Captain Marvel do when she falls down?” I asked E the next morning.
“Get up,” she happily replied.
And then she mounted her pretend rocket ship and pranced away.
Follow me: @NardineSaad