Captain Marvel is shattering glass ceilings one after another. As Brie Larson takes to the skies to protect Earth from malicious alien warfare as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first-ever woman superhero in Captain Marvel, she will be doing so scored by the music of Pinar Toprak — the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first-ever female composer.
“I went and hired a 70-piece orchestra and did a big production of it so that they could see me in front of the orchestra conducting, and I did another video inside my studio where I talked about the character and the theme,” Toprak said.
When asked whether she ever felt she had been discriminated due to her gender, Toprak said, “I acted as though I have every bit of the same rights, and I just kind of put my horse blinders on and kept working really, really hard.”
Toprak’s involvement with Captain Marvel has significant implications beyond Marvel Studios. On-screen gender diversity has historically been dismal in Hollywood, but it gets even worse behind the scenes, especially when it comes to less visible roles such as writing, producing, and composing. According to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s latest report, out of the 111 composers who worked on the 100 top movies of 2017, only one was a woman. The report also found that only two women were ever employed as conductors in top films between 2007 and 2017 — that’s 1.3% of all composers across 1,100 of the decade’s most popular movies.
Captain Marvel, which was released on International Women’s Day, made a commendable effort to bring women into the spotlight. But this is just the first step, and hopefully the studio can see its way clear to do the same for television shows, where women composers are also infrequently employed — in the 2017-2018 season, only 6% of primetime network television shows listed a woman as a composer. As major industry players continue to celebrate women, bold words need to be backed up with real action.