Why Have Lead Female Villains Been Absent?
The closest we’ve come to a lead female villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before Thor: Ragnarok was in Iron Man 3, where early drafts of the story reportedly had the character of Maya Hansen (played by Rebecca Hall) as the primary threat. This was altered though, specifically as a result of corporate pressure – as detailed by director Shane Black to Uproxx.
“All I’ll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female. So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making. Now, that’s not [producer, Kevin] Feige. That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore.
Ike Perlmutter [former CEO of Marvel Entertainment] is gone.
“Yeah, Ike’s gone. But New York called and said, “That’s money out of our bank.” In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian – and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it’s the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, “no way.””
This almost certainly explains why it took a decade for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include a lead villain who’s also a woman. The only reason we’re aware of these particular behind-the-scenes political machinations is because Iron Man 3 was directed and co-written by the famously candid Shane Black. Indeed, Marvel toy production has often been a bone of contention in relation to past MCU films – specifically regarding the scarcity of Black Widow merchandise in comparison to her fellow Avengers.