Within minutes, Marvel’s Runaways establishes a world that doesn’t leave women behind or standing next to a man. And it’s not only because the majority of the group of six main characters are women in their teens. It’s the openness with male characters, and the way the female narratives interact with each other, that is most refreshing. Gert Yorkes and her sister Molly Hernandez are the first introduced in the show.
“Oh Molly, sweetie, we had this talk. Menstruation is a blessing not a curse. You just do your breathing exercises and drink the tea I put in your thermos. And if that doesn’t work, go to the bathroom and give yourself an orgasm,” Stacey Yorkes tells her adopted daughter. “It is good advice. Listen to mom,” their father Dale adds with enthusiasm.
It’s only seconds later that we get a character defining moment from Gert. Molly expresses excitement about the dance team tryouts, but Gert does not care that her sister thinks the outfits are cute, telling her, “You are reinforcing hegemonic masculinity while marginalizing women's identity.”
Gert is passionate and takes a lot of the world's problems personally, Ariela Barer told us at New York Comic Con. “There is a lot of anger and hardness within her, but it stems from a genuine desire for a better world and love for people. Her arc is kind of about softening and learning to open up to these people without changing who she is.”
The competing narratives of Runaways make Gert’s story even more powerful. In the premiere, she starts a club called “Undermining The Patriarchy.” The other women of the show, Karolina and Nico, show no interest in Gert’s endeavours. Karolina calls Gert an “insufferable social justice warrior” and Gert returns the stereotype by calling Karolina a “perfect church girl.” Each character brings a different story and a unique perspective.
“We not only explore this blanket term of feminism but also nuance within that,” Barer said. “The personal is political -- exploring so many female narratives in depth is a political statement in its way, because how rare is that? You get yourself out of tokenism and explore people outside of this box and within this confine, in a way.”
At one point in the premiere at NYCC, Karolina calls Gert out for being hypocritical. “You call yourself a feminist, Gert, but no one cuts down other women more than you do.” But the way Gert lives by her beliefs may be less about promoting the messages and more about finding her place in relation to the show’s other characters.
“People can fall into the angry feminist stereotype without thinking about where this anger stems from. This is something Gert represents and it shows that women's emotions are valid. When you portray women as people, suddenly everything they do becomes less of a stereotype and a joke and a mockery. It becomes human.”
While Barer is aware she, along with Allegra Acosta, Lyrica Okano and Virginia Gardner, will all be seen as role models by viewers, she also wants fans to understand at 19, she is still a young person who is learning.
“Something I do try to push a lot on my social media is that I do want to be held accountable, because I am young person who is learning. I could say something that I don't know much about. Sometimes people mess up. I don't want people to take everything I say as fact, or to be just like, ‘Oh, she’s problematic now.’ I am a person who wants to have a conversation. I want it to be more of a dialogue.”
The first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways arrive on Hulu Nov. 21.