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When preparing for "Captain Marvel," actress Brie Larson (left) met with Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the Air Force's first female fighter pilot, to research her character. The movie went on to smash its box office competition opening weekend, in a win for women in film. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
When preparing for “Captain Marvel,” actress Brie Larson (left) met with Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot, to research her character. The movie went on to smash its box office competition opening weekend, in a win for women in film. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Now, here’s a reason to smile.

Over the weekend, Disney’s latest blockbuster, “Captain Marvel”  — one of the first Marvel films to ever showcase a female superhero — blasted away the box office competition, pulling in $153 million.

We mention smiling because a controversy erupted when the film’s trailer was released last fall and lead actor Brie Larson (gasp!) looked a tad too serious to some. In an art-mirrors-life moment, the actual movie contains a scene where a male character utters the words “You got a smile for me?” to her fighter pilot character.

According to Larson, that scene wasn’t hastily added in post-production, in an nod to the real-life smiling controversy. It was always in the script, as it’s not an uncommon thing for women to hear. (To note: One of the film’s directors is a woman, Anna Boden). In press interviews, Larson said:

“This is part of why art that depicts the female experience is so important, because on one hand, for women and girls it allows us to go, ‘Oh, I have that experience, too.’ And those that aren’t in our bodies can go, ‘Wait, that happens to you? We’ve gotta do better.’”

[Related: Trial, Error and ‘Black Panther’ Helped This Fashion Entrepreneur’s Business Make Millions]

While it’s progress that there are more movies depicting the female experience (albeit from a superhero’s perspective), there is more work to be done. As we reported in our Women in Hollywood project, the landscape of Hollywood still resembles the worlds of business and tech: mostly male leaders and investors, the majority of whom shy away from backing women-led, women-run projects.

Today, women account for half of all movie-goers, yet only 4 percent of directors, 3 percent of cinematographers and 18 percent of executive producers are women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

[Related: Why Hollywood’s Gender Gap Exists, and How to Fix It]

Just as having more women in charge or in c-suites helps other women advance in the corporate world, more female representation is needed among Hollywood’s leadership to fix the problem. The percentage of women on set increases 21 percent in narratives and 24 percent in documentaries with women at the helm, according to 2014 data from the Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles.

In some ways, it is getting easier for women to work and create. The laudable efforts of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements have done much to create a culture where women are more comfortable than ever standing up for themselves against would-be harassers and oppressors — both in and beyond Hollywood. The success of movies like “Captain Marvel” reinforces the point that diversity and inclusion are smart financial moves, making them more appealing investments.

And all of that is something to smile about.

[Related: A Female Founder Promoting Education Through Multicultural Comic Books]

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