A young girl whips a go-kart around the track. As he passes, her brother tells her to slow down. Instead, she accelerates rapidly around a curve, launching herself through the bales of straw stacked around the track. Her kart slams into the ground and she rises from the wreckage, hair wild, blood dripping from her lip. She seems satisfied with her actions — even smug — as her father yells at her.
If you’re one of the many people to see Captain Marvel then you know this scene takes place in Carol Danvers’ childhood memories, a reminder of when she was told to slow down. The implication, of course, is that Danvers should also be more "feminine," that she shouldn’t try to be like her brothers. And even then, as a young child with no powers, just a girl in touch with herself, she knew she was meant for speed.
At the beginning of the film, Danvers, living as a Kree soldier named Vers, has already received her superpowers, but she hasn’t quite yet tested them. A chip in her neck monitors the use of her powers, notifying the higher-ups if she begins to “lose control.” She believes her powers to have been a gift from the Kree who saved her when she was on the brink of death, and so, she accepts to the chip. Vers also experiences amnesia, limiting her ability to recall her past on Earth.
Vers’ whole existence changes when she arrives on Earth and puts the pieces of her past together. She finds her former best friend, Maria Rambeau, and learns the truth of the fateful day she disappeared. Her life was nothing like the Kree had told her it was and she realizes she’s been fighting the wrong people. The memories that flood back to Danvers remind her that she has always been perseverant. She has fallen so many times, but she always gets back up, wipes the dirt off, and tries again, relishing in the naysaying of those who doubt her.
Normally, arrogance isn’t a favored virtue — but when it comes to a girl who has been told to slow down, a woman who has been told she can’t fly, and a hero who has a power-limiting chip that was installed without her permission, arrogance comes to mean something else.
That arrogance is not about being self-obsessed, but self-assured; not thoughtless about others, but aware of oneself; not bombastic, but confident; not controlling, but accepting. Danvers’ arrogance isn’t the machismo arrogance that makes the world a little worse; it’s the opposite. She possesses a kind of radiant arrogance that makes the world a little brighter.
What’s perhaps even more compelling is what that arrogance does for Danvers’ life, both before she becomes a superhero and while she’s exploring her identity and powers. She only finds out about her past because she’s arrogant enough to break into a secure SHIELD facility. She only learns she can fly and breathe in outer space because she’s arrogant enough to jump on her enemy’s ship during launch. She only discovers the range of her photonic abilities because she’s arrogant enough to remove the chip limiting her powers. She only finds herself because she’s arrogant enough to believe she has a right to know who she is.
Danvers, flying up above the Earth, glows like a shimmering rainbow of pure, unadulterated rage. As she attacks, easily destroying their weapons, their smaller ships, and their warships, she begins to holler, enjoying herself. At one point, Danvers kicks her legs wide, spreads her arms, and starfishes belly-first into one of the smaller ships blowing it to smithereens. She is joyous in her total annihilation of the opposing force — loving her powers, loving her hard-won freedom, loving herself.
In a world where women and non-binary folks are taught to make ourselves smaller, where we’re told to want less and eat less and talk less and argue less, Danvers’ arrogance is like a shining beacon of hope. She doesn’t have to play small or be small. She can know who she is and know that makes her a badass and strut like she owns the universe. Are you going to tell her she doesn’t?