Over the course of the MCU, Marvel has heard and responded to its various issues with regard to portraying women and their stories. And in many ways, they've course-corrected. They've abandoned hackneyed, unnecessary love stories that only served to relegate female characters to mere romantic interests. They've given female heroes more to do than operating as eye candy who sometimes kiss the other Avengers (to the laughter and judgment of her fellow co-stars, I'M LOOKING AT YOU, EVANS AND RENNER).
But there is one female character in the MCU that the films have continued to fail to utilize — and not just use in a better way, but in any way. Any way at all. Their latest, Spider-Man: Far From Home, at long last seemed like finally, finally, it might be the one to actually use her, as we noted last time we lamented this egregious and continuous oversight. But no.
I'm talking, of course, about Maria Hill. Not only was she barely featured in Far From Home, but in the post-credit sequence, we find out she wasn't even in the movie at all.
Come on, MCU. Not since Ted Mosby has anything deserved Cobie Smulders less.
According to IMDb user ninewheels0, who has painstakingly totaled up every major character's screentime in every MCU property, Maria Hill, over the course of six films (out of 22), has appeared on screen only 16 minutes. Add in her three episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we've only had 25 minutes and 45 seconds with Nick Fury's second-in-command.
In those rare moments, we've seen a strong, talented woman capable of dealing with the toxic toddlers of the Avengers and Hydra. One who has had to deal with ass**** comments from Grant Ward like "If [Fury] wanted eye candy around, he could have at least picked Romanoff," and being sent off to fetch coffee for Tony Stark as some kind of power-grab punishment. And those moments could have been so powerful to watch this character overcome and maintain her power. Except we see that (and her) only in fleeting scenes and glimpses.
Maria Hill has been relegated to the "strong female character" version of eye candy. We know she's a powerful character — they keep telling us so — and Smulders plays what little she's given to perfection, even when the entirety of her three minutes onscreen in Avengers: Age of Ultron is spent listening to the male Avengers compare egos, asking where the other sidelined female characters are and making a "testosterone" joke, then sitting on the couch.
Granted, in many ways, Ultron, and even 2015 as a whole, represents a different time in the MCU. In just the last few years, Marvel and Disney have actually embraced and taken significant efforts toward diversity and representation, including among their female characters. In a post-Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Endgame world, the future — and Phase 4 — is beautifully female. But while we move forward and tell new stories, let's not abandon this one woman who keeps things running while everyone else gets the glory, the lines, and the screentime.
So not only did the film completely waste Maria Hill, it didn't even have Maria Hill. Hill wasn't even relegated to a mere plot device; she was a post-credit plot device.
We keep waiting for the MCU to figure out what to do with this character and Smulders, and it remains so shocking. She is MCU bread and butter. Stern, sarcastic, strong, unafraid, but with a vulnerable side. Or is it simply that they have so many of those they don't need one more, despite the fact no one ever questions a million male heroes with the same resume?
Maria, you deserve better. And we hope the MCU finally, FINALLY gives it to you someday.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.