Kate Bishop’s debut in the upcoming Hawkeye series is much more exciting than Clint Barton’s return. As beloved as the bow-wielding Avenger has become throughout the MCU’s cinematic tenure, there’s an emotional richness and complexity to Kate’s comics history that is bound to provide refreshing storylines and topics that the MCU hasn’t tackled in previous projects. That Hailee Steinfeld–who is arguably one of the most talented actresses of her generation–is going to portray her all but cements her character as the real draw of the upcoming series.
This isn’t, of course, to say that Clint Barton’s appeal has expired. In fact, his role as Hawkeye and his checkered past as Ronin make him crucial for the MCU going forward. The dark places he has been to and the mistakes he has made afford him a valuable perspective that he could pass on to Kate Bishop. Judging by the conversations and images surrounding Hawkeye so far, it’s apparent that Clint’s role as Kate’s mentor is set to be in the spotlight of the upcoming Disney+ series. This would effectively be a different side to Clint that audiences haven’t seen before.
That being said, Kate Bishop is the more exciting prospect of the Hawkeye series because she’s a young woman. This is a perspective that the MCU has been lacking egregiously throughout its predominantly male-driven filmography. Indeed, the Marvel comics show Kate going solo, taking charge of her narrative, overcoming her trauma, and discovering her inner strength. Like Clint Barton, she is a self-made hero who has trained herself in order to keep up with her superpowered teammates. But what Kate ultimately has is a story of personal survival and triumph that, in the current #MeToo era of Hollywood, is a much-needed emotional dimension within the MCU.
MCU Phase 4 so far has indelibly proven to be more mature in its approach to themes that were only alluded to in previous phases. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, for instance, highlighted how Sam Wilson, despite being an Avenger and the next Captain America, faced systemic anti-Black racism. What’s more, the Disney+ series handled the issue with care and respect. Now, Hawkeye has the chance to do the same with Kate Bishop’s comics origin story as a survivor of sexual assault. Yes, Black Widow could arguably serve as an allegory of sexual assault, considering one man in power coerced, victimized, and brutalized younger women. However, Kate’s trauma specifically incites her hero’s journey; that dark moment of her life propelled her to train, to arm herself, and to, in turn, protect those who have felt similarly defenseless. It would effectively be new narrative ground for the MCU’s upcoming Disney+ series to tackle head-on in the same vein as death/grief in WandaVision and bisexuality in Loki.
What’s most significant about the introduction of Kate Bishop and her story is that it indicates a positive evolution of female superheroes in the MCU. One of the longest-standing criticisms of the franchise was its treatment of women characters, from Black Widow’s objectification in Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron to the forced and performative all-heroine team-up sequence in Avengers: Endgame. Before Phase 4, in fact, only Captain Marvel and Wasp received top-billing credits. It is therefore monumental that Kate will appear in Hawkeye. Though the title of the series may refer to Clint right now, she does inevitably take on the mantle herself. The symbolism here is irrefutable: an empowered young heroine replaces the older hero as a result of hard work, self-determination, and personal strength. Women are the future of the MCU indeed.