The Men in Black franchise has always been male-dominated. My introduction to this is through the TV cartoons, then I watched the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones movies. As far as I could remember, there was only one main woman who stood alongside the two protagonists: Agent L.
However, you’d rarely see Agent L because she was merely a supporting character for three movies and in the TV show. It’s also frustrating because she’s just as skilled as Agents J and K, and yet, she wasn’t given much recognition.
Then comes the spin-off film, Men in Black International, starring Chris Hemsworth (Agent H) and Tessa Thompson (Agent M). This is the first time a woman—a woman of color at that—was given a lead in an MIB movie. This is also her first-ever lead role.
In an interview with Variety, Tessa said, “There have always been women inside of the Men in Black universe, they just have never been at the forefront of any of these stories.” She also emphasized the importance of inclusivity and diversity in movies, and why filmmakers should continue striving for more female-led films in the future.
Agent M is a fun character, in my opinion. Her first encounter with the MIB was when she was younger, when two agents visited their house to look for an alien creature. She grew up studying astronomy and anything extraterrestrial so she could one day work with the covert agency. Instead of being recruited by MIB, she used her wits and investigative skills to find their HQ in New York.
She then goes through a series of tests and trainings, aced all of them, and was shortly given her uniform and weapons access. The best part was when Agent M attempted to ask why it’s called “Men in Black” when there are women. In fact, the New York head (Agent O, played by Emma Thompson) is a woman as well. But Agent O just gives an exasperated reply and said something along the lines of, “I’ve had this conversation before.”
Agent M was later sent to MIB’s London branch for her probationary duties. Throughout the film, Agent M was underestimated because of her newness. When she was partnered with Agent H, she was high-key used to pimp out an alien royal.
But little did anyone know, she would be one of the most trustworthy and observant agents in London. There were several instances where she could literally say, “I told you so” because Agent H likes to mansplain a lot.
That’s another thing we want to touch on: Agent H’s mansplaining. He loves to talk over Agent M just because he’s a senior agent who saved the world by defeating The Hive. He’s also cocky because he seems to be favored by MIB London’s head, High T (Liam Neeson). Luckily, he was able to snap out of it after realizing he’s not above Agent M in terms of intellect and skills, which made him a better teammate toward the last arc.
It’s almost like MIB International is poking fun at every film which undermine strong female characters to give the incompetent male lead the spotlight. This is called the “Trinity Syndrome,” named after Trinity in The Matrix.
The Dissolve described this as the notion that, in order for the “ordinary man” to be successful, the stronger, more intelligent woman should disappear or be subservient. Most of the time, these women merely become the lead actor’s girlfriend or wife.
MIB International didn’t fall victim to the Trinity Syndrome and gave justice to their first female lead. After all, they’ve been planning this since 2015—it’s only right that they give the helm to a competent character like Agent M.
On the other hand, MIB International is considered forgettable by Refinery29. I mean, compared to the previous films, it’s not as surprising anymore. But its redeeming factors are the humor and the chemistry between Chris and Tessa—the same one we saw in Thor: Ragnarok. What we want to know is if Tessa Thompson will move on from an MIB spin-off to the main film series. Just imagine a movie where she’s partners with Will Smith (Agent J) as she continues her duties in New York, and occasionally in other countries.
Have you seen the film as well? What are your thoughts?
Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures
For the latest in culture, fashion, beauty, and celebrities, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here
Tessa Thompson is the best wifey-to-be in Creed II
Solenn Heussaff almost divorced Nico Bolzico because of Chris Hemsworth
Strong female leads in movies inspire us to break gender stereotypes
Our thoughts on Hela, Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first female villain