The Big Problem With the Little Characters in ‘Ant-Man’

One oversight made the film’s careful depiction of the insects less realistic.

(Image: YouTube)

Jul 18, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Comic book fans expressed distress that Marvel’s newest superhero flick, Ant-Man, didn’t include popular female cohort the Wasp and reduced Evangeline Lilly’s character to a sidekick, but the film’s lack of female representation extends beyond its human characters.

Turns out, the ants assisting the hero should all be female. Virtually all worker ants are female, two ant experts told National Public Radio.

Entomologist Seán Brady and graduate student Ana Jesovnik don’t have an issue with Paul Rudd playing the title character, as he shrinks down to size by way of a magical suit. But the hero’s trusty sidekick, a flying carpenter ant referred to as Antony, should have been female.

“Ants really are only girls, mostly,” said Jesovnik. Male ants mainly stay inside and reproduce with the queen before dying off. The female insects are the ones lifting objects far beyond their size, digging tunnels in union, and stinging their prey—and would have been the ones Ant-Man relied on to help defeat his nemesis.

RELATED: Female Superheroes Dominate Print Comics but Can’t Catch a Break in Hollywood

“They got the gender wrong, but other than that, they did a pretty good job,” Brady said.

That’s because visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison started researching ants two years ago, attempting to make the insects look as realistic as possible. As a result, he created a true-to-life depiction of them, detailing different varieties of the species and portraying them as loyal and capable helpers. Somehow, in all his research, the ants’ gender was forgotten.

“So it should have been Antoinette really, then,” Morrison conceded when presented with the entomologists’ reviews of the movie.

So, Why Should You Care? Perhaps a small error on the part of Morrison and his colleagues, it’s still a missed opportunity to showcase powerful female characters—regardless of species. Given that Marvel has been repeatedly called upon to feature more female heroes—whether through a title film or more merchandise—a powerful army of female ants would have been a welcome addition to a film that only has five named female characters compared with 17 male ones.

“It’s certainly not a deliberate bit of ant sexism,” Morrison assured the entomologists, promising, “We'll get that right on the next one.”