Now that the record-breaking box office success of Wonder Woman has proven wrong the long-held belief that a big-budget female superhero film would never draw an audience, little girls are finally getting a chance to see that men aren't the only ones who can be totally badass on the big screen. But it's good for boys, too: Lost star Evangeline Lilly's son pretends to be her Marvel character from the new flick, Ant-Man And The Wasp, according to Us Weekly, and it sounds like it's been a beyond-cool experience for the mom-of-two. But more than simply giving her the chance to impress her own son, the film gives all boys to realize that female superheroes aren't just for girls — and that's an exciting change all parents will want to remember.
Aside from simply being a female superhero in general, Lilly's character, Hope van Dyne (aka The Wasp), is actually the first to ever be named in the title of a Marvel film. Even more importantly though, The Wasp is definitely no sidekick: Lilly told Us Weekly that Hope van Dyne actually trains Scott Lang (played by actor Paul Rudd) to become Ant-Man in the film, and far from being a supporting character, The Wasp is totally Ant-Man's partner and equal.
Make-believe superhero games are be a pretty standard part of childhood for most kids, but for Lilly's 7-year-old, Kahekili, having his mom be The Wasp mom meant that he had the chance to play pretend on the actual film set. Lilly told Us Weekly that her partner, Norman Kali, brought her son to set one day to see his mom in action, and during a break in shooting, he got up close and personal with Hope and Hank’s lab. She explained,
[Kahekili] was in awe of all the buttons and switches and gadgets. He asked if he could touch them, and I told him to go nuts. He sat at a particularly elaborate switchboard and started playing and then turned around to my partner and said, ‘Look at me, Dad! I’m the Wasp!’ That was a moment.
That definitely sounds like it made Lilly proud, but it's also a pretty big deal for all parents of boys in general. Even though it might be a small example, it's a reminder that the rise in female superhero characters means more opportunities for children to grow up with a totally different viewpoint than what's traditionally been held. Although we may have learned that superheroes are "for boys," and that women in superhero films are always secondary characters there to support the powerful, admirable men, movies like Ant-Man and The Wasp mean our kids will have no reason to assume that women can't be just as capable of saving the world.
That's a powerful shift that will give girls a chance to see themselves differently, but since it's always been more acceptable for girls to imitate male superheroes that the other way around, Lilly's son's concept of The Wasp is hopefully also a sign that boys, too, can start to feel totally comfortable looking up to female superheroes as well. And the impact hasn't been lost on Lilly: she said, "I felt so incredibly proud that any little boy was pretending to be a female superhero, let alone my son, pretending to be me."
But even though Ant-Man and The Wasp is a big step forward, Lilly is still well-aware there's still a lot of work left to do. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lilly opened up about the reality of trying to be female in the male-dominated "sci-fi/fantasy space of Hollywood," and said that, as is so often the case, she struggled to balance her desire to let her voice be heard with her fear of coming off as difficult or too serious — common criticisms of strong women in positions of power. She explained,
I think there is an unconscious message for little girls and women that when you challenge men in the midst of doing something juvenile or fun, then you're a heavy, a killjoy, a ball and chain. And all my life I grew up thinking, 'I swear I won't be that way, I'll be cool, I'll be fun, I'm going to be the chick that can hang with the guys.' And I really challenged myself on this film to shut out all of those critical voices, and the male pressures to conform and to really stand up and be a female voice in this world. And I wasn't always successful. I still feel that fear of being of being this irritatingly school-marm type of thing.
That decision turned out to be a good one: just as male characters always do, Hope van Dyne got to be a complex character, and in the film, she is both strong and serious, as well as fun, feminine, and compassionate. But it turns out she wasn't just speaking out for women on-set — in a clip from a junket interview for the film with BackstageOL that quickly went viral on social media, according to Vulture, Lilly called out all the male actors who have complained about the discomfort of the Marvel superhero suits over the years. Lilly explained that she always figured they must have been awful, until she wore one herself and realized that their complaints mostly came from the fact that, unlike women, men had never been expected to spend their lives feeling uncomfortable to accommodate other's expectations about how they should look.
Lilly's comments are eye-opening, mostly because, well, they're so accurate. But it's also one of the many reasons why her role totally matters. With women only beginning to have a proper place in the realm of superhero films, there are so many long-held assumptions that have gone unchallenged. But if her son's example is any indication — and it likely is — the upcoming generations of kids might just view superheroes totally differently than their parents have.