In the final fight of Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson as an Air Force pilot turned superhero, Carol Danvers discovers her powers to the 1995 radio hit “Just a Girl,” by Gwen Stefani and performed by her band No Doubt.
While the use of the song divided a lot of Marvel fans, who either hated it or loved it, the film’s directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck tell Inverse it was the “perfect anthem” for the raw, chaotic energy of their protagonist.
“It’s such a perfect anthem for that sequence,” says co-director Anna Boden. “You’ve got this character at the heart of our movie whose been told, both as a Kree soldier and in the Air Force, that she is not good, not that strong enough, she ought to be somehow different than she is in order to succeed, and yet discovers for herself that all that strength is within her by the end of the film.”
Boden and Fleck also tell Inverse that they actually tried other songs, but ultimately chose No Doubt’s immortal bop as a “wink” to a nostalgic audience. And, well, because it’s a fun song.
Adds Boden, “The music is fun and a little bit of a wink to folks who grew up with that song. That kind of girl power anthem that it is. In this sequence, we really get to play around and have fun.”
“We tried a ton of songs for that sequence and when we landed on ‘Just a Girl,’ it just felt right,” says Fleck. “We screened it to a different audience every time and and they just loved it. You can feel the vibe in the room come to life.”
Available now on Digital HD and on Blu-ray on June 11, Captain Marvel is the debut solo film of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, one of the strongest superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The film takes place in 1995, as it reveals the origins of Carol Danver’s transformation into a super-powered being. Hence, there’s ‘90s pop culture aplenty throughout the film, from Carol crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster to surfing AOL.
And in the final fight when Carol is pitted against her former Starforce squad, Carol isn’t actually trying to “murder any of them,” Boden says. That’s what made the directors enjoy the “playfulness” of No Doubt’s music.
“She’s fighting her old friends and her own teammates. She doesn’t want to murder any of them, she is so powerful and she’s able to kind of discover her powers for the first time with this song playing in the background. It provided this really nice balance of playfulness.”
Some fans were divided over the use of the song. On social media, fans expressed feelings that the song was either “perfect,” the “dopest thing I’ve ever seen,” or “superficial pandering.”
Released in September 1995 on No Doubt’s third album Tragic Kingdom, “Just a Girl” was a mega hit and the band’s first charting single in the U.S. It peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was among the top ten in territories like Australia, Ireland, Scotland, and the United Kingdom.
In a 2017 interview with People, Stefani said she wrote the lyrics with her brother Eric based on her strict home life living under her parents.
“My parents were quite strict with me and I was living at home, even into my twenties,” she said. “And I would have to come home and knock my parents’ door. And it was frustrating because I was already, like, older.”
She added, “I can remember thinking, ‘Wow, I’m in the car right now, I’m driving home, it’s like one in the morning and if something did happen to me, I’m vulnerable because I’m a girl.’ And you start to think, ‘Wow, maybe people actually look at me different because I am a female.’ I just wanted to write a song to express how I was feeling in that moment and I never in my wildest dreams thought that anyone would hear it.”
To Boden and Fleck, the lyrics of “Just a Girl” was poetic for their character.
“She is one of the most powerful characters we’ve ever seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yet at the core of this character there is her humanity, her messiness, her grit, her flaws,” says Boden. “That gives her that power.”
Captain Marvel is available now on Digital HD. It will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 11, and will stream on Disney+ when it launches on November 12.