In 2006, legendary director and writer Joss Whedon delivered his ground-breaking “Equality Now” speech.
In his speech, Whedon imagines himself getting interviewed by imaginary reporters who ask him the same dumb question 400 times, “Why do you write such strong female characters?”
“Because you keep asking me that question!” he answers “Why aren’t you asking the 100 other guys why they don’t write strong female characters!”
Interesting, then, that a prominent feminist ally like Whedon drew in a heap of criticism and threats for Black Widow’s portrayal in “Age of Ultron,” so much so to the point where he quit Twitter earlier this week.
Prior to deleting his account, Whedon tweeted, “Thank you to all the people who’ve been so kind and funny and inspiring up in here.”
Shortly after, comedian/actor Patton Oswalt attributed some of the blame to “rabid feminists,” tweeting, “There is a “Tea Party” equivalent of progressivism/liberalism. And they just chased Joss Whedon off Twitter.”
While I believe that in some ways Black Widow comes off as the token female of the Avengers, I don’t point the finger of blame at Whedon, but more so at Marvel.
Whedon can only work within what he’s given in terms of the Avengers, and the only heroine Marvel had put out for a while was Black Widow.
I think it’s fair to say in terms of what Whedon was given, he does an exceptional job at portraying these heroines on-screen, save for my one gripe about Widow, which I’ll get to in a moment.
The backlash centered around Whedon as a person, when it should have focused on the issues that were actually part of the problem. Marketing, for example.
Black Widow was slut shamed not once, but twice by actors playing the other Avengers in an interview and on “Conan,” but Tony Stark, who actually hooked up on-screen with many women, isn’t looked down upon for the act at all.
There’s also Disney, putting out little to no Black Widow merchandise, simply because “They already have the girls’ market on lockdown,” a piece by The Mary Sue explains.
Another thing, the movie itself (spoilers if you haven’t seen it), Black Widow had some heroic, badass moments in “Age of Ultron.”
When the rest of the Avengers have a testosterone fest trying to see who can pick up Thor’s hammer, Widow chills out, saying “that’s not a question I need answered.”
In her new, slick shock batons and light up suit, she takes on Ultron after jumping out of the quinjet with a motorcycle.
My only gripe about Widow in this second movie comes down to this, in the first Avengers film, she talks with Loki about “red in her ledger,” which led me to believe that she underwent a loss of innocence through being forced to brutally murder and betray people.
But what “Age of Ultron” reveals about red is that, instead of an assassin always struggling with finding moral lines she didn’t know existed, we ended up with a “heroine” who feels incomplete because she cannot have babies.
The Red Room during her training in earlier years sterilizes her, which is understandably sad but kind of disappointing when previous movies heavily tease that the torture that haunts her was purely built on a past of bloodshed.
Criticism and discussion is great but as usual, the Internet responds the only way it knows how to by not discussing issues like big boys and big girls at the adult table.
Instead of responding with death threats and abuse and thanks to these tactics, the Internet has surely lost a hilarious and insightful voice of reason.