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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Feminist Fan Attacks Joss Whedon For Sexism!


Another supposed female fan attacks Marvel/Disney and, more directly, Joss Whedon for sexism in the portrayal of female characters like Black Widow and the Scarlet Witch. Oi vey!

Okay, while I do see some points that fans are making, others are just plain dumb or nit picky. Yes, I agree that female super powered characters are under-represented in the movies.

Black Widow has no powers and Gamora and Nebula have no real super powers, though Gamora does have enhancements to increase her strength and agility. The only female so far on the Disney/Marvel side is now Scarlet Witch.

I can even see the complaints about how female Marvel action figures needs to get a bump up in production. They are continually under-represented there also.

However, I do not agree with this open letter that a fan recently wrote to Joss Whedon.


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Dear Joss Whedon,

Sara here. Longtime fan, encyclopedic "Buffy" expert, unofficial Browncoat, "Dr. Horrible" soundtrack-lover, "Dollhouse" apologist (you tried!). You've been a formative influence in my pop cultural tastes for the past two decades. I've always maintained, loudly and publicly, that you were on the side of making that world a better, more welcoming, more nuanced place for women -- as fictional characters, and as viewers. I mean, just a few short years ago, you said this:


So, um, we need to talk about "Avengers: Age of Ultron." I had my doubts when I saw one bombastic, testosterone-soaked trailer after another make its way around the internet, but I tempered my reaction with a soothing refrain of, "But it's Joss Whedon. They're just not showing the smart parts. That's not what trailers are about." I really liked the first "Avengers" movie, for the record. I thought it was intelligent and funny and, OK, short on women -- but at least you had Black Widow, which was kind of new and exciting in a landscape that had been uniformly male for forever. That was progress, I thought, upon which you would capitalize in the next film.The disappointing treatment of Scarlett Johansson's character in the sequel (and, for that matter, beforehand) has already been examined in an excellent Daily Beast piece by Jen Yamato, so I won't retread everything she's said. But I would like to add, did we really need Natasha to have a mini-breakdown over the fact that she can't have children? Haven't we gotten to a point where the one lonely female superhero in our current landscape can just pursue the business of avenging without having to bemoan not being a mother? Caitlin Moran, help me out here: 

"I have a rule of thumb that allows me to judge, when time is pressing and one needs to make a snap judgment, whether or not some sexist bullshit is afoot. Obviously, it’s not 100% infallible but by and large it definitely points you in the right direction and it's asking this question; are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? Is this taking up the men's time?"

Male superheroes generally don't have kids, which makes sense; it'd get in the way of their superheroing. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) does make reference to not being able to have kids, too, but it's in more of a "well, obviously" way. Couldn’t it just be the same for women? For this rather busy woman, anyway?

Black Widow, unfortunately, is only the tip of the iceberg. Let's take a look at all the other female characters in "Age of Ultron."

You got Linda Cardellini -- Lindsay goddamn Weir! -- in your movie, and you made her a housewife. As Hawkeye's secret spouse (he's kept his family in some sort of superhero protection program, apparently), she is literally pregnant and in the kitchen for most of her screen time. Sure, she dispenses some womanly words of wisdom and lets the Avengers crash in their Pottery Barn-tastic farmhouse, but seriously? That is some reductive gender shit right there. She is literally keeping the home fires burning. (How do I know this? Because there's a lengthy scene in which two male Avengers show off their muscles chopping firewood.)

And let's talk about the support staff at the new state-of-the-art Avengers building. Cobie Smulders is on hand again as Maria Hill, a high-ranking officer in the establishment who seems to do nothing but walk around with a clipboard, wear tight black pantsuits and have the occasional chastising Skype session with our heroes (I'm not watching "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," so maybe she's tearing it up there, but you can't count on moviegoers to know these things). And Claudia Kim plays Dr. Helen Cho, who can apparently do brilliant things with genetics but mostly just gets mind-warped by the villainous Ultron and, later, beaten up by him.

Early on, both women look like a million bucks at the superhero cocktail party, of course. And it’s at this party where both Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) brush off the lack of appearances from their significant others -- Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) -- by making brief, competitive mention of how the ladies are too busy out there changing the world to show up. OK, but either of those characters would really have upped the quotient of substantive females onscreen in this nearly two-and-a-half-hour sausage-fest. Seriously, you couldn't get Gwyneth or Natalie for a couple days?

Then there's Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch character. Yes, she has a superpower, but it’s one that feels dreamed up by men who are terrified of women: She messes with people's minds, dude! That's not on you, Joss; the canon is already there, I know. No, my main beef with your treatment of Olsen is that this very talented actress gets zero quippy Whedony dialogue. There's plenty of it elsewhere in the film, but mostly it belongs to Tony, Thor, and Cap (Chris Evans). The Hulk and Black Widow/Natasha, meanwhile, are too busy making eyes at each other in this one to be much fun.
Giving characters -- particularly women -- snappy, juicy, reference-laden dialogue is, like, YOUR WHOLE THING. It’s what MADE you.

Scarlet Witch could have been really memorable -- or, at a minimum, a fun, articulate contrast to the film's nonstop cavalcade of robot-fighting scenes, which blend into one another almost immediately. Instead she's just a red-eyed millennial who gives the Avengers bad trips.

Again and again, you've paid lip service to the idea of fighting misogyny in the film industry -- most recently, in the comic-book arena. "It's a phenomenon in the industry that we call 'stupid people,'" you've said. "There is genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned quiet misogyny that goes on. You hear 'Oh, [female superheroes] don't work because of these two bad ones that were made eight years ago'... there's always an excuse."

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Sara, Sara, Sara! This rant about sexist "bullshit" is just farting out of your mouth, and I'll explain why.

Jeezus, try to make a male or female comic character more than one-dimensional and you get slapped with a sexist label. Yes, Black Widow is a strong female. Yes, she kicks ass!

But damn, is she suppose to be a friggin' robot? Black Widow can't fall in love?


Hell, try to humanize the character a little bit and the sexism card gets pulled. I don't hear you complaining about the Captain America and Peggy Carter romance that was established in Captain America The First Avenger and is still being played upon even in Avengers Age of Ultron?

I suppose it's more acceptable that Captain America has a lost and tragic love, but no, Black Widow can't because that's just so stereo-typical. And what's so wrong with the character regretting that she chose to undergo an operation that would forever kill her chance of ever having children?

The character is in love with Bruce Banner in the story, and I don't know what planet you may be from but when most people at a certain age truly fall in love with someone, they more often than not would like to have kids with them. I'm not entirely sure but I'm pretty confident that's how the human race has been able to survive for this long.

Also, if you're complaining about the lack of action for Scarlett Johansson, the actress was pregnant during the shooting of Avengers Age of Ultron. I'm sure that could not have been helped and that fact probably had to change a few things around in terms of Black Widow's portrayal.

I have no doubt that if Steve Rodgers hadn't of been frozen for so long and came back after that mission, he would've married Peggy Carter and had kids with her. Unfortunately, the tragedy that happened does not mean that Steve Rodgers would not have had kids with Peggy Carter if things turned out differently.

So to answer your questions: Are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? Is this taking up the men's time?"

Yes, the missed opportunity of a loving relationship with Peggy Carter has been shown throughout the Disney/Marvel movies. It was shown in Captain America The First Avenger, Captain America The Winter Soldier, and then again in Avengers Age of Ultron.

I think it's been established that this haunts the character of Steve Rodgers in the movies, so why all the fuss when Black Widow feels something for a character in the film franchise? Oh, I forgot, she's suppose to be a one dimensional drone to appease all the FemNazis out there.

But, yes, Captain America is worried about this as well, and the haunting of that missed relationship and possible future does take up a bit of Cap's time in the movie. It's part of his character arc in the movies, and has been shown time and time again.

Another thing, the only hero to have a family in the line up of Avengers is friggin' Hawkeye, which highly goes against typical stereo-type. If it were Black Widow, I'm sure you and your FemDrones would call sexism on that as well.

Seriously, how you and the others who criticized the character of Laura Barton on Avengers Age of Ultron made asses out of yourselves.


In the comics, Hawkeye does actually have a family. In the Ultimates comic...Ultimates 2 to be exact...guess what, Sara? Clint Barton, Hawkeye, has a wife and kids. Guess what the wife's name is?

It's Laura Barton. What character did Linda Cardellini play? Can we say Laura Barton?

That is the character in the comics! She keeps the home fire burning. Linda Cadellini is playing that character and the role she has in the comic books. How is that at all sexist on Joss Whedon's part and why is there even a gripe with this character in Avengers Age of Ultron?

Actually, Laura Barton first appeared in a cameo in The Ultimates 2 #1 and that comic was published in 2005! And guess what? In issue #4 of the Ultimates 2, it shows that Clint Barton has three kids named Lewis, Callum, and Nicole with one Laura Barton.

She's a homemaker, and apparently, I keep hearing just how much of an important job that is. Not from men, but from women. I suppose, that all the stay at home mothers out there are just giving into sexist ideals and perpetuating them. 

So, yes, the fact that Clint Barton is the only Avenger to have a wife and kids does mean he is thinking about these things and it does take up his time. Actually, it was hinted in the movie whether the character was needed more at home or with the Avengers. For once, that burden was not placed on a female character who has kids, which often happens in any movie regardless if it's a comic book movie. Erin Brockovich was huge on that theme, and I do believe it was based on a true story also.

Obviously, Joss Whedon was taking from the Ultimates universe of Earth 1610, but I'm suspecting you may not know about that. Hey, we can't know everything, but damn do some people just gripe without knowing the facts or prefer spouting off nonsense to create a mess of contradictions and double standards.

Male superheroes generally don't have kids, which makes sense; it'd get in the way of their superheroing.

You can't be more wrong about that. Let's take a look at some popular male comic superheroes who have kids.

Wolverine - Dakken, Wild Thing
Reed Richards - Franklin Richards
Quicksilver - Luna
Scott Summers - Cable, Ruby Summers, Rachel Summers
Luke Cage - Danielle Cage
Vision - Wiccan
Scott Lang - Stature
Henry Pym - Hope Pym or Red Queen
Batman - Damian Wayne

I'm sorry, but even in the world of superheroes, even the men are pro-creating like nobody's business. Inject a possible realism into characters and it gets hit upside down and sideways.

As for the "You're not the only one who's a monster" comment, I can see how that offends some people out there. Even I was taken aback with that when the character of Black Widow tried to establish a connection with Bruce Banner's dilemma. 

Though I don't agree with the statement, I do know it was used to establish a similar feeling of isolation the two characters felt. Natasha's character felt overtly different because she could not have children. 

In this day and age, everyone has something about them that makes them feel different and isolated in a negative way. It depends on the degree of that difference in terms of how someone may view it upon themself.

Don't tell me that being born with a serious cleft palate or anything that disfigures one on a grand scale wouldn't make someone feel like a freak? Hell, even small things like weight or not having the right shaped nose or a guy being too skinny makes people feel crappy about themselves.

So, I didn't take the comment as a woman is a lesser woman for not being able to have kids. I took it as something the character is highly self-conscious about, something that makes her feel alienated and isolated to what is considered the norm.

Once again, inject some kind of real emotion that a character may feel and it's gonna be labeled something negative. Still, it's much better than the portrayal of June Cleaver who had virtually no character arc whatsoever, just the dutiful housewife mom whom was always happy and didn't seem to have any problems or gripes about herself or anything at all.


Let's get down to the other character you criticized - Helen Cho! Yes, she is also a Marvel Comics character from the actual comics, but what you didn't know is that Joss Whedon made her substantially more important in the movie than she ever was in the comic.

Actually, in the comics, it was her son Amadeus Cho that was the super genius. She's just depicted in the comics as his mother. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Hot damn! Go off on a guy that takes an extremely minor female comic character and gives her more importance in the film, why don't you? Perhaps, Whedon should've just made her another homemaker also.

Lame! No, not just lame. Super lame!

So Scarlet Witch is sexist because she is shown to have the power to manipulate minds? Actually, in the comics she has the ability to manipulate reality if you wanna call that sexist.

I'm pretty sure that's a hard power to show onscreen, so they went with being able to show others their fears instead. I'm also pretty sure there would be no complaint if a man had this power, as if the silence was to say that's okay because guys are manipulators in FemNazi speak.

Actually, I do believe that Loki had mind controlled Eric Selvig and Hawkeye during most of the first Avengers movie! Yeah, Hawkeye was all blue-eyed weird and idiot-like for a lot of the movie in the first Avengers. Helen Cho was mind controlled for a split second compared to Hawkeye. 

So, it's deemed sexist when a woman has that power but not so much when a man has that power? It plays upon our manly fear of woman manipulators, but doesn't play upon our fears of just someone...anyone...man or female...being able to manipulate peoples minds and actions?

Uhmmm...I believe I didn't hear any FemNazis pipe up about Professor X in the entire X-Men movie franchise being able to not just manipulate minds but control them? Why the silence on that one?

Oh, because he's a dude. Alright then, what about Jean Grey then? She has the power to do the same, but still silence. Why wasn't there a big man fear of manipulative women gripe all over that character?

Rubbish! Just plain friggin' double standard rubbish.

Oh, yes, and it is a fact that every single female led comic book movie in the past has tanked. Not just badly, but super badly. That is just a fact!

However, I do agree that it is a new era. Female comic fans are around 46% of the market, and that is awesome! 

I have always shown my support for female comic fans, and I've been asking to see more female powered superheroes on the big screen. What I don't like is some out there trying to turn an anthill into a mountain, and I'm sorry to say but that's what this feminist rant is all about.

Hey, if it was a strong argument, I'd be on your side. However, as I've detailed in this rebuttal, it's just weak, contradictory, and double standard griping on some issues.

As for Marvel, guys, just put out more Black Widow action figures and stop skimping out on the character in terms of merchandising. What is the big deal on that? That argument I do agree with.

As with 99.9% of the rant, all I gotta say is know your friggin' comics before you attack the director. He may be just taking a comic character from the comics as is like with Laura Barton or taking a comic character like Helen Cho and changing her to have more significance in a movie.

When it comes to Avengers Age of Ultron, I don't see the feminist gripes and there really needs to be better ones than this to deserve merit. One word for all this "bullshit" going down recently - Ludicrous!

4 comments:

  1. AMEN!! We live in a world where men are looked down upon more than women which honestly just sucks, these are honestly just "politically correct" people complaining about a subject they know nothing about. Comics have come a long way dealing with problems in this world Drugs, Minority, Racism to name a few so give it 2 more years and you will see two Spectacular Female heroes showing up on the silver screen Ms Marvel & Wonder woman. Also don't forget the small screen Black Canary, Thea, Super girl, & Quake (Skye). So honestly stop whining & be patient ~ EC

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    1. It's just going too far. I don't think Joss Whedon was trying to imply or intentionally demean women. Damn, have a pregnant woman in a scene and it's considered sexist? Have a female be mind controlled and it's considered sexist even though Joss Whedon made the character of Helen Cho a lot more significant in the movie as opposed to the comics?

      If Avengers Age of Ultron had every single female character serving coffee while the male Avengers were lounging around smoking cigars that would imply something. Having the guy Avengers sitting in the living room discussing what to do with Ultron while Black Widow and Laura Barton were in the kitchen cooking would imply something sexist.

      Those scenarios I could see as a legitimate WTF gripe. It's just going too far and with very little solid reasons to get upset about. Scarlet Witch with mind control powers being a sexist intention? Ridiculous...the whole rant is ridiculous.

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  2. Coming to a theater near you in 2016: Marvel presents: THE LADY LIBERATORS by JOSS WHEDON - perhaps that could stop the talk ;-) Seriously though, I agree that the female part in movies is often reduced to being "the girl" of the hero. Comics are a bit ahead here and movies should follow. But I fear, theres just not enough room in a movie to give every character his or her due - I mean, we have tons of characters, action and a story needs to be told in the flick too. I guess, that what Sara is looking for can be found more in future tv series like Alias. I guess that seems fitting since she is also a Buffy fan, which is also a long running tv series. I think I am talking for all comic fans when I say our field would be nothing without women. They might not always play a big part but, just think about Spiderman - Gwen Stacy did not have a long running career in the comics, but she is still defining the Peter Parker of today.

    Speculation Jones

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    1. Joss Whedon is a big time feminist, and you're right...the ladies are important in comics. Just being the girl in the movie or some guys girlfriend is over-played in most every movie. Marvel is building it's universe and they've been slow to spotlight a female led movie.

      I can see their hesitation, and it's based on dollars not gender. Invest in a comic a few times that have proven to be ultimate failures and anyone - male or female - would be hesitant to invest in that comic book again.

      Now is the time to get female led comic book movies out there for sure, and it's happening. Avengers Age of Ultron was not as good as the first Avengers, I admit that, but not for the feminist reasons.

      Everyone's dialogue in the sequel wasn't as witty as the first movie...that goes for both the guys and gals. Her rant was just way off in left field. She has a right to her opinion for sure, but at least try to get some facts before criticizing every single female character in the movie and how they're portrayed, especially if it's contradictory and a double standard.

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