Marvel released The Avengers last week in North America to the tune of $200 million. This broke all sorts of world records, not that anyone was expecting any less. It was the first big blockbuster of the summer. I myself went to see it twice in two days. I mean, I only have been waiting since 2008 for this movie. Scratch that – I’ve been waiting for a lot longer than that.
The movie was good. There was good acting, good action and, and this is the key here: good directing. I liked Iron Man (although, it has its issues), I enjoyed Thor and Captain America. I was steamed that Iron Man 2 had taken Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow) and turned her into something that I did not remember her being in the comic books. She was this doe-eyed woman who didn’t get to kick half as much ass as she should. So, when they announced that an Avengers movie was in the works, I was nervous that Marvel would, once again, refuse to see that comic book movies are no longer just an all-male thing. But then I got a good piece of news.
As you may or may not be aware, Joss Whedon took over the directing duties. People were happy. Hell, I was happy. Whedon had created a lot of shows that I loved, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. He created some of the strong female characters that I grew up with. And I know he put a lot of time, effort and energy in this movie.
Let me stress again that I liked the movie. Whedon did manage to salvage the image of Black Widow that I had in my head, making her a strong woman whose main weapon was her intelligence. He fought to bring in the Black Widow in the first place so we didn’t have an entire male cast. He also put Maria Hill (played by TV’s Cobie Smulders) in the movie as well, to make sure Scarlett Johansson wasn’t the only woman. He did a lot of great work to make sure that this movie wasn’t just like other action movies.
But at the same time, I am kind of conflicted. Whedon gets a lot of accolades and criticism for writing those strong female characters. And, you know what? Writing strong women shouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s kind of a sad reflection on our society when we will take anything we can get, even if what is given to us isn’t that great. I get people asking me all the time, “Isn’t the fact that he is trying good enough?”
No, actually. As much as I liked the movie, it doesn’t redeem Whedon in my eyes. Whedon, in my opinion, has figured out how to try hard enough to get and keep our attention, but appears to show no interest in going any farther than that. I have had him thrown in my face and stuffed down my throat as a great feminist writer because he writes leading roles for women. Which is great – except those roles are usually reserved for thin, white, attractive women. And those roles are usually the “beautifully broken, manic pixie dream girls” who have some sort of tragic back story.
I do not give out cookies and back pats for doing what any person with basic decency would do – which is treat female characters with as much respect and dignity as their male counterparts. And I certainly don’t give out cookies to men who proudly and smugly declare that they got a new misogynistic slur past the censors. Yes, I’m talking about that line. If you are not aware, Loki calls Natasha a “mewling quim” when he is attempting to intimidate her. And, if you are not especially aware, a quim is another word for “cunt”. Let that sink in for a second. Loki calls the only female avenger a “whining cunt.”
Now, the fact that he said that is not the issue here. Bad guys say bad things. It is perfectly within Loki’s character to view people, especially a woman who is trying to bargain with him, as beneath him. However, in a recent interview, Joss Whedon was asked what his biggest accomplishment was. Whedon answered: “getting quim past the censors.”
Yes, Whedon, because that is what the world needs – another woman-hating insult that makes everyone with a vagina feel even more uncomfortable with their genitals. Whedon’s smugness with bringing that word to light is what became the issue here.
I like what the man does. I like his writing, his world building, his storylines. But until he moves forward, I will reserve in my congratulations.