With its massive $191.3 million haul at the box office this weekend (the second biggest of all time), “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” is unsurprisingly a giant, four-quadrant hit. But not everyone is pleased by the depiction of the superhero team's sole woman member.
In a new post over at The Daily Beast, contributor Marlow Stern writes that, while he considers writer/director Joss Whedon to be “an outspoken ally of feminism with the resume to back it up,” his portrayal of Black Widow a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in “Ultron” is disappointing in the way it makes Natasha's infertility the main thrust of the character's storyline. [NOTE: There are some spoilers below.]
“Her infertility then becomes the main focus of Romanoff”s Ultron journey,” Stern writes. “While none of the other Avengers really worry about raising a family, Romanoff yearns for the domesticated life of Hawkeye”s secret pregnant wife, Susan, played by Linda Cardellini. They”ve even named their future son after her. At the end of the film, the happy couple texts Romanoff a picture of her wee namesake. Troubled, she looks off into the distance, before regaining her composure and delivering a rousing speech to the rest of the Avengers. Because she”s a woman, saving the world isn”t enough for her. She”ll always got that cursed void to fill. After all, it”s what makes her, as she says, a 'monster.'”
This “Age of Ultron”-specific argument leads into a discussion of how the character has been treated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU] as a whole, from her function in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as a “leather-clad vessel whose sole purpose is guiding [Steve Rogers'] voyage of self-discovery by serving as a lame, quasi-romantic interest” to her her first scene in “Iron Man 2,” in which she's promptly objectified by Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark: “He then eyeballs her digital resume on his computer, including a modeling photo of her in a lace bra and panties, before marveling (sorry) at her ability to kick Happy”s ass. He turns to his secretary/lover Pepper Potts and proclaims, 'I want one.'”
Stern's piece is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online backlash against Whedon's portrayal of the character, with some even blaming “a 'Tea Party' equivalent of progressivism/liberalism” (Patton Oswalt's words) for driving the filmmaker off Twitter. A sampling of tweets directed at Whedon:
Joss Whedon, “a feminist” – makes a film that includes a rape joke, implies that infertile women are “monsters” and reduces a fully dimen-
– maisie (@cocklesandcream) May 4, 2015
– Mari (@distortionrock) May 3, 2015
– Annie Compton (@FailFleet) May 4, 2015
Thank goodness people are now realizing how misogynist and racist Joss Whedon is.
– Amber Ying (@diabola) May 4, 2015
@josswhedon i am gonna do everything in my power to destroy your career the way you destroyed natasha romanoffs character you piece of shit
– niki (@clintpietros) May 2, 2015
I love a healthy debate, don't you?