Just in case you haven’t noticed, Avengers: Age of Ultron writer and director Joss Whedon is no longer on Twitter. The notable departure prompted many, like fellow Marvel colleague James Gunn, to come out in support of Whedon against ravenous Twitter trolls (a) angry with the new film’s depiction of Black Widow, (b) disappointed in the severe transgressions regarding comic-book canon, (c) suffering from Tourette syndrome, or (d) all of the above and more.
Whedon actually left for personal reasons, but the Internet backlash against Marvel’s main man has been very real for the past week. So when the Hulk himself (Mark Ruffalo) was asked about it during his Reddit AMA, he wrote Whedon a spirited defense:
So I know Joss really well. I know what his values are. And I think it’s sad, because in a lot of ways, there haven’t been as many champions in this universe as Joss is and will continue to be. And I know it hurts him. I know it’s heavy on him. And the guy’s one of the sweetest, best guys, and I know him – as far as any man can be a champion for women, he is that.
However, he didn’t just express concerns for his former boss’s Internet-based well-being. Ruffalo began his response with an argument for Black Widow’s depiction in the film, as well as an explanation for the negative response:
I think it’s sad. Because I know how Joss feels about women, and I know that he’s made it a point to create strong female characters. I think part of the problem is that people are frustrated that they want to see more women, doing more things, in superhero movies, and because we don’t have as many women as we should yet, they’re very, very sensitive to every single storyline that comes up right now. But I think what’s beautiful about what Joss did with Black Widow – I don’t think he makes her any weaker, he just brings this idea of love to a superhero, and I think that’s beautiful.
If anything, Black Widow is much stronger than Banner. She protects him. She does her job, and basically they begin to have a relationship as friends, and I think it’s a misplaced anger. I think that what people might really be upset about is the fact that we need more superhuman women. The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to.
Sure, Ruffalo is a privileged white male writing about another privileged white male’s creative conception of a fictional female character (albeit, a white privileged one). On top of that, I’m a privileged white male writing about Ruffalo’s Reddit AMA. (I just used “privileged,” “white,” and “male” 11 times in two sentences. Beat that!)
Yet this doesn’t detract from Ruffalo’s argument for why Black Widow is a great character, especially when interpreted by Whedon’s writing and direction, and Scarlett Johansson’s acting. She’s complex, has drives and motives that aren’t carbon copies of the boys’, and she proceeds along a developed story arc. And Ruffalo (and Whedon) would know this, since they (unlike you, me and practically everyone else who’s complaining) actually worked on the project with Johansson.