In Defense of Joss Whedon

cropped-cropped-img_1543.jpgBriefly, I was sad to see Joss Whedon being accused of being anti-feminism.  I mean, the guy is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  If you were a young person in the late 90’s/early 00’s you were glued to that show.  Evil hideous vampires running in terror at the mere mention of “The Slayer.”  Willow and Tara – one of the first open lesbian relationships I remember seeing on television.  Faith the Vampire Slayer who went rogue.  Willow goes from lowly nerd to witch of unstoppable power.

Meanwhile, if you saw the latest Avengers and thought that Black Widow came across as weak then I don’t know.  I don’t think we saw the same movie.

You might have noticed that I’m a nerd.  SPOILER –  Due to said nerdyness, I cheered for the scene where Black Widow, referring to Bruce Banner, says “He’s kind of dorky.  Chicks dig it.”

In my head, there was a voice that said, “No, no they really don’t but thank you for saying that, Black Widow.  It made my day.”

If there had been some kind of effort in the film to portray Black Widow as some kind of brainless bimbo, wouldn’t she have gone for Thor’s muscles or Tony Stark’s money?  No, she went for the nerdiest member of the team.  The guy with the brain.

In reality, the nerd never gets the girl.  Capt. America, Thor, and Iron Man can walk out the front door and score a dozen women before they hit the front porch, but in his human form, Bruce Banner is a super geek.  It was nice to see a geek get the girl.

What’s the argument that Black Widow came across as weak?  Strong women can’t fall in love?  They can’t be comforting?  Hulks need love too you know.

SPOILER – The main complaint centers around a scene where Banner tells Black Widow he can’t be with her because he’s a “monster” and he can’t have children.  (I’m not actually sure why he can’t have children.  Is there a scientific reason as in the gamma radiation fried his junk or just the general safety concern that if he had a kid the kid might misbehave, piss Bruce off and he’ll Hulk out?  But I digress)

Black Widow shares that she can’t have children either because of a forced sterilization procedure she underwent during assassin training (no kids=no ties that can be exploited).  She then says something like “you’re not the only monster on the team.”

Thus the fracas is over the idea that a woman who can’t give birth is somehow a “monster” but I don’t think that was what Whedon was trying to say at all.

I mean, from a writing perspective, maybe that point could have been clarified, but in general I think she was referencing her overall past as a ruthless killer and not necessarily the sterilization.

Or, maybe she was referring to it.  Maybe she does feel down on herself because of it.  Sometimes it is possible for a character to be too harsh on him or herself.  Perhaps Black Widow needs to realize all she has to offer the world as a hero who’s now fighting on the side of good.

SPOILER – Times she came across as strong in the film:

  • That whole driving the motorcycle through the city chase scene
  • Various scenes where she fights with the men and holds her own
  • Towards the end, where, when faced with “going down with the ship” i.e. refusing to leave the “air island” while there were still people in danger on it, she nonchalantly says, “There’s worse ways to go.”  That’s a sign of leadership right there.

On top of that, you have the new character, Scarlett Witch, who forms a team with her brother, Quicksilver and is arguably the stronger/more powerful of the duo.

I don’t know.  I know it’s only a movie and I know feminism and women’s rights are important but I’m not sure I can think of anyone who’s done more to promote female characters in comic book style movies and TV than Joss Whedon.

What say you, 3.5 readers?

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5 thoughts on “In Defense of Joss Whedon

  1. coffeelant says:

    I agree with your whole post. I didn’t see Black Widow as weak at all. She dealed with a lot of stuff and the fact that she can fight is great. I don’t think that there is a lot of that in other movies.

  2. I think the criticisms of Whedon are really uncharitable. Some people are trying a bit too hard to see this in the worst light possible. I think you’re right, maybe the point could have been clarified a bit better, and that’s a valid criticism. But these personal attacks are harsh and, in context, seem completely ridiculous when you consider Whedon’s background.

    Your post was very refreshing, glad I stumbled across it.

    • Maybe I’m just old but Buffy was an underdog show that most people didn’t think was going to last a season. He really pushed for it.

      • I didn’t watch Buffy, but just based on what you said it sounds like it was pretty progressive. A female main character in a genre show? A lesbian relationship? I can’t think of a single relationship between lesbians that I’ve seen on television…maybe I’m just blanking, but that does feel like a really rare thing. So yeah, Buffy absolutely reflects well on Whedon.

  3. I don’t know Black Widow or Buffy but IRL sometimes the nerd gets the girl. Heck sometimes the nerd IS the girl. Takes one to know one.

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