Comic Books Make People Crazy
I love comic books. Actually, that’s not accurate. I love comic universes.
In all their moving, complex, WTFery…I love them. And I prefer Marvel above them all. I could go on about how they succeed in being deep and insightful without getting overly dark or serious. About how their teams work together in believable ways. But really, I just find them to be more fun. I have no other explanation.
As we’re all aware, Marvel has done a – well, marvelous job of constructing the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the uninitiated), from Iron Man to Guardians. I think the only slip up was Thor; I just found it boring (on the second watch). Avengers: Age of Ultron, is a fitting next step.
It’s not perfect, because no movie is. Especially one that has to make a metric tonne of cash just to cover the contracts to it’s major stars. But the criticism I’ve seen this week, leveled mostly at Joss Whedon, has been just terrible.
Though written with average skill, the ideas are just bad. I can’t even bring myself to use expressive language about it. It’s just bad.
Black Widow: Why we really can’t have nice things
First, people are complaining about the portrayal of the Black Widow, because some people are never happy about the way women are treated in comics. I know that sometimes it’s really bad. Whether it’s the McDonald’s toys that show the eventual heroine of Monsters vs. Aliens running away, or Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon becoming just another supportive girlfriend in the sequel – it happens. But this criticism is something else.
“Mind you, we are talking about a fictional character and fictional behavior, Conan, but if you slept with four of the six Avengers, no matter how much fun you had, you’d be a slut. Just saying. I’d be a slut. Just saying.”
How is it okay to say this about Black Widow — someone who, to be very clear, has not hooked up on screen in any of the movies — but no one’s going “Tony Stark? Yeah, he’s a total slut.” We actually have seen that on screen. As a thing that actually happened. He may have reformed and found his one and only — but Tony’s badass boast in the first Avengers movie is “Billionaire playboy philanthropist.” He gets “playboy” as an accolade, but the Black Widow is somehow a slut.
I have a two-part answer. First: This is just how life is. It’s a complex sociological question, it has to do with biology, and security, and the differing desires of men and women, and the evil patriarchy (that last one less than the first three, though). But this is life. Both men and women tend to look at promiscuous women as damaged, and promiscuous men as successful. A comic book movie and its secondary stars are not going to change that.
Second: Tony Stark is a slut. We all know that. There’s no reason to say anything about it, because it’s obvious. They can show him hooking up with various women on screen. Why? Because he’s a slut and we know it. And we know no one’s going to complain about the portrayal. He’s broken, and his transformation from that to the guy who’s committed to Pepper is a big part of the story.
But what would have happened if they had shown Black Widow hooking up with Tony, or Cap, or anyone else? The same garbage that happens when they introduce a genuine love interest. **SPOILERS BELOW**
She can’t just be the coolest aunt, or have made the valid choice that, as an assassin and spy, maybe kids are not in the cards for her. Or even the more radical choice that she just doesn’t want them. No, she can’t ever have babies, so her life is ruined. She is an incomplete woman. Of course, only Hawkeye has kids — although he has to have them on a secret farm.
Black Widow is barren and therefore dead inside. Poor, empty-nested Mommy Widow, who even loses her love interest and pseudo-baby in one fell swoop at the end of the movie. The Hulk vanishes, to have more solo adventures later. Meanwhile, Black Widow is what? Captain America’s number two in The Avengers: The New Class. Sigh.
Widow and Hulk are in love. And it’s wonderful! They’re damaged and strained and torn between their desires and responsibilities (hers to protect the world from threats and his to protect people from “the other guy”). This writer, though, believes that the fact that she’s been sterilized and plays a *gasp* feminine role in the group ruins the whole of her badassery throughout the series.
Let’s consider what this writer is telling girls: if you want to be tough/bad ass/strong, you can’t want kids. You can’t be feminine. You can’t be a caretaker. You can’t assist men – even when all of those men are super-powered and you’re not. And that being number two to fucking Captain America isn’t good enough. Please. Fortunately, there is reasonable thought displayed in the comments.
Like this… this is so hyperbolic. The film didn’t read this way to me at all. THIS is why we can’t have nice things.
And let’s not forget the complaining about her being captured by Ultron. Yes, there is a long history of super-powered heroines being captured and abused. It’s a trope, and not a good one. But Widow isn’t super-powered. And she ends up helping the Avengers do a job they couldn’t otherwise do precisely because she was captured. No one seemed to complain when Loki captured Hawkeye and Selvig in The Avengers. And no complaints about how Black Widow rescued both of them. But she spends 5 minutes in captivity and the world burns.
Mark Ruffalo has it right, though: