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September 04 2013

An open letter to Joss Whedon on female superheroes. Celeste Mora describes ladies she'd like to see in future Marvel films/Avengers 3.

Joss had to convince Marvel to allow Black Widow in the mix in the first place! They wanted all male heroes alone. And he is increasing the number of women in the sequel. How absurd to argue that Black Widow was an unfeminist character. Her looking hot in spandex aided her deception; intel acquisition is VITAL to the Avengers' success. Bad guys underestimate her, and she uses her sexuality and acting to trick them into revealing key information. And she protected Hawkeye because she was loyal. And she required more courage than most because she was only mortal, and we see her overcome this fear when facing certain death through the Hulk. And she CLOSES THE PORTAL.

Need I go on? Hotness doesn't negate agency.

[ edited by WhatsAStevedore on 2013-09-04 18:23 ]
I very much agree with the overall letter, but I still very much feel that Black Widow's role in Avengers was undervalued by critics. It seems to conform to the narrative/expectations leading up to the film while ignoring the many things she did in the film that weren't doting over Hawkeye and wearing spandex.

[ edited by sumogrip on 2013-09-04 18:18 ]
I disagree with one thing there - X-Men had terrible female characters (in the films, that is).

Jean was interesting when she became Dark Phoenix, so maybe that works, but for the most-part she was a prize between Wolvie & Cyclops. Rogue wasn't really a woman in X1 (more a child) and then got turned into an afterthought in X3 after some good character beats in X2. Shadowcat was appalling in X3, seemingly only there to create bland friction between Iceman and Rogue. A huge waste of a great character and actress (Ellen Page).

Only Storm & Mystique can take any credit for being "interesting" characters. And they were mostly sidelined when a flashier male character popped up.

Not that I hate X-Men. Not really. But it could have been so much more.....
I have noticed a very strong feminist following for Black Widow on Tumblr. She's gets a lot of appreciation and acclaim for her actions in The Avengers.

And open letters to Joss? They rank slightly above "Hey Joss, do this" articles in my estimation and below those petitions to him on
"I wondered why you could not include another (or a better) female character." She apparently doesn't realize that Joss did not have complete carte blanche to write whatever he wanted? He came into the franchise after the cast list for this movie was already pretty much finalized: it was hard enough to balance all the already-existent characters in the movie without creating more. The ONLY new character with more than one line in the movie (Maria Hill) was a woman: and I notice she doesn't get mentioned in this article at all. Black Widow DOES, in fact, do substantially more than 'worry about Hawkeye and look hot in black spandex': she is half of the most dramatic scene in the movie when she interrogates Loki; she convinces Banner to join the team; she is the Avenger who shuts down the tesseract in the final moment while Hulk, Hawkeye, Cap, and Thor are all off-screen. Whedon wrote her almost equal plot time with Stark, a character with an established and highly successful franchise who probably half the audience was coming specifically to see. As far as the comparison to the X-men movies, perhaps she does not realize that those movies were done by Fox, not Disney/Marvel? If she wanted to criticize Marvel for reviving a male-centric franchise, that would at least be logical, not attacking Joss for taking the franchise and doing something fabulous with it. This article reads like someone who went to the movie with preconceived prejudice and little information, and so saw only what she expected to see.
I had trouble getting myself to continue to read this article after the opening slam on Black Widow. I found myself wondering if the writer even watched AVENGERS, because it was obviously (to me) a very biased/unfair view of that character.

Of course it is fair to say that Black Widow, like Maria Hill, are not actually 'Superheroes' since they lack any actual super powers. They are brilliant competent and successful women.... but I get the desire for some of the female superheroes to make an appearance (particularly when they would be able to benefit from a script by Joss).

I really agree w/BeSound, I was very disappointed with the female characters in the X-men movies. Even Emma Frost felt like window dressing instead of the incredible bad ass she should be.
And yes, I absolutely agree on the women in X-men: while there were lots of storylines about Jean/Phoenix, they never focused on her as a person, just a plot device: we never get any character-advancing reason for her going dark, just that she's pushed around by forces she can't control... Rogue and Kitty are trivialized and we spend way too much time focusing on their romantic lives, we never focus on Storm as a character until (so predictable!) she starts a romance, etc. I'd rather have two well-written female characters than half a dozen who exemplify every bad stereotype of women in action movies.
I dont think she saw the movie i saw. In the movie i saw, she faced Banner/Hulk while Coulson tried the easier big guy, saved Hawkeye, kicked ass the whole movie on her own, tricked Loki the lord of lies, and not only was the one who actually thought about trying to close the portal instead of fighting a trillion alioens till they died, but she actually managed to close it beacuse of it, and save the day.

Now, thats a lot more than just lookin hot and worring about Hawkeye.

The whole undedevolped, i also disagree. She was ambiguos, but quite rich as a character.

Also Maria Hill, while not being a superhero, kicked her own number of asses during the whole thing and was a strong character.

But as you people say already, Joss was given, he did not choose them, a number of characters and a villain in a movie where he had to give each of this actors/characters enough time to shine, and he had allmost to sacrifice a big portion of one of them, Hawkeye, to make it... He wasnt gonna add more problems in his plate by adding even MORE characters, masculine or femenine ones.
I had the same feeling as you, embers.

But I also think there is absolutely nothing about the entertainment industry that claims to be anything but wish fulfillment for fans. Because I know/read too much, I know that marketing, ROI, the perceptions of studio execs and focus group results perpetuate conservatism on giving female characters more screen time, and that Joss himself may rail against this or does what he can within a system.

I'm reminded of what Joss says about remaining committed to the story. More than anything, Joss is simply the most visible part of a system that simply isn't doing what we want them to - to tell stories reflecting the experiences and desires of women. Undersetanding it as coming from a place of expressing pure desire as a consumer, and less of a personal address, I was a lot more sympthetic to it. (And frankly, the author may also have been playing the politics of Pageviews.)
The trick isn't getting more female heroes into the Avengers.

The trick is getting at least one stand-alone movie franchise with a female hero. Avengers was male-weighted due to IM, Cap, Thor, and Hulk being the established characters in other movies.
This open letter was fairly obnoxious and presumptuous.

"...allow me to say that if a casual nerd like myself can easily assemble a list of fierce and multifaceted female Avengers, you could probably add a few more..."

She suggests that Joss hasn't even considered any other characters. And she completely lost me when she suggested Black Widow's relationship with Hawkeye was anything more than platonic.
I haven't taken the time to read the article, but I agree that she seems to have missed most of what Black Widow did in the film. And she seems unaware that Joss didn't get to pick any female character from the entire history of Marvel for that film.

But--did she see how Captain America looked in spandex? Or those baggy warmups he wore in the gym? Hubba hubba....

[ edited by not_Bridget on 2013-09-04 19:31 ]
Darkness, you says "I dont think she saw the movie i saw." I agree; she saw the movie she saw. And read it the way she read it. And her reading is every bit as viable as yours. That she views Black Widow as she does is hers to do. And for all that say she did not realize Joss did not get to pick the characters, that is not her point. Her point is that there are other, stronger women that could be picked, and she offers a few. And for those who suggest she did not really see the movie at all, c'mon. She's biased because she does not agree with your own biases?

There is much here with which one can agree or not, but so much is about her the writer more so than the actual sentiments she expresses. I don't even agree with her, but it's her argument to make. Myself, Avengers is less interesting to me than Runaways would be- and there you have several strong women (or girls, as the case may be- go Molly!). That's the story I'd like to see.
The word I associate most strongly with Black Widow in The Avengers is subversive. She's got truckloads of strength, skill, and intelligence. She was mostly eye candy in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers didn't shy away from capitalizing on that less than empowering first impression. I don't think the movie gets near enough credit for rebuilding her character's Marvel movie presence entirely. I'm waiting with some anxiety to see how she is portrayed in the Captain America movie. That will tell how complete the bait and switch was. I expect with Joss having input in the other films that it should hold. She's entirely misleading, like a blonde girl in a horror movie who scares the monsters.
Dana, im afraid you are taking a bit of rethoric and reading it too literaly... Actually, more than a bit.

Also, Dana... i dont agre with your reading of the letter. Its an open letter to Joss Whedon. She states, quite clearly, that she wonders why "YOU", aka Joss Whedon, did not pick another stronger superhero woman. Well, we answered that question. And, as it is a veiled form of criticism, we pointed out that that particular criticism should not be pointod towards JOss, as its not his responsability. Not entirely, at least.

She remarks also at the end that she hopes he will choose "And this time, maybe you could pick one that has an origin story and non-traditional female superhero body". Again , she needs to be reminded that its not necesarily his choosing at all, at least not the first time.

She is not just ponting out more interesting female characters out there; she is actually blaming Joss for something she did not like in the movie.

We are argumenting that that is absurd, given the circunstances.

And as for her right to interpret the movie as she wants... Sure. The same right i have to say that she is wrong and the same right i have pointing it out.

If all opinions are equally viable, then they all are... Not just the nice ones.

Besides, she is factually wrong. If she had said, i dont know... "She was basically there to worry about Hawkeye and look good, and while she did some action and she had some important plot defining moments, she never felt real and it was all very forced and contrived, as she was very shallow as a character and never felt fully realized".

That would be acceptable. Its an interpretation of the text, i dont agree with it, but hey, its her reading of the movie. But no. She does not say that. She says that "whose sole responsibilities were to worry about Hawkeye and look hot in black spandex" with is false, untrue and wrong.

She did trick Locki. She did decide that they should try to close the portal, and actually did. She did save Hawkkeye. She did fight hard many enemies during the movie. She did decide for herself taht she should fight a war usntead of playing the spy. She was one of the avengers killing chitayry.

Now you can read that the way you want; you can interpret those facts anyway you choose. But they are facts. Its happens on the screen in fron of you. To say "whose sole responsibilities were to worry about Hawkeye and look hot in black spandex" is not an interpretation: its WRONG.

And its quite easy to fix: "whose sole responsibilities were to worry about Hawkeye and look hot in black spandex while she kicks ass and solves problems."

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-09-04 21:25 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-09-04 21:26 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-09-04 21:59 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-09-04 22:02 ]
The only origin story I recall for Black Widow is a Cold War thing which is now obsolescent, methinks.
Darkness: Yes.

My personal feeling was that, after Banner/Hulk, Black Widow was the next best part of the movie. I couldn't disagree more with the author of this piece.

[ edited by steverogers on 2013-09-04 23:36 ]
Actually, Tony Stark, minus his Iron Man suit, is far less physically powerful than Black Widow, and for all his scientific genius, he's a far less effective interrogator.
At the end of the day, it's another "as a fan, I know better". Which is not often the case, I've noticed.
Dear Santa Claus,

I demand you give gifts.

Excellent point, Shapenew! That is the best come back to Black Widow complaints I've heard.
...Except Tony Stark is actually a great interrogator - he "interrogates" the heck out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. computer system to find out what the organization's true motives are.
Technically speaking, that was Jarvis...
...which (who?) was programmed by Tony...
But so was 'Dummy', so how much does that really say? ;)
You've got me there... :-)

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