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"You're at war with the human race. Oh. Kay."
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May 05 2015

Black Widow's feminist heroism in Age of Ultron. Finally, a writer who actually gets it about Black Widow's character.

That was a good article.
"And ultimately thatís a great deal of what I want from my female action heroes: that they not be required to take off their femininity when they suit up for battle, and that they not be required to leave it hanging in the closet when they return from the wars. Certainly, there are some female characters for whom violence may be straightforward and have few other implications for their senses of self. But isnít the whole point of having women as well as men be superheroes and swordfighters that they bring a new range of perspectives to our experiences of these very old stories?"

Nailed it.
I love Alyssa Rosenberg.
Thankful for some sanity.
JUST what we needed. A voice of reason! "that they not be required to leave it hanging in the closet when they return from the wars" is a perfect and succinct statement to combat all the negativity towards Widow and Joss. There's a perception that showing emotion or "feminine qualities" makes her weaker...which is exactly the sexist view so many of these critics are saying they're fighting for! Contradictions abound!
What Ms Rosenberg said. Maybe she's related to Willow, they are both very smart.
I should probably see the movie first before commenting or reading too many articles, but this one seems like a pretty fair argument for Black Widow. I'm surprised Alyssa didn't focus more on Buffy as a character, as Buffy embodies all of the qualities of a feminine hero the writer is arguing for. She's strong, but she clearly is still a woman at the end of the day with needs that are easy to relate to. Not all female characters portrayed in this genre need to be emotionally closed off, Terminator-types.
A wonderful article. :)
Yes, wonderful article, and very welcome. Thank you to the author.
I agree with this. It's been a bit strange that Whedon seems to be getting mostly positive feedback for making Hawkeye, in his words, "normcore"--just a dad with two kids and a third on the way--and yet he's gotten so much shit for exploring whether or not Natasha would also like that in her life. I agree that the use of the word "monster" was indelicate as it so closely followed her talking about not being able to have kids, even though I don't think that was the intention, but I certainly don't see it as being worth telling an ostensibly sweet and kind man to go kill himself.
I needed this article so badly! #TeamJoss
I agree 100% with this article. I understand and sympathize with those who had a different reading of the film, but I find myself feeling relieved to read something that captures my own feelings during all this ugliness.
Wow, this article spells out everything I was struggling to put together about Natasha. I need to see the movie again. Thank you for sharing this, jettamesis.

And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing "Hey, big guy. Sun's gettin' real low" as a randomly-picked Whedonesque quote. :)
This makes me feel better about the state of the world.
I really needed that.

Joss Whedon has made work that's helped me through a lot of hard times, and reading such unkind stuff about him made me sad and angry.

Wherever he is... I'd just want to say thank you. :)
I agree you, streetartist, I got legitimately sad reading all those tweets this morning. Gathered altogether like that... it's just stomach-churning. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of that. Also makes me understand the gravity of online bullying. So glad I didn't have to grow up with that, too. Getting bullied was shitty enough when it was just getting beat up at the bus stop.
Yeah, that puts things beautifully. I especially liked her point about the subversiveness of the way the Black Widow/Hawkeye relationship got to play out--because it would have been so easily straightforward to play that into a romance, either in a "we were lovers once, and there's unresolved sexual tension" kind of way or a "we can't keep fighting this thing, it's bigger than both of us" kind of way.

What's nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating to hear is people suggesting that the film or that Joss is somehow suggesting that she's a "monster" because she can't have babies. The film is pretty damn clear that she's a hero, and that we're meant to cheer for her and hope for all things good for her. We're also meant to understand that she, as someone with a really horribly fucked-up past, worries about being a "monster" and that her infertility is both a legacy of that fucked-up past and therefore something that she frames as symbolic of her "inhuman" or "outcast" status. This strikes me as psychologically not just plausible but almost inevitable (that the person who frets about having been turned into a killing machine would read their forced sterilization as symbolic of that process). But the notion that the film is suggesting we're supposed to agree with that assessment--as opposed to seeing it as evidence of precisely the kind of damage done to her by her upbringing--is just laughably bad reading.
What Yoink said. :)
Totally agree Yoink. The staggering failure of people to understand the nuance of Black Widow's character as depicted in both Avengers films (and Captain America 2) is amazing. She's a character tormented by her past who sometimes falls into self-loathing. Yet she still comes out swinging, every time. She's got no quit, as they say, and she clearly is a loving (and loved) person. Isn't that the sort of multifaceted characterization we seek in all our heroes, regardless of gender?
Great article! It seems like lots of the criticisms are based on the facts of what was included in the film, disregarding the exact treatment of those facts. It reminds me a little of some of the early judgements of Dollhouse based on surface readings of the premise. It's possible that the sterilization discussion was simply too big an issue forced into too small a scene. If people see it in the middle of a blockbuster which they weren't planning to read deeply into, it's understandable why they might assume it's just another film giving a female character a brutal backstory as a shock tactic. (Which of course doesn't justify tweeting hate messages to Joss in response.)

I have to say, the hateful response to Black Widow in this film is baffling to me because I think of myself as someone quite sensitive to issues of representation and portrayals of female characters. I'm normally the one complaining to my friends! And I loved Black Widow in AoU. I didn't have a problem with this film (beyond being disappointed that the female avenger was the one who got locked in a cage).
I find the internet as a whole very baffling this week.
Yes yes @yoink - well said!
So as I was sitting fiddling with Legos I figured out what's been really grating on me about this. It's not the critism, opinions are always going to vary and people will always interpret things differently. It's the idea running through a few of the nastier ones that Joss did this on purpose because he actually secretly hates women and thus his him finally slipping up and revealing his evil master plan, or something similar. There's a small group of people that seem to have been waiting for something like this so they jump up and shout "AHA! See?! Joss hates the women!", and it both angers me and saddens me at the same time. Sorry, had to get that off my chest.
The Internet just seems to bring out the worst in people whose parents did not adequately teach them the rudiments of manners, politeness and courtesy. Joss was an easy target whose enormous success made these people resentful and envious.
Yeah, looking at all those tweets was terrible. Tumblr is just as bad. It was nice to see people like Jewel Staite and Mark Ruffalo come to his defense. The idea that Joss secretly hates women is baffling to me.

Is there any chance that Twitter will be able to track down some of the people who threatened him and his family? At the very least, I hope Twitter deletes their accounts. Cyber-bullying shouldn't be tolerated and a lot of the tweets were threats to his life.
I doubt twitter can do much, or will.
These haters are projecting their prejudices and worst qualities onto Joss. They look at his work and see what they want to see, and that's all there is to it as far as they are concerned.
... It's the idea running through a few of the nastier ones that Joss did this on purpose because he actually secretly hates women and thus his him finally slipping up and revealing his evil master plan, or something similar. There's a small group of people that seem to have been waiting for something like this so they jump up and shout "AHA! See?! Joss hates the women!", and it both angers me and saddens me at the same time. Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

@Grack21 - I feel EXACTLY the same way.
That's disheartening.

I wasn't completely satisfied with how Natasha was portrayed (my issues come down to the pacing, dense storytelling and choppy editing), but it sounds like a lot of it was Marvel's fault. From the interview he gave to Empire Magazine, it sounds like he was forced to change a lot of his ideas. I really hope they have a director's cut. Or at least deleted scenes.
I read somewhere that I can remember, so grain of salt, that they had to change a few things due to SJ's pregnancy.
SPOILERS I watched it a second time, and the editing did not bother me as much as the first time I saw it. It confirmed my impression that the people excoriating Joss simply failed at the most basic level to understand the scene between Bruce and Natasha in the farmhouse. I thought that the weakest part of the film was still the cave sequence with Thor and Selwig; it was still difficult to figure out exactly what Thor saw in his hallucination that made him decide to allow Vision to come to life and keep the Mindstone.

[ edited by jettamesis on 2015-05-06 02:57 ]

[ edited by jettamesis on 2015-05-06 03:02 ]

[ edited by jettamesis on 2015-05-06 03:22 ]
Yep, Thor's vision was confusing. Joss said it was supposed to be longer and he wasn't happy with the way it turned out.

As for Natasha's scenes, Joss' interview with EM states that he had filmed that scene between Banner and Romanoff at Barton's house to be longer (and I'm betting it wouldn't have caused confusion about sterilization). Also, Bruce was supposed to tell Nat that he wasn't interested in a romantic relationship with her, but Marvel executives told him that that scene should happen at the end of the movie. Joss said that caused problems because SJ had to re-shoot those scenes later, and the scenes where Nat kisses Banner and shoves him into the well had to be done separately. It's annoying because if you look at some of the first AoU trailers, Natasha is leaving what appears to be her jail cell with two large guns (making me believe she didn't need Banner to rescue her from a cell). IMHO, it sounds like Marvel messed with Joss' vision, and a lot of the complaints about Natasha's portrayal (not including shipping wars) could have been a non-issue if they stuck with Joss' plan.
@jettamesis, I agree that the Thor stuff really doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the film. Joss says that plot was the hardest hit by editing and some hard fought battles with Marvel. To be honest though...I"m not sure MORE of that would have done the movie any favors. Sure, I'd have better understood what Thor was doing, but that whole segment just seems to stray a bit far from the rest of the movie. I am certainly still looking forward to seeing the deleted scenes though, perhaps I'll feel differently then.
Do you have a link to that interview, hpgwbtvs?
Simon posted it to this site. It's under May 4, titled "Joss Whedon on the big moments in Avengers: Age of Ultron." There is a link to listen to the podcast or read the transcript.

[ edited by hpgwbtvs on 2015-05-06 03:33 ]
The Thor subplot was meant to eventually vindicate Tony Stark's decision to continue trying to create an android that would protect Earth from future alien invasions and allow the Avengers to retire and live full lives. I got the strong impression that Thanos was also responsible for Ultron coming to life in order to get Loki's staff back. Most things get better understood upon a second viewing. I look forward to hopefully the extended director's cut on Blu Ray with subtitles to further catch all the things I missed.
Can I just say that I love whedonesque fans. It's so nice to see thoughtful, kind discussion on the internet. And of course shared love for Joss
Yes the direct link to the interview and podcast can be found here.
"Yet she still comes out swinging, every time. She's got no quit, as they say" - I think that this was one of my slight issues... she did keep talking about running away, and that was kind of a bummer.

This article was great, and it's really sad that it seems for every one like it, there's two more that go the other way. I do think she wasn't as great in this one as in the others, but not for all the reasons most people are taking issue with, and that does bum me out a little bit. But how does that suddenly make her terrible? So she was slightly less great than usual... she was still pretty great! And did everyone that is saying Joss does a terrible job with Widow suddenly forget how amazing she was in Avengers? That was Joss too... oi, I just don't understand things.

And I read the article that this one referenced; the "open letter" one with this: "Did we really need Natasha to have a mini-breakdown over the fact that she canít have children? Havenít we gotten to a point where the one lonely female superhero in our current landscape can just pursue the business of avenging without having to bemoan not being a mother?"... Wow, really? Bruce can be upset over not being able to have kids, but Natasha can't? (Though she apparently didn't see it as Bruce being upset about it...Not to mention that she was upset about a lot more than just that) And mini-breakdown? What film was she watching? She was having a discussion, one tinged with sadness... very understandable sadness... I just... I don't get it.

ETA: a conclusion... It seems like a lot of people who are complaining about reduction are being quite reductive themselves.

[ edited by DreamRose311 on 2015-05-06 17:36 ]
I knew there was a scene in the pool that Joss didn't create, but when I saw it I got why it was there, and what it was about, and why it would relate to future films.
I'm assuming they did more to Natasha's parts than make her infertile, if they didn't want it interfering with her assassinating. I'll say no more at the risk of being indelicate.

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