I Stand with Joss

By Donna A Leahey


Writer/director Joss Whedon Feminist Ally in good standing

Writer/director Joss Whedon Feminist Ally in good standing

Joss Whedon gets to keep his feminist card

I finally saw Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Wow, was that a good time!

Joss Whedon remains my favorite writer of genre films and television, and, yes, his treatment of female characters is one of the main reasons why. Anyone can write witty dialogue, not everyone can write well-crafted female characters.

However, he’s come under fire from some feminists for his treatment of Black Widow in this film, and it’s compounded by the attention being paid to marketing (#wheresnatasha) and to the lack of a Black Widow movie.

I’d heard talk of a romance turning her into a just a love interest.

I’d heard rumblings about a “reproductive health” storyline that had some people upset and I worried about it. I didn’t want to see an accidental pregnancy plot which was pretty much all I could think of as a possibility.

Now I’ve seen the movie, I’ve seen the scenes in question. And I have this to say:


Black Widow is a badass, kickass woman with a rich and complex backstory.

BWThe romance storyline

How does this ruin Black Widow? Captain America had Peggy Carter, Thor has Jane, Tony Stark has Pepper, and Hawkeye has that whole surprise family. Were any of them made less of a hero because of that?

No. They weren’t.

The fact that Black Widow expressed interest in a man doesn’t suddenly make her not a fantastically complex and strong character.

The reproductive health backstory.

Why anyone would get upset about this confuses the hell out of me. Did someone not realize that under that very female shape existed female parts? Did someone think that the fact she mentioned she can’t have kids means she wishes she could be staying at home with kids instead of being a hero?

No, she’s mad because that choice was taken from her. And that’s as feminist an issue as there is. The fact that she was robbed of the choice of being a mother against her will and at a very young age? That’s something very worth being pissed about and it doesn’t weaken her as a character.

EDIT: I deliberately chose not to read a lot of the comments about this before writing this post. AFTER I wrote this post, I happened across an article on io9 that displayed a mutilated quote in which it appears Black Widow calls herself a monster because she can’t have children.

She didn’t.

She explained that the reason for the forced sterilization was so that she wouldn’t have distractions, priorities above her mission. That’s why she called herself a monster. Because she was trained to kill with nothing being more important than her mission.

The Damsel-in-distress storyline

The one thing I did take some exception to was Black Widow being captured by the bad guy and rescued by Bruce Banner. And if that had been the sum total of her contribution to the plot of the film, I’d have been furious.

But, no, she was taken captive after roaring through the city on a motorcycle, retrieving Cap’s shield, diving into the back of a semi-trailer being lifted into the air by friggin robots, freeing the cradle and dropping it into the cargo bay of a nearby plane.

While she was being held, she sought to help herself. She didn’t sit there and wail and plead for help, she constructed a way to communicate with her team to tell them where to find Ultron.

And then Bruce Banner showed up and freed her.

Oh, but that’s still not the end.

They needed to be alone. They needed to be safe for that conversation to happen. They couldn’t have had it in the middle of the street surrounded by murderous robots. They couldn’t have had it with their teammates nearby. They needed quiet and privacy for that particularly important conversation to take place.

And then she went back out and kicked ass.

No one can make everyone happy. But Joss Whedon has always written strong, funny, well-written women with hopes and dreams and flaws and fears. Characters. He writes characters.

Thank you, Joss Whedon!

I stand with Joss.


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