Joss Whedon On The Erasure Of Female Superheroes And ‘The Avengers 2’

A couple of you sent met Joss Whedon’s big interview with The Daily Beast, in particular this paragraph, in which Whedon, who made his name with a supernaturally powerful female character, and has dedicated this phase of his career to a genre where women are too often limited to playing girlfriends, victims, or support staff, talks about the consistent marginalization of superheroines:

Toymakers will tell you they won’t sell enough, and movie people will point to the two terrible superheroine movies that were made and say, “You see? It can’t be done.” It’s stupid, and I’m hoping The Hunger Games will lead to a paradigm shift. It’s frustrating to me that I don’t see anybody developing one of these movies. It actually pisses me off. My daughter watched The Avengers and was like, “My favorite characters were the Black Widow and Maria Hill,” and I thought, “Yeah, of course they were.” I read a beautiful thing Junot Diaz wrote: “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

I’ve been glad to hear about Whedon’s plans to add Scarlet Witch to the team in The Avengers 2, making her the first woman with superpowers in Marvel’s franchise. And I’d love to see him make a movie that’s more broadly gender-conscious in the way The Avengers was in small moments, like when Bruce Banner, having become the Hulk, move to backhand Black Widow, or when Loki tried to rile her up with anatomical insults. What will it mean to the male Avengers, including the rather old-fashioned Captain America, to have a teammate who isn’t just a competent but human fighter, but as powerful as they are, and powerful in ways that defy their relatively scientific understanding of their powers much in the way Thor’s existence does? What will it mean for Black Widow and Maria Hill to be working with another woman, and one who is significantly more physically powerful than they are? Will they be friends, or rivals? How will Scarlet Witch’s presence change the dynamics between the heroes themselves and S.H.I.E.L.D.? Making a feminist super-hero movie, as Whedon well understands, isn’t just about throwing a woman in there and pretending that her powers and expected gender roles interact in the same way they do for men, whether it’s in their own heads, or the way other people react to them.