May 7, 2015
This has been one hell of a week for bystanders. Correct me if I’m wrong (I’m not), but few things in the world are more entertaining than avidly following a fight you have zero stake in. Whether it was the dramatically heartbreaking Louis vs. Zayn, or the wildly underwhelming MayPac, I’m betting at some point this week you were glued to your phone frantically refreshing Twitter. If you’re above such petty activities than I guess I really have nothing more to say to you. Thanks for checking in.
Beyond the boy banders and wife beaters, there is one showdown that has yet to be resolved and it’s also one that you probably DGAF about. Joss Whedon vs. Twitter, or more accurately Joss Whedon vs. fans, has been raging for a couple days now with no real end in sight. Odds are you have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about, because betches and die hard Marvel fans aren’t two audiences that intersect often (disclaimer: I could be wrong for the one Marvel betch I’ve already managed to piss off). So, for those of you who aren’t caught up, here are the details of what’s gone down so far.
On May 1st, while you were busy prematurely celebrating Cinco de Mayo by consuming more tequila than your body has been capable of withstanding since, well, last year’s cinco, Avengers: Age of Ultron came out. Maybe you haven’t seen it yet because ugh, superhero movies, but it’s also 141 minutes of Chris Hemsworth/Evans in skintight armor, so like you can probably suffer through it. Anways, Joss Whedon is the writer and director of Age of Ultron, as well as the first Avengers movie and childhood gem Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which means he’s rich as fuck and you would think that things like opinions of Twitter fans wouldn’t phase him. You would be wrong.
Despite the record-breaking box office success ($84.5 million opening day in the US, second only to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the film, and more specifically Joss Whedon’s portrayal of Scarlett Johansson’s character, Black Widow. The fan base is divided into two major groups: one that thinks that Whedon wrote a watered down and glaringly sexist role for Black Widow, and one that thinks the first group is full of a bunch of militant feminists hell bent on ruining the Marvel-verse for the rest of the "true fans.” Needless to say, things have been a little tense.
After receiving a couple death threats and more hate than Beliebers can generate on a good day, Joss deleted his Twitter. Dramatic? Maybe. It’s not like deleting your Twitter makes you impervious to criticism; hate mail existed before the Internet and will probably exist long after, but whatever. Whedon deleted his Twitter and a lot of people were not happy about it. Patton Oswalt, for example, decided to voice his opinion and then bring politics into it, because a surefire way to diffuse an already shitty situation is to start drawing comparisons to political groups. He later backtracked and even apologized, which is so rare for Twitter activists that I actually don’t have a joke prepared. Touché, Patton.
Other supporters of Whedon came forward, one of which was Mark Ruffalo, who plays Hulk in the Avenger movies, and is part of the relationship that started all this hootenanny. Angry fans argue that giving Black Widow a seemingly out-of-the-blue love interest in the Hulk reduces her formerly badass character into an archetypal damsel in distress. Ruffalo disagrees. Yesterday, presumably after finding out that word on the street was that social justice warriors had bullied him off of Twitter, Whedon came out and called horseshit. Literally. He called Buzzfeed and said, “this is horseshit,” followed by a lengthy explanation of his departure. It’s super fucking long, but worth reading if you’re invested in this issue.
Basically, Whedon said he’s starting to write again and Twitter was too distracting to his process. I mean, valid I guess. But kind of like that girl in college who deactivates all her social media during finals week. This seems like an aggressive approach that someone only takes so they can sanctimoniously tell people that they did it. Whedon had to know what deleting his Twitter in the middle of a fan war would look like, especially when he leaves it on this note.
The reason this is such a big deal, other than everything I’ve already stated, is that Whedon is a self-proclaimed feminist. When asked why he kept insisting on writing strong female characters (for real, how many fedoras was the interviewer wearing), he responded, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” He took the stereotypical dumb blonde with an even dumber name, Buffy Summers, and turned her into a strong, complex, vampire killing, gender role defying bad ass that we all wanted to be when we grew up (but mostly because she had sex with hot vampires).
Although once hailed as a beacon for women in entertainment, some now argue that while his 90s femme fatale feminism was a great foot in the door, it has failed to evolve to the needs of 2015. Giving fans the Black Widow they saw in Age of Ultron would be like offering a woman today the right to vote: once a monumental stride, but now nothing more than an insulting empty gesture. That being said, this level of scrutiny isn’t anything new for Whedon. In his Buzzfeed interview he says that he’s been attacked by “militant feminists” ever since he joined Twitter. Calling your criticizers "militant" probably isn’t the most delicate way to handle the situation, but hey, he deleted his Twitter so what can they do?
Whether or not you agree with him, Whedon makes a few great points. The first being that there will always be an extremist outlier that detracts from any social movement, but those few people do not negate the cause. While their actions may harm the image of the movement, they do not make everyone else’s argument any less legitimate. Whether or not this is an example of that is really up to you and your interpretation of the character.
His second point, and the one he should probably stick to if he ever wants to safely rejoin the ranks of Twitter, is this: “For someone like me to even argue about feminism – it’s not a huge win. Because ultimately I’m just a rich, straight, white guy. You don’t really change people’s minds through a tweet.” Moral of the story: when in doubt, stay in your lane.
So, I guess what it boils down to is that, with all this in mind, you can go see Age of Ultron and make a decision for yourself. Or you could spend the entire two hours and twenty-one minutes imagining what it would be like to repeatedly run your hands through Thor’s luscious hair. I don’t think either one would be a waste of your time.