Where My Lady-Avengers At?!

If Joss Whedon, who's known for the success of his Action Girls, can't manage to put more than one nuanced, powerful female superhero into his movie, who the hell can?
Publish date:
May 6, 2012
avengers, comic book movies, superheros

Though I love Tony Stark, I’d like to forego the eyeliner goatee next time.

Like any good giant nerd with a compulsive case of the Tom Hiddleston crushes, I saw “The Avengers” this weekend with high hopes. And in lots of ways, the movie exceeded them.

Honestly, when you combine a ragtag bunch of misfits, lingering shots of Jeremy Renner’s ass, and genuinely funny rapport between the lead characters, it’s hard to go wrong. Of course, I’d hardly stepped in my front door before digging into the frillion cast and crew interviews that I’d been preemptively avoiding out of a fear of spoilers. Most of them were wonderful, but one with director Joss Whedon stood out.

In what’s a clearly (and hilariously) awkward interaction, the interviewer asks Whedon which Avengers he would have loved to put in the film.

Whedon responds: “For a while, we had some worries about Scarlett [Johansson]'s schedule, so we started talking about the Wasp and I sort of fell in love with the character. But ultimately it would have been just too much. I mean the movie's too much as it is. [Wry chuckle.]”

On the one hand, Joss is totally right: The movie already toes the line between a compelling ensemble film and some of the clunkier episodes of “Downton Abbey.” But why would it take the Black Widow dropping out to introduce a second ass-kicking lady-Avenger?

But who’s to say that the Wasp couldn’t have stood in for Jeremy Renner’s character Hawkeye or the Hulk? Neither of them was on the original Marvel Avengers team, and no one in the audience seemed to be clutching their heads in fear-rage.

But in the “Avengers,” female characters were few and far between. As far as I can tell, the “Avengers” production team seems to be suffering from Too Many Chicks (Oh Dear Jesus, No) syndrome: the fear that adding in too much estrogen will drive away the legion of male fans flocking to superhero movies.

I’ve never understood this. Do they think that the audience, when confronted with not one but two conventionally attractive women in very similar outfits, will rend their garments in a spectacle of indignant confusion?

“Too--many--hourglass--figures!” they’d weep. “Fans—cannot—handle!”

Cut us some slack, here. Marvel fans have happily rolled around in the Avengers universe for literal decades, regardless of the various writers’ inclusion of more than one female character. As far as I can tell, no catsuit-shaped sinkhole has yet opened to swallow us all.

And you know what? Another long-anticipated movie opened this year that featured scads of female characters all over the badass spectrum. And correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem to be doing all that poorly.

For what it’s worth, I was really, really impressed by Whedon’s treatment of Black Widow in the story. Sure, she still had the ability to incapacitate thugs only using her thighs, but she also displayed a kind of emotional nuance that was totally heartwrenching amidst all the manly peacocking from the rest of the boys on the team.

Whedon gave Black Widow the screen time necessary to transform her from the “tits n’ sass” persona she developed in “Iron Man 2,” and I thought the whole film benefited from it. I was impressed, that is, but not surprised.

It is Whedon, after all, who made a name for himself by challenging the perception that “Action Girls can’t love anyone but their own fists.” He did it in Buffy, he did it in Dollhouse and he did it, to what I think was the most impressive degree, in Firefly.

And, more notably, all of those series had more than one awesome female character. They weren’t “just one of the guys,” stuck in only to give the fangirls someone to cosplay at conventions.

In the inevitable “Avengers” sequel, I’d love to get a few more lady-vengers up on that screen. Or, heaven forbid, even get an origin story film about one of Marvel’s plethora of female superheroes. I mean, come on, they did it for Howard the Duck. They can do it for Black Widow.