So we saw the new Avengers Age of Ultron movie in 22nd of April. I loved the movie and I love the Avengers and I actually love the whole Marvel cinematic universe too, but as a feminist I get really mixed feelings for loving this kind of boys’ club movies.
The Avengers still is a boys club whether you want it or not. We have great women’s moments there but great action is very men centered and there barely is any moments when women have a connection and share a conversation. The Bechdel Test laughs at this.
I want to believe that this boys’ club is cracking but it feels like that we are given something nice just so we wouldn’t complain about the big things. Let’s see what I thought about the female representation in The Avengers Age of Ultron.
1. Where was Pepper Potts?
I love Pepper and Gwyneth Paltrow does amazing job on portraying this extremely strong woman. From the very beginning when the gang arrives to The Avengers Tower the movie starts to scream that it’s lacking Pepper Potts and that it’s a waste of time to wait for her. She gets talked about, yes, but that sounds more like underlining the fact that she’s not there. Like “Of course she is here, but she is just busy at somewhere else and we just didn’t want to pay the money to get her in the movie, sorry…” Well, thank god her absence is a tool for another lady to point out the testosterone in the room.
Yes, Paltrow sitting this one out was rumored a long time ago. My question is why would they do that? I don’t find it as a good answer that she gets left out because the movie is going to introduce new characters as we know Pepper already. There were clearly parts that could have been for her but instead they decided to use other characters who get zero back story. Not passing for me! Is it that there is no space for a woman unless she is someone else’s mother, daughter, sister or love interest?
2. What’s going on with Natasha?
Answering to my previous question a woman doesn’t get to be included if she doesn’t have a connection to men. Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff has been standing on her own for a long time (hell, we are still not getting a movie about her) but in this movie she gets much more involved into traditional female roles. From the beginning we see her developing love relationship with Bruce and I have to say that it completely surprised me. It is beautiful to watch, it really is, but it ticks my head because Natasha has been very independent woman and I and many others have found her as a role model and an inspiration reminding us that you don’t need a man to be who you are. Even the fact that Natasha is holding up the interest and acting for the relationship isn’t really helping.
Neither does it that she got called a slut by male actors in the team after they heard how fans ship Natasha with many characters. Joke is a joke and the boys are tired but it doesn’t excuse Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner from showing that it’s okay to make sexist jokes. Some people stated that it doesn’t count as the joke was about a fictional character but for many people Natasha is very real and she is an inspiration.
I understand them but I don’t excuse them.
Art and movies don’t come from a void. They are part of our society and culture and reflect what is going on in the real world. We live in a society that is doing it’s best to control women’s sexuality and through this joke Evans and Renner are showing their support on the questionable cause, no matter how unintended. What makes it worse is that here are two cis men talking about women’s sexuality. They do it in an interview that is sure to get viral and they know that they have power to affect people’s thinking. Evans and Renner are idols for many and the message they are sending is important.
It is great that we get to see a gentler and softer side of Natasha. After all she is a human but as she is a woman on a mission making it in the boys’ club it just feels wrong to see those sides through love and romance. In the end she continues to train the new Avengers with Captain Rogers but is still longing after lost love. Iida stated earlier that Marvel is great on giving us a variety of different people. Of course I want just all the best for Natasha and it is amazing that there was more character development and screen time for her. Is she changing now and is the growing of the character inevitably tied to the traditional female roles like motherhood or marriage? Can the movies show us female growth without those aspects? Are we getting to the point where the cinematic world is putting female characters to an identical mold after all?
3. Hero daddy Clint Barton
I actually love daddy Clint and he has had that family aura hanging around himself for a good long while. What annoys me is that here we got another chance to show patriarchal family structures. We get to know nothing about Clint’s wife Laura who stays at home with two kids while Clint is saving the world and protecting the family. The fact that Laura is expecting another child is used as a way to hold one of the very rare woman to woman conversations. The kid was supposed to be named after Natasha but oops, it’s a boy after all so aunt Natasha isn’t going to get an ass kicking mini-me.
At the same time we are following Clint and Laura’s family bliss we see Natasha struggling with her past and a lack of family of her own. I can’t but wonder if the whole family thing is used to show the expected women’s life aspirations? We get it clear that Natasha can’t have children and it bothers her. Basically she was forced to get herself sterilized at young age and that, my friends, is a crime against body self-determination and independence. What made me sad was that Natasha considered leaving The Avengers and her job to have a relationship with Bruce. We got to the point where a woman needs to choose between a career and a family and that is just not okay. No-one expected Clint to choose between his family and job!
4. Wanda Maximoff saves the day
Is it just me or did we get a teeny-tiny-bit more body diversity? As Wanda Maximoff’s (Scarlet Witch) powers aren’t based on super physics I would have been rooting for something more but hey, this is a start. Wanda is a part of a two-pack with her twin brother Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver. Wanda has her inner battles and is in a key role to stop Ultron. With some quick mentoring from Clint she turns out to be a totall bad ass and takes her place in the Avengers as a strong woman. After all she is the one who finishes the big boss Ultron by ripping it’s heart out.
It is amazing that we got a new female character in this boy’s club. Wanda already showed us very intense character development and we just can’t wait to get more of her. She is sure to kick ass in the next Captain America movie. What I’m eager to see is if we get interaction between Wanda and Natasha as here could be great potential on showing sisterhood development.
So we do have a great potential here and I was really excited to see her character growing.
So lets sum up what is going on in the latest Marvel movie The Avengers Age of Ultron. The whole movie looks really cool and as I love Marvel adaptions I love this too. Story line is very well balanced and interesting and it handles important themes but fails to represent strong female characters. You would expect otherwise when you have Black Widow backed up with new female characters.
The movie lacks diversity in people and is very much heteronormatively washed over. The real heroes are once again male and women are portrayed through their male counterparts or family. Sam Wilson, James Rhodes and Nick Fury are keeping up the flag for people of colour but the action is elsewhere and these three end up as sidekicks and mentors. All the other people of colour we get are civilian victims (and even then the most emotional parts are given to white women). The very much demanded queer representation is non-existing and I’m afraid that we have to wait a really long time to get a gay superhero on the silver screen.
So, did you see it already? And please, feel free to remind me about what I missed or didn’t pay attention. I want to talk!