Is Age Of Ultron Sexist?
As I’ve stated previously on this blog and elsewhere, I am a strident feminist. (You can read about why this is here.) I am also a comic book fan, particularly of Marvel. These two facets of my personality often clash, as the way women are often depicted in comics boarders on despicable. Objectification is common, as is the portrayal of some women as damsels in distress who need men to save them. Things are improving on this front, but the fight isn’t over just yet.
I think that’s why some feminists were so outspoken about the new Avenger’s film, Age of Ultron. In it, Black Widow is revealed to be sterile. Her uterus was, in fact, forcibly removed by the organization that trained her and used her as a weapon. In her own words, “They take away the one thing that might matter more than the mission.”
This is where some feminists take issue with the film. Every character on the Avengers team has some kind of personal tragedy they must overcome. Iron Man is a genius, but he is also an alcoholic with anxiety disorder. Thor is a literal god, trying to find his place among mortals. Steve Rogers is a super-soldier from World War Two, trying to reconcile his past upbringing with the values of this strange new world he finds himself in. The Hulk transforms into an enormous green rage monster at the slightest provocation.
Hawkeye is a reformed criminal with no superhuman abilities, struggling to fit in amongst not only living myths, but also heroes. He worries that he is not fundamentally good.
Black Widow can’t have kids.
When put into perspective, her tragedy seems almost inconsequential. It lacks the earth-shattering relevance of the trials faced by the others. The reason for this, to critics, is because Joss Whedon believes that women are meant to have children. If that’s the thing Widow cares about so much, then it must mean that all women are obsessed with starting families...right?
I don’t think so. Never mind that Whedon himself is an outspoken feminist and even supported Anita Sarkisian at one time or another. Many feminists, myself included, have called into question the legitimacy of his claims on this matter, so maybe we shouldn’t take it into account now. I’m okay with that.
I disagree with many feminists on this issue for one key reason. I don’t think Whedon was trying to make a point about gender. I think Black Widow wanted kids, and when that ability was taken from her, it hurt. It was purely a character moment. It has nothing to do with gender or women as a whole. It concerns Black Widow and no one else.
That’s my take on things. I enjoyed the scene, I thought it packed a hefty emotional punch, and it offered Widow some much-needed character development. You could argue that the development she did receive did not serve to differentiate the character from other female characters in her position, and I understand where you’re coming from, especially given her romance with Bruce Banner, which felt tacked-on and unnecessary.
I just disagree. I don’t think Age of Ultron is sexist. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Until someone else makes a more persuasive argument, of course. Open-mindedness is the most important thing when we’re discussing important issues like this one.
Just something to think about.