Peacast IX: 'Avengers Assemble' or 'The Avengers' in the US

by Wardog

Kyra and Dan are talking about Thor and Avengers Assemble, or 'The Avengers' in the US (and that observation doesn't get any funnier...)
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Sorry for the backlog of peacasts; there will be actual written matter coming soon, I promise. This time we're talking superheroes. Needless to say spoilers abound.

At about the time I was editing this, Melissa G. sent me a rant about Woman Guy, ahem, Black Widow and since it wasn't long enough for a full article, she's given permission for me include it here:

Thoughts on the Black Widow from Melissa G

I've already seen The Avengers twice, and I'm going to go see it again on Sunday after an all-day marathon of the preceding movies. I tell you this because I want to make it clear that I love comics and that I greatly enjoy this movie. However, on my second viewing of the movie, I noticed something about Black Widow.

Her entire motivation for participating in the Avengers is about a man.

She is resistant to join until Coulson tells her that "Barton has been compromised". Then she springs into action, freeing herself from her captors, and is now totally on board. This happens a second time after Widow has fought with the Hulk. She is sprawled, trembling, on the floor (more on this later) totally spaced out and terrified after her encounter, but as soon as she hears Fury say where Hawkeye is, she is snapped out of her trance and hurries to go find him.

Do I even have to explain how problematic it is that of all the characters on the team, the (only) woman is the sole character who is motivated by a love interest? And don’t try to pretend like there wasn’t a romance going on there. Her whole “love is for children” was clearly a case of the lady doth protesting too much. And even if he wasn’t meant to be a love interest and was in fact just her close friend and coworker, it still means that a woman couldn’t get into combat for her own reasons but only due to the influence of a man. This is extremely troubling to me.

The second thing that bothered me about Black Widow was how her character was presented. Black Widow is a super spy; a Russian badass. She is stoic, cold, emotionless, unflappable. She was not these things in The Avengers movie. She was played as having such a weak, chewy center that I was barely able to recognize the original character. She appeared to be a woman who put up a tough front and played soldier, but inside she was a fragile, weak little girl. And the sad thing was that there were opportunities in the script that had they been played differently would have worked to the correct end.

One example: Black Widow shouldn’t have been scared that she had to go recruit the Hulk; she should have been annoyed because dealing with Hulk is a pain in the ass. Small adjustment, but it would have made a big difference.

Basically, I felt that Black Widow was played far too weak. There was an opportunity within the script for her to have an arc where she joins, realizes she’s in over her head, and then regroups and realizes she is in fact capable of fighting alongside these super soldiers and contributing something. She, remember, is the one to close the portal at the end. However, when you have her starting out over her head from the moment she meets the Hulk, you lose the potential for this arc to really land. When she pulls the gun on Banner in her second scene, there is so much fear in her eyes. In my opinion, that reaction should have been more calculating fear rather than straight up terror. Black Widow was so defanged through the entire movie that I can’t help drawing the conclusion that feminist hero Joss Whedon thinks a girl can’t actually be tough in her own right. She can only be tough when she’s doing it for someone else - in this case, for a man, for love. This is something that I find truly insulting.

Thor is fighting because Loki is his responsibility and it’s the right thing to do. Iron Man is fighting because he is suspicious of Fury and wants to be involved for that reason. Cap is fighting because that’s what heroes do; also, he is so lost in this new world and this mission gives him purpose again. Banner is fighting because he knows he’s the only one who can and it’s his responsibility to do so. Hawkeye, when he comes back in, is fighting for personal revenge against Loki. But Black Widow? She’s fighting (at first) to save her man and (secondly) because Loki messed with her man and she wants revenge. She is never fighting for herself.

And seriously, what’s up with that?
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Comments (go to latest)
Wardog at 12:14 on 2012-05-19
Couple of random thoughts about Woman Guy:

Is the WG/Hawkeye romance thing sorta canon? So maybe they were anticipating FAN OUTRAGE if they didn't include at least a nod to it - which is why it's in there but in a really half-arsed way.

And finally I didn't mind that she was scared of The Hulk because I think any sane person would be scared of The Hulk, in the same way you'd be scared of your mate who gets violent the moment he has one beer too many...
Shimmin at 13:56 on 2012-05-19
I'm inclined to go middle ground on Hulk-fear. I feel like anyone can reasonably be terrified of the invulnerable incarnation of destructive rage when he is or seems about to manifest. On the other hand, I think when told to recruit Banner they could reasonably have had her less scared and more apprehensive; I mean it's a risky thing to do, but compared to other things she does it's not really all that dangerous.

She was played as having such a weak, chewy center that I was barely able to recognize the original character. She appeared to be a woman who put up a tough front and played soldier, but inside she was a fragile, weak little girl.

Just speculating here, but I wonder if they might have been trying to have her as a tough professional who throws up this soft façade, only the emphasis goes the wrong way round (and gets muddled into the Hawkeye thing)? That seemed to be what they were aiming for with the intro and Loki bits.

But yeah, it's just annoying to throw Hawkeye at her to get her to take on the mission, because I'm pretty sure "global apocalypse" would have worked too.
In regards to the discussion about Loki and Magneto's fashion choices, I feel I should share a certain Doom Patrol villain with you.

And may God have mercy on my soul.
Arthur B at 16:07 on 2012-05-19
Thoughts on the 'cast: Dan seemed to hallucinate another Burton-continuity Batman movie - there were only 4, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.

I think the confusion comes in because Batman and Robin isn't the one where Robin is introduced.

Thoughts on the film: Easily the worst thing about the movie is Whedon doing the whole feminist judo thing where Black Widow uses other people's misogyny against them. She actually does this in two interrogation scenes, which are the only interrogation scenes she's involved in, so in effect they're the only scenes where she's acting like a spy rather than an errand girl and ass-kicker. There's the bit where she's introduced with the chair, and the bit later where she gets to break Loki's guard by manipulating him into calling her a "mewling quim".

Basically, any time someone is sexist at her, they reveal a vulnerability, which doesn't seem to me to be how sexism works. In fact, it comes across as Whedon going all Minority Warrior and being all "ah, do you see, when you're sexist you just hurt yourself" when actually I can think of plenty of situations where a dude being sexist and reinforcing culturally-pervasive sexism just plain works out for them, which is part of why dealing with sexism is so hard in the first place.

The film is fine and it isn't gratingly Whedony at all. He doesn't even lay on the over-clever and mildly irritating dialogue too thick either (compared to Cabin In the Woods, where it comes into play way too much). I think it helps that here he's dealing with a bunch of characters who all have a distinctive voice which has been established in other movies, and which he can't tamper with too much because he has to give them back to other directors once he's done with them, so he can't be too Whedony.
Wardog at 16:36 on 2012-05-19
@115853606861832851783
OH HOLY GOD. OH HOLY GOD. Hilariously written article but OH HOLY GOD. I particularly like that there are specific reasons to not let "superpowered transgendered individuals who used to be prostitutes wearing frog masks touch your willy." I think it's kind of telling of ... well ... of something ... that my breaking point in that sentence is "frog mask."

There's the bit where she's introduced with the chair, and the bit later where she gets to break Loki's guard by manipulating him into calling her a "mewling quim".

Yes, by that stage in the movie I kind of agreed with him.
Ibmiller at 19:06 on 2012-05-19
Hmm. I can see how the "Natasha is motivated by Barton" thing can be read (just as I can see the how people have the idea that Natasha's primary "skill set" is reverse interrogation), but that's not really how I saw her arc at all. I think it's clear she has some kind of connection to Barton (nothing that I'm aware of in comics at all - Daredevil and Captain America's sidekick are the ones I've read about), but to me, I thought the motivation was more about her rather awesome individualistic ledger morality rather than romance.

Re: why Barton (if it's not romance) - I loved the "regimes come and go" bit - she's a survivor, so Earth under aliens or Earth under humans doesn't seem to bother her. Letting someone she has a debt to die - that gives them too much power over her. And that seems like a very self-motivated action.

Which may be a whole different problem (I don't think so, but again, I can see that others might), but it's at least different.

Again, I agree that "love is for children" is a screen - but I don't think it's her primary motivation. Even when she acknowledges to Barton that she's been compromised, she comes right back with the ledger thing. And after that, there's nothing that paints her as weak because of Barton.

As for the Hulk thing - it's probably problematic that Natasha is the one who is tasked with Bruce, but I'm not sure if there was another option that didn't either have her being mindraped instead of Barton or useless and dead like Coulson. Or just replaced with the bald glasses male agent.
Arthur B at 19:14 on 2012-05-19
Letting someone she has a debt to die - that gives them too much power over her.

Surely letting someone you have a debt to die is an extraordinarily efficient way of making sure they lose all power over you?
Shimmin at 19:55 on 2012-05-19
Surely letting someone you have a debt to die is an extraordinarily efficient way of making sure they lose all power over you?

I think that depends on how debts work for you. You could equally well argue that it makes it impossible for you to be escape their power.
Ibmiller at 20:19 on 2012-05-19
Yeah, I was going for what Shimmin said. Also, isn't it kind of a non-heroish way to think to get out of debt by death?

Anyway, just finished listening to the peascast, and quite liked it. I find it interesting that the general nerd reaction to it has been "AWESOME," the slightly more thoughtful nerd population has been like "fun but really? Plot?" The feminism reaction has been all over the map, though. I'm seriously confused about what this movie is saying about women or something.

Finally, does Loki's "mewling" comment push him into Whedon's straw misogynist territory? Because other than that, I thought it was refreshingly free of that problem, which made Dollhouse and (by report) Cabin in the Woods (and to be honest, season seven of Buffy, much as that's my favorite season) so vomit-inducing.
Arthur B at 20:38 on 2012-05-19
Yeah, I was going for what Shimmin said. Also, isn't it kind of a non-heroish way to think to get out of debt by death?

Isn't ledger morality kind of non-heroish to begin with?

Ultimately, Shim's thing only even slightly makes sense if you are far more idealistic and prone to making emotional attachments than the hyper-pragmatic "regimes change/love is for children" portrayal here would suggest.
Shimmin at 20:54 on 2012-05-19
Isn't ledger morality kind of non-heroish to begin with?

I'm not saying I disagree, but the ledger thing isn't that uncommon, particularly with less "noble" heroes. There's a fair scattering of "debt of honour" characters around, who express their worldview in those terms, or use it as a pretext for their decisions, even if they don't really mean it. "I am tough and brooding but I owe them my life" is nothing particularly new, especially in teams-up.
Arthur B at 21:04 on 2012-05-19
There's a fair scattering of "debt of honour" characters around, who express their worldview in those terms, or use it as a pretext for their decisions, even if they don't really mean it. "I am tough and brooding but I owe them my life" is nothing particularly new, especially in teams-up.

That sort of thing has always come across to me as a cop-out - it's something writers do when they want to have a character who is a lonely antihero but at the same thing does heroic stuff constantly. There's two many characters out there who come across as ice-cold pragmatists in every respect except when their life gets saved, at which point they immediately decide they need to make an exception to their general rule of aloof dickishness (rather than it acting as a prompt to actually changing the character into one more engaged with the world).
Frank at 00:15 on 2012-05-20
I agree with Melissa G.'s assessment.
The Hulk is the best movie Hulk ever, but a school kid could play hopscotch over that bar. The Hulk is male aggression to the n°, so I squirmed and groaned when Bruce essentially menances Black Widow to see how she'd flinch in their initial meeting. It didnt help that they seemed to have some hx together, but I've only watched it once and maybe I'm misinterpreting their interaction.
Ibmiller at 00:41 on 2012-05-20
"Hx?"

Maybe I just accept that kind of internal contradiction, but I find the idea of a small-scale idealism and large-scale cynicism buy-able. Plus, I don't think the ledger morality necessarily implies that she's selfish - just not terribly interested in the bigger picture she can't influence.

All I've said is not to say I don't see some problems with the film - quite apart from the ridiculousness of the villain plot, the Hulk and Loki moments with Natasha are definitely troubling (especially with Whedon's statements about the latter). I just found Natasha a fairly compelling character, and thought Melissa's interpretation was a bit selective in the text reading. Coherent and compelling, but I didn't think the weight and motivations quite fit.

However, I free acknowledge that I'm fairly emotionally invested in the general Marvelverse, and have no problems suspending disbelief. So perhaps I'm just too easily pleased.
Melissa G. at 02:28 on 2012-05-20
Is the WG/Hawkeye romance thing sorta canon?


Not as far as I'm aware.

Re: Fearing the Hulk

Even if BW was afraid of Hulk, she wouldn't show it so obviously. The fear was way too readable to me. I think it's that tricky thing (that maybe Johansson just failed to do here) of showing the audience that you are afraid but pretending you're not afraid. A hard trick to pull off, but that's what acting is all about.

Just speculating here, but I wonder if they might have been trying to have her as a tough professional who throws up this soft façade, only the emphasis goes the wrong way round (and gets muddled into the Hawkeye thing)? That seemed to be what they were aiming for with the intro and Loki bits.


It's an interesting theory, but totally not in keeping with her canonically established character and not consistent with her character in the movie, imo. Like how she was so broken by her fight with the Hulk, the softness is not a facade there; she's alone.

Something else that's written into the script that I found troubling is that when Natasha talks about her and Barton to Loki, she says that Barton was sent to kill her, but he makes a different call. This implies to me that if he had chosen to, Barton would have killed her. I don't think Black Widow would ever admit this out loud even if it were true (and later evidence shows us she can indeed take him in hand-to-hand). It's little moments like those that I feel take away from the true strength of the character. I think she easily could have come across powerful and strong if tweaked in performance/intention just a little bit. (Of course, being an actress, I probably think about line reads and stuff like that far too much.)
http://vernueva.wordpress.com/ at 11:28 on 2012-05-20
The thing that bothered me most about the Widow and Hawkeye story was that everyone seemed to accept a hard smack on the head as a good enough method to completely cure his mind control.

I seem to recall that Natasha and Barton started out as villains in Ironman's book. She was manipulating him with her spy powers, he was in love with her, and then she ran off to hang out with Daredevil.
Dan H at 12:28 on 2012-05-20
@Melissa

It's little moments like those that I feel take away from the true strength of the character.


I suspect that this bothered Kyra and me a lot less than it did you for the simple reason that we know absolutely crap all about Marvel, so we've got nothing to compare the film version against. She's so absent from the film that it's hard to get worked up about her unless you've got prior investment in the character.

@vernueva

The thing that bothered me most about the Widow and Hawkeye story was that everyone seemed to accept a hard smack on the head as a good enough method to completely cure his mind control.


But that's how blows to the head work! It's like that episode of the Simpsons: "remember, make sure he hits you an even number of times, so you don't come out with amnesia."
Shimmin at 14:15 on 2012-05-20
It's an interesting theory, but totally not in keeping with her canonically established character and not consistent with her character in the movie, imo. Like how she was so broken by her fight with the Hulk, the softness is not a facade there; she's alone.

Oh, I didn't think they'd achieved it, I just wondered if that was their intention. On reflection you're probably right though. Anyway, I'm not really up on Black Widow, but it sounds like it would have been a bad idea even if they'd succeeded.
Melissa G. at 15:20 on 2012-05-20
>I suspect that this bothered Kyra and me a lot less than it did you for the simple reason that we know absolutely crap all about Marvel, so we've got nothing to compare the film version against. She's so absent from the film that it's hard to get worked up about her unless you've got prior investment in the character.

My love of Marvel probably has something to do with my extreme annoyance. Weirdly, I'm not really a fan of Black Widow to begin with so this isn't coming from a whiny fangirl place of "Wah! This character is marginally different than they were in the comics! My life is ruined forever! Wah!" (Not saying you were implying that, of course!) I think I was just so angry that they took the only female character on the team (a team that has actually been really good about having women on it during it's history) and made her un-self-motivated and secretly weak and scared inside. It just felt beyond problematic and I couldn't ignore it. I would have preferred they just stuck with the ledger thing being her sole motivation and left the contrived love story out of it.

My favorite Avengers (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) couldn't be in the movie due to licensing issues, and I don't know how they would have written them in even if they could. :-(
Arthur B at 15:27 on 2012-05-20
I swung by the Lego store today and they had an Avengers poster up pushing their line of Avengers Lego.

The portrayal of the characters the artist seemed to be going for was as follows:

Hulk: HULK SMASH!
Captain America: Manly and heroic!
Thor: Manly and heroic!
Hawkeye: Manly and brooding!
Iron Man: Cool robot dude!
Black Widow: POUTY AND BOOBULAR.

Seriously, the others were in springing-into-action poses whilst Widow was in check-out-my-chest mode.
I do like how they draw tits on the tiny Lego figure to make it a girl. Cute.
Dan H at 17:43 on 2012-05-20
I do like how they draw tits on the tiny Lego figure to make it a girl. Cute.


That and shade in the edges to make the waist look narrower.
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/ at 11:25 on 2012-05-23
To expand on the points made in my review and in my reply to Dan's comment on my blog, I don't really see how you can say that Black Widow is absent from the film. She's less demonstrative than the other characters - and whether that's deliberate or a result of Johansson's lack of presence is something that I'm genuinely not certain about - but that only strengthens her role as an observer who acts as our point of view character throughout much of the film. In many scenes she's the relatively normal figure against whom the future Avengers or the SHIELD staff act out, but that's counteracted by the fact that she's also the single character who does most to move the plot along. In his comment on my blog Dan suggested that the plot's messiness negates that accomplishment, but I think that that is to ignore the consistency of the means with which she achieves them. Black Widow's method is to play on the sense of superiority that the men around her experience, to play up her vulnerability while maintaining complete control of the conversation. That's a debatable tactic, to be certain - Jim Hines finds it problematic, while this post by legionseagle argues that it is a response to real-life sexism - and I'm of two minds about it myself, but I do think it's a complex depiction that is worth discussing rather than dismissing. There is, too, a problem in that the only female superhero in the film is one whose main power is manipulation and the pretense of vulnerability, but that strikes me as a problem with the movie as a whole - there are superpowered female Avengers whose absence of the film has been decried by comics fans - than with the character.

This, by the way, is also the reason that Bruce Banner and the Hulk elicit such a strong fear reaction from Black Widow where in every other encounter she either keeps her cool or feigns distress that she doesn't feel. She's a person used to encountering people who are significantly more powerful than she is and who mean her harm, and her main line of defense against them is reason - the ability to manipulate or persuade them into doing what she wants. The Hulk can't be reasoned with, which not only leaves Black Widow vulnerable but strips her of the power that she defines herself by - anyone would be shaken by that prospect.

To respond also to Melissa, I agree that Black Widow is motivated by a man, but then so is every other Avenger except for Hawkeye. None of them save the world because the world is something that ought to be saved. They do it because Loki killed Agent Coulson. While there's obviously potential to take Black Widow and Hawkeye in a romantic direction I read their relationship in the film as that of friends and comrades in arms, which means that she's driven by the same loyalty as the rest of the characters - the only difference being that she saves her friend and they can only avenge theirs.
Arthur B at 12:05 on 2012-05-23
The way I'm reading your comment you seem to be running with the argument that there's no difference as far as feminist power dynamics go between "woman motivated by a man" and "man motivated by a man", and with the idea that there isn't meant to be a romantic dynamic between Black Widow and Hawkeye, and I'm not convinced that's necessarily supported by the text at hand.

I thought BW's whole "feminist judo" thing was deeply problematic, because even though it's a female character getting leverage over significantly more powerful male characters, she's depicted as accomplishing this by exploiting the "oh, I am a weak emotional woman" angle to the hilt. The thing is, if you go from "weak emotional woman" to "woman who looks weak and emotional, but she's actually a MASTER MANIPULATOR who uses this to CONTROL MEN", you've gone from classical misogyny to the sort of misogyny you see MRAs spout all the time.

Literally the only difference is that the MRA crowd consider this to be a bad thing, whereas Whedon celebrates it, but it's still "woman = tricksy, deceitful, not to be trusted".
Arthur B at 12:11 on 2012-05-23
(Which isn't to say that if you can find a decent reading of Black Widow which avoids that you shouldn't embrace it. But I don't think you can quite extend that to giving the film's treatment of BW a clean bill of health when there's been such a range of different reactions to it.)
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/ at 12:22 on 2012-05-23
I think there's a difference between a woman motivated by a romantic attachment to a man and a man motivated by a romantic attachment to a woman (there shouldn't be, but in popular culture there usually is) but as I genuinely don't think The Avengers expects us to read Black Widow and Hawkeye's relationship as romantic I don't think that's relevant. There's an undertone there, because they're attractive people of opposite genders who are affectionate towards one another and this is Western pop culture we're talking about, and I wouldn't be surprised if future movies took the characters in that direction, but their scenes together towards the end of the movie don't say "romance" to me. They say close friendship and devotion, but there's no longing there, no sense of attraction, and though there is some intimacy it quite obviously has its limits. I don't think Black Widow acts because she's trying to save the man she loves. I think she's trying to save her friend, which is, again, not very far removed from what the rest of the team does except that she gets results.

As I say above, there are obviously problems inherent to the fact that Black Widow's superpower is manipulation, and specifically manipulation that takes advantage of her feigned vulnerability. But I think the film does a good enough job of establishing her as sympathetic, and as someone with a moral code, that she didn't come off as deceitful or not to be trusted, but rather as someone who can get around the bad guys but is loyal to her friends.
Literally the only difference is that the MRA crowd consider this to be a bad thing, whereas Whedon celebrates it, but it's still "woman = tricksy, deceitful, not to be trusted".

I think that's difficult because as annoying as MRAs are, and as bloody-minded in their determination to hate All Things Female, I don't see how we can possibly avoid pissing them off. They're pissed off that women exist and refuse to have sex with them more than anything else. I'm not sure if humoring their belief that "women = tricksy = evil" is the right approach, but I could be wrong about that.
Arthur B at 16:42 on 2012-05-23
Well, to be honest there I'm using MRA as shorthand for "frustrated guys with really misguided ideas about women", of which there are rather more than there are MRAs (but more or less all the MRA bullshit I've seen has been an extreme manifestation of the phenomenon). And ultimately it's the sort of bullshit which, if you want to be Joss Whedon Minority Warrior riding forth against the sexisms, you kind of ought to be confronting instead of humouring.
Whedon may not be the ideal guy to take a stand in favor of female manipulation, but it's possible that someone else could do it in a non-Minority Warrior way, or at least without the cloud of Nice Guy stink hanging over it.

I'm not an unabashed fan of manipulation in general, but if it's okay for scrappy brainy dudes to manipulate big dumb dudes, it should be okay for scrappy girls to do the same thing. The problem is most of us will have a slight sexist flinch at that, and read sexual undertones into it, not just MRAs and frustrated straight guys.
Arthur B at 16:54 on 2012-05-23
I'm not an unabashed fan of manipulation in general, but if it's okay for scrappy brainy dudes to manipulate big dumb dudes, it should be okay for scrappy girls to do the same thing.

Of course it should, but that'd hinge on the techniques both use being comparable.

The two major manipulations BW pulls off in the film both entail her being all "Oh no, I am the weak girl who is not a threat!" Conversely, Loki's major manipulations - tricking the gang into coming after him whilst Hawkeye nips off to steal the Plot Juice, and pretending to be captured so that mumblemumblemumblethatpartwasalmostcompletelyunnecessary both entail him going "Look at me! I'm the big dangerous man you should take seriously!"
Of course it should, but that'd hinge on the techniques both use being comparable.


True, and as I haven't seen the movie and don't plan to, I can't comment on specifics.

The truth is I'm sitting here thinking about what it could look like for a girl to manipulate a dude who's stronger than she is in a nonsexual way that's not about her deliberately pretending to be nonthreatening, and I'm honestly having a hard time with that. Which is one very good reason I'm not a writer or a storyteller who should be able to do better.
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/ at 19:12 on 2012-05-23
The two major manipulations BW pulls off in the film both entail her being all "Oh no, I am the weak girl who is not a threat!"

That's the point that Jim Hines makes, and though I am sympathetic to it I also think there's some merit to legionseagle's response, that more than a statement on Black Widow this is a statement on the world she moves in, and that reflecting real-world sexism by showing a heroine who has to deal with it is a not a bad thing, and something that women watching the film can sympathize with.

The more I think about this, the more it seems that the problem is not with Black Widow but with the film as a whole, and specifically with the fact that she's the only significant female character and the only female Avenger. If there were another woman on the team whose powers were more in line with the men's, I don't think that Black Widow's manipulativeness would register as a comment on women as a group, nor would we have the stark contrast between men who triumph through strength or brains, and a woman who triumphs by playing weak and manipulating men.
Jules V.O. at 19:58 on 2012-05-23
One of my friends was talking about how weird it is that The Avengers kind of stretches to include one female member where in any of the DC team properties, making a six person team with 2 or 3 women isn't even a thing.

If there was a Justice League story where the line-up was Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman/Green Lantern/Hawkwoman/Zatanna... that would be perfectly plausible. If there was a Batman Family story, it would be strange if both Batgirl and Catwoman weren't involved - and if Oracle and/or Huntress were also included, that *wouldn't* be strange. A Teen Titans team basically must have both Raven and Starfire. And so on.

That said, I would be very surprised if the next Avengers movie didn't include Mantis. I'm not clear there's any power that can keep Whedon away from a barefoot psychic ninja courtesan.
Arthur B at 20:25 on 2012-05-23
I'm not clear there's any power that can keep Whedon away from a barefoot psychic ninja courtesan.

There is almost certainly a shrine to her somewhere in Castle Whedon.
Melissa G. at 21:26 on 2012-05-23
One of my friends was talking about how weird it is that The Avengers kind of stretches to include one female member where in any of the DC team properties, making a six person team with 2 or 3 women isn't even a thing.


It's not even a thing for the Avengers either. The Avengers have had lots of women on their team in their history. Most notably, Wasp and Scarlet Witch (who could kick all the other Avenger's butts single-handed). List of all Avengers members. The lack of women in the film wasn't about not having enough women in canon to draw from, it was from an obvious lack of trying on the part of the movie studio.
Jules V.O. at 21:48 on 2012-05-23
It's not even a thing for the Avengers either. The Avengers have had lots of women on their team in their history.


It's not that the Avengers haven't had plenty of women on the team, it's that very few of those women are iconic members of the team. There's no dissonance if the Avengers team doesn't have Wasp or Scarlet Witch or Jocasta or Warbird, etc. etc. On the other hand, there's a lot of dissonance if the Teen Titans team doesn't have Raven *and* Starfire. That's the difference.
http://vernueva.wordpress.com/ at 00:31 on 2012-05-24
@Jules V.O.: I would say that's because the Teen Titans had a more recent (1980s) revamp that overtook the original team in popularity. The old team was all white with one girl. Similarly, the original X-men were all white with one girl, while the X-men that people know today (and the team that made it into the movies) have to have at least Phoenix, Storm, and Rogue.

The Avengers are more comparable to the Justice League. Both teams have "founding members" that have remained basically unchanged for the last half century. If they were to come up with a cast for a JLA movie the only female hero guaranteed to get in is Wonder Woman. They COULD put in Zatanna and Hawkwoman and Black Canary, but since they're not widely known to non-comic-reading-folk it's unlikely.
Shimmin at 21:14 on 2012-05-24
So I just listened to the podcast and noticed your confusion about the whole Germany bit. Well-deserved, I might add.

As I remember, the whole point of that business is that they need a load of iridium to finish the portal device, and it's all under lock and key in various places because it's very rare (true). Loki goes off to cause a distraction while the others start killing guards and breaking in.

I have to say though, they really dropped the ball with this section. The actual break-in gets ten seconds of Hawkeye sniping guards; not only is there no more footage, but I don't think they even mention it again, even to indicate that they succeeded. Instead they flash on over to Loki. Well, Loki is very cool. At the same time, though, they seem to get muddled up as to what he's doing. In theory, he's providing a crucial distraction for the heist by grandstanding and creating chaos. It's not clear how much of the megalomania was Avenger-baiting lulz, how much was actual Loki, how much was the voices in his head, or indeed how much was Joss Whedon. I'm not sure whether it matters or not, and maybe the ambiguity is intentional because he's not entirely in control of himself..?

At the same time, though, the very first thing he does is a crucial part of their heist plan, i.e. sucking out and scanning the bloke's eyeball. This allows the others to pass the retina scan. Similarly, once he's taken prisoner, this all turns out to be part of his plan to Sow Dissent etc. etc. chiz chiz.

I'm not sure it makes much sense. Loki as a distraction makes tons of sense, because he's effectively immortal, can escape virtually anything and is a really really good distractor. But turning up and dramatically sucking out the eyeball of a dude with restricted access rights seems to me like a clue that someone might well twig to, and Loki should be too clever for that.

Basically the throwawayness of the whole heist business means the Germany section doesn't make sense. If they'd had it a bit more fleshed out, it might seem a bit more coherent, rather than just Loki randomly trolling Germans for lulz. I half wonder if the original plan had the heist in and they cut those scenes for length? At the moment it feels like that whole section is just a pretext for them to find and capture Loki, so that he can manipulate them on the ship, so that they can have dramatic infighting.
Shimmin at 21:16 on 2012-05-24
Also, a very large proportion of this film consists of the heroes beating each other into pulp. As in, more than they spend fighting the villains. Is that just me? Is it as much of a trope as I feel like it is, without being able to conjure up any more examples?
http://vernueva.wordpress.com/ at 22:10 on 2012-05-24
I think the other reason Loki was captured was so that SHIELD couldn't use the same room to stick Banner in if he started hulking out. Or, that's what I got from the scene with Natasha.


You see they spent so much time beating each other to a pulp because LOKI IS A GREAT MANIPULATOR MANIPULATOR MANIPULATOR

The movies are also supposed to be closer to the Ultimate Avengers books than the regular Avengers. I haven't read them myself, but apparently the Avengers are just angrier and douchier, so maybe that means more in-fighting.
Melissa G. at 22:27 on 2012-05-24
I haven't read them myself, but apparently the Avengers are just angrier and douchier


I only follow Ultimates Universe nowadays and have since the beginning. And god yes, the Ultimate Avengers are god awful people for the most part (makes it hard to enjoy, tbh). There's a reason that they are my least favorite Ultimates line.
Ibmiller at 04:18 on 2012-05-25
Completely agree re: Ultimates. I loved Ultimate Spider-Man (and love the new guy, but hate the way they got rid of the last one) for about 120 issues (basically until Ultimatum). Actually, that makes a lot of sense, since Jeph Loeb likes the Ultimates/Ultimate Avengers, and also did Avengers.

And he also likes to bring Avenger expys into the DC universe and have Batman and Superman basically drench them from a great height. Most annoying to people who don't worship Batman and Superman.

Out of curiosity - I heard the Ultimate Universe might be folded back into mainstream continuity due to declining sales - is there any truth to that rumor?
Melissa G. at 06:00 on 2012-05-25
@Ibmiller:

I have not heard anything about that, but I'd prefer if they didn't. :-/ I kind of enjoy having Ultimates-verse all to myself and not having to worry about the other stuff. I mean, they just rebooted again (started Spidey over, made a new Ultimate X-Men (yay!) etc) so I don't get why they'd mess with it again so soon. But it's possible that because the movies are more Ultimates inclined (I even noticed X-Men had an Ultimates bent to it), maybe they want to link it with the mainstream. But I really hope they don't. >_< Leave my Ultimates aloooooone!
Ibmiller at 06:54 on 2012-05-25
Well, my rumor was very unofficial, so I was just checking to see if someone more connected to the UU had heard anything. So I'm thinking it's unlikely.

But that's the second reboot in about two years, isn't it? (When was Ultimatum (spit)).

I'm not personally convinced the films are more Ultimates-inspired. Nick Fury is clearly Sam Jackson in model, but his character seems a lot more like 616 Fury than UU - at least in Ultimate Spider-man, Fury is more paternal and kind than hardbitten. But that could be because he's dealing with 15-16 year old Peter.

Cap and Tony seem much more 616 (especially Cap). Don't read enough Hulk to tell - but he hasn't eaten anyone yet. And I know less about Thor than Hulk - but JMS was involved with the Thor film, and he was behind the mainline Thor story for a year, so I'm inclined to say there's a superficial connection to the films, but no more.
Arthur B at 07:50 on 2012-05-25
JMS, you say?

It was the dawn of the third age of Midgard, ten years after the Aesir/Jotunn war. The Feast-Hall Project was a dream given form. Its goal, to prepare for Ragnarok by creating a place where heroes and kings could feast and spar indefinitely. It's a port of call - home away from home for warriors, berserkers, brawlers, and valkyries. Humans and Aesir feasting on two million, five hundred thousand tons of barbecue, all alone in Asgard. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for booze. This is the story of the last of the Feast-Halls. The year is 2258. The name of the place is VALHALLA FIVE.
Jamie Johnston at 23:35 on 2012-06-11
That was indeed a fucking excellent joke. And also holy moly did you actually just recite the Mallett's Mallet spiel from memory?
Jamie Johnston at 18:48 on 2012-06-13
Finally, does Loki's "mewling" comment push him into Whedon's straw misogynist territory?

From what I hear (I'll try to find a link when I'm not on a bus) the thing is that 'quim' is actually not a slur, just a neutral descriptive word (in contrast to 'quean', which is derogatory). So if Whedon was trying to make Loki a straw misogynist then he's (1) done it incompetently and (2) revealed his own prejudices by assuming that any word for 'vagina' must be an insult.
Jamie Johnston at 18:51 on 2012-06-13
As to peacast generally: IETAHNTA (I enjoyed this and have nothing to add).
Arthur B at 22:38 on 2012-06-13
From what I hear (I'll try to find a link when I'm not on a bus) the thing is that 'quim' is actually not a slur, just a neutral descriptive word (in contrast to 'quean', which is derogatory).

I don't know about that; I know quim isn't used as a slur very often but if one person refers to another person a term for genitalia then in most contexts it's not exactly going to denote respect or affection.

I do wonder whether Whedon originally thought of going full-bore Anglo-Saxon with the vocabulary but decided to dial it back to prevent ratings issues.
Alice at 14:54 on 2012-06-14
I do wonder whether Whedon originally thought of going full-bore Anglo-Saxon with the vocabulary but decided to dial it back to prevent ratings issues.

I don't know about going full-bore Anglo-Saxon with the vocabulary as a whole, but clearly a) Loki intended it as a slur, and b) Joss Whedon wrote it in Archaic* as c) a way of getting (the equivalent of) the c-word past the censors.

Which I can't help but feel is at best a bit childish, viz.:

RDA: What do you feel is the greatest achievement of "the Avoiders"?
JW: Getting "mewling quim" out there to the masses. Also, Hulk.


Okay, that's from a fake interview Joss Whedon wrote in a letter to his fans, parts of which are clearly joking. But I rather suspect that the bit I quoted is not one of those parts.

And as one of the commenters on this article (which discusses the "mewling quim" line, and is where I found the link to the quote above) says: "Mr. Whedon, our culture doesn't need any more ways to insult women for being women. We're pretty much covered on that front, thanks.".

(There's a range of interpretations/viewpoints in the comments - now closed - on that Cleolinda post, but personally I lean towards the "side-eyeing Joss Whedon for that line & his subsequent comments" end of things.)

---
*and, if Jamie's right, used the wrong word, oops
Dan H at 15:32 on 2012-06-14

That was indeed a fucking
excellent joke. And also holy moly did you actually just recite the Mallett's
Mallet spiel from memory?


You mean there are people who *can't* recite the entire Mallett's Mallet spiel from memory?
Robinson L at 20:30 on 2012-09-12
I agree with Kyra, that “Avengers Assemble (or just “The Avengers” in the US) joke never gets funny.

And yes, Loki was indeed quite charming in both Thor and the Avengers movie.

Re: absence of Natalie Portman from the Avengers movie

I read on the movie's TV Tropes page that actually, she would've been perfectly willing to appear in it … but she was pregnant at the time they were filming, so they nixed that idea.

Re: the Avengers all being from wildly different contexts and those contexts clashing wildly in the film

The other relevant tidbit I picked up from the TV Tropes page is that apparently, Joss Whedon described the basic premise as “a terrible idea for a movie” and said that the characters do not at all belong together. Granted, you can read a fair degree of hubris into this quote, but in my view the synthesis actually worked quite well, so I suppose he's entitled.

Re: Banner's name

I read some of the early comics many years ago, and it's definitely Bruce. David was the TV series (which I've never seen), I heard recently an explanation for why they changed it, but I forget what that was. Fun fact: according to that early Hulk collection I read years ago, his canon name is actually Robert Bruce Banner; it started out just Bruce Banner, but in the early days of the comics somebody at Marvel screwed up and often had the text referring to him as “Bob” Banner, so they retconned his first name as Robert when they discovered the discrepancy.

Banner-Rogers-Stark

Being from the States, I took a good split-second or so to remember that “roger” is a euphemism in Britain – I think my delayed comprehension heightened the hilarity of the moment.

Heh-heh, a couple of days after listening to this episode, I was hanging out with ptolemaeus while she tried to print some photos (we never did figure out why it refused to print color), and I remembered the discussion of how Bruce Banner would make a horrible computer technician. Heck, you wouldn't even need to get as far as “someone is wrong on the internet,” just trying to get the bloody things to work properly would probably spell doom for a mid-sized metropolitan population.

Kyra: I think there should be a Hawkeye movie …

My sister would heartily agree with you there.

Somewhere in here, somebody brought up Black Widow's “cranial readjustment,” which is one of the little details which always niggle me about this movie. Okay, so she sees through Hawkeye's initial pretense that he's recovered from the mind control, smart guess, but why is she then dead certain that he's not faking it again after she hits him very hard in the head? I can just barely accept that this is what cures Loki's mind control, but how on earth did Black Widow figure that out?

I haven't read any of Black Widow's comics, so I can't really compare her original character to the movie's interpretation. I don't want to take a side on the argument of whether it was a bad presentation or a good one, but I'm interested in following the discussion.

I will say that it worked pretty well for me and for my sisters; ptolemaeus in particular hated Scarlet Johanson's Black Widow in Iron Man II, but liked her just fine in The Avengers—a pretty impressive turn around to my way of thinking.

Something else which actually impressed me was Black Widow's interrogation of Loki. As I said, I don't know about fidelity to her character in the comics, but I thought that exploiting her own weakness (the pain she feels at Loki's control over her friend) to successfully manipulate Loki is a lot more powerful and heroic on her part than if she'd merely been feigning that weakness.
Wardog at 12:23 on 2012-09-21
I can just barely accept that this is what cures Loki's mind control, but how on earth did Black Widow figure that out?

Isn't a blow to the head the Officially Recognised Solution TM for any sort of mental confusion? Amnesia etc.?

but I thought that exploiting her own weakness (the pain she feels at Loki's control over her friend) to successfully manipulate Loki is a lot more powerful and heroic on her part than if she'd merely been feigning that weakness.

Yeah, it's nice on principle but I feel, in general, slightly dubious about weaponised weakness as it intersects with Being A Woman. I mean, the opening scene where she 'interrogates' a mobster by pretending to let them capture her is ... on the borderline of eyeroll for me. I mean, yes, it's cool and I know it's meant to be all "ah, see women, using their perceived weakness against men foolish enough not to give credence to the equality of women in general" but equally I don't see why a female character's power always has to be rooted in MENZ. I mean "being able to manipulate stupid men by pretending to be weaker than you are" is a lousy power compared to HAS A BOW. Or IS GREEN. Or whatever. And I know the BW is not really meant to be a superhero so much as a really competent person but ... yeah ...
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