*Be wary of Age of Ultron spoilers in this post*
People fuck up. We’re human. Examining our graceful failings is one of the many purposes of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Whether you love or hate the film, the movie poses questions over which most superhero movies skim. It’s a movie that makes the heroes question their very existence and their shortcomings. By the finale, the movie answers this question by letting Ultron and Vision discuss humanity’s fallibility. It promotes a discussion on whether the heroes are in the right.
So why can’t we apply this logic to our actual everyday conversations?
There’s an idea going around that Whedon wrote Natasha Romanoff as a damsel in distress to Bruce Banner’s knight in shining armor. Personally, I don’t believe the way Whedon wrote Black Widow is sexist or reductive of her character. She’s a character who has the benefit of constantly trying to achieve a sense of identity. In Age of Ultron, the team is taking stock of their place in the world, what they’ll leave behind. I believe Natasha is trying to find a different sense of happiness through an extension of romantic interest. As for that iffy line of Natasha referring to herself as a monster, it’s not because she can’t have children but because the red room took every possibility of a normal life away from her. She’s one of the most fascinating characters in the franchise because of her morally gray complexities. She’s vulnerable in her moments with Banner and vice versa. I see it as a thematically relevant romance tying in the greater ideas of the movie.
The beauty of opinion and analytical based journalism and discussion? You don’t even have to agree with me. You can rage and be furious all you want. I can get furious at a shitty movie starring my favorite superhero. I can complain on the internet all I want (not even sorry). There are just lines we shouldn’t cross.
To call Whedon any sort of name or say he fucked up Natasha’s character is reductive in itself. But harassing someone with death threats or telling someone to kill themselves is rude as hell and can be dangerous.
I’m not here to blindly defend Whedon. As big a fan I am of his works, I can admit he ain’t perfect (look at Dollhouse and despair). He is, however, one of the few creative minds attempting to set even ground by writing women that can be just as flawed, powerful, and diverse as their male counterparts. To dislike how he writes a single character and call “bloody murder” for his head is terrifying for both him and the greater movie fan culture. To call his most recent movie a travesty is equally absurd and without value. Looking at the bigger picture of storytelling, movie making, and the creative process, there’s no reason to attach ourselves to a single negative piece of a larger puzzle. It’s reducing this possible conversation into simple “rights and wrongs” which is all different kinds of not good.
I vented a few minutes about it on twitter but it’s worth mentioning again: this is part of a larger problem with internet culture. It’s the modern wild west and people are finding their own ways of “educating” themselves with ideas of social justice. The practice of actually confronting ideas and questioning whether or not they work in a larger context is what we do at AE all the time. We start discussions because we want to get to a mutual, negotiated understanding of a topic. Agreeing all the time is boring. Let’s talk about why something does or doesn’t work in the grand scheme of things.
But, it’ really fucking rude to verbally attack someone with violent language for having a differing opinion of some kind – in this case, how a fictional character is written. Refusing to engage conversation beyond “I don’t like this, so I’ll call it problematic and walk away,” isn’t as bad as actually writing derogatory comments or oversimplifying up a character, but it doesn’t actually help anyone. You’re calling out something you dislike but not discussing why said thing may not have been the best direction for this to take.
The worst part of this is that the counter to to the offensive is lobbing just as much angry jargon now. Nobody is winning. We’ve all royally fucked up this situation.
Whedon’s departure from Twitter may not be directly related to this clusterfuck of harassment. He never was the biggest tweeter, but the problem still remains: We need to be willing to have more civil discussions on pop culture. We need to at least ignore the ones just looking for something to be angry about. If we’re going to make a win out of this, we’re going to need to take a hard look at how to find common ground. This is more than just good vs. evil. It’s about proving Ultron wrong and finding the grace in our shortcomings. I think we missed that.