Earlier this week, quotes by Joss Whedon about what he perceives to be the “intractable sexism” in the comic book movie industry made the rounds, but here’s the thing — those quotes were from last summer from the set of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and because they were under embargo, only started to surface now. And seeing his words months later, a bit surprised they’ve taken on the life that they have given his longstanding outspokenness regarding the representation of women in genre fare, Whedon has felt the need to correct the record a bit and share a few more thoughts on the issue.
Chatting with Buzzfeed, Whedon admits that at the time he made those aforementioned comments, he actually knew a “Captain Marvel” movie was in the works, but was still pessimistic about its prospects. “[I didn’t expect] it to get any traction, honestly. That’s something that [Marvel Studios chief] Kevin [Feige] has been working on for a while. And I obviously was a cheerleader, but he had to get all the ducks in a row and get all the minds in agreement. I think being a part of Disney maybe makes it easier, because they’re open to it. And Marvel now is in a position to shake up its own paradigm, because it’s got such a success record,” Whedon says. “Honestly, you know, ‘Guardians [of the Galaxy]‘ might have helped it, just because that was outside what was considered to be their box and did so well that — Well, let’s put it this way: If a raccoon can carry a movie, then they believe maybe even a woman can.”
Of course, it’s a bit depressing that an animated raccoon is trusted to power a blockbuster movie before a woman is, but it’s more evidence to the point that Whedon is trying to address when it comes to studios banking on female-driven tentpoles. But it isn’t just gender bias he hopes will get shaken up in the studio system, but superhero storytelling general.
“I think the success of the young-adult trilogies that are usually not only female-driven but have a romantic bent — and are not necessarily about the spectacle of action but contain it — is great. Because, you know me, I love a bouillabaisse of genres. I like to throw everything in the stew. The superhero story — and I do consider [the YA adaptations] to be superhero stories — it doesn’t have to be about one tortured billionaire. It can be a girl and her community, her crushes, her fears. We can evolve that genre more quickly if we come at it from different ways. It both makes sense commercially and artistically. Not all the movies are going to be good. That never happens. But it’s going to open up the avenues,” Whedon says.
” ‘Lucy‘ was a huge step, in a way,” he continued, citing a recent example. “Because it was such a massive hit, and because Scarlett is amazing in it. Her in the first 40 minutes of that movie is just — she’s giving a powerhouse, emotional performance as a terrified and evolving person. It’s not just, ‘Oh, we’re going to pay lip service to this idea, and then get to the endless ass-kicking.’ It really is a character piece.”
And in the same week where we heard Mark Millar was once considering a Hit-Girl movie (talk about a character that plays lip service), Whedon is dead-on correct when he stresses character first, action after.
But is there hope on the horizon? Because at the end of the day, we’re still only looking at “Captain Marvel” and “Wonder Woman” as the only big-screen superhero women between now and 2020. There’s still a long road ahead….