Joss Whedon Vs. The Social Justice Avengers (special editorial by Kevin McVicker)

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble! – the “Internet War” over Joss Whedon is your main event of the evening!!

In this corner: the over-zealous “militant fanboy” aggressively angry over any change to their fictional characters who lob threats of sexual violence at anyone who disagrees on the Internet.

In the other corner: the modern “social justice warrior” who cries foul at the drop of a hat without understanding the definitions of words and then not grasping the irony of their threats of violence given their liberal inclinations.

In the middle: the rest of us who just want to enjoy the things we enjoy.

Whedonmain (Custom)
Joss Whedon (photo via his recently closed Twitter account)

To start off Joss Whedon is far from reproach. He isn’t the second coming and not every single thing he has ever been involved with was perfect and awesome (if you think it is, go watch Dollhouse). He is an artist just trying to make his art, I’m sure the art he would enjoy himself, and sometimes it connects with the viewer and other times it does not. That is art. That is life. That is a cup of tea. Maybe it’s your cup, maybe it isn’t.

With the recent gargantuan opening weekend of his second Marvel film, Avengers: Age of Ultron, a smattering of hateful notes no longer than 140 characters each pierced the anonymous online veil of Twitter. This backlash from the Internet apparently has caused Whedon to close his Twitter account, although that is slightly speculative at this point in time as varying reports have surfaced. Maybe he just got tired of using it. Maybe he finally realized how worthless Twitter is and dropped it because of that. By the way, if you found your way to this via Twitter, Twitter is awesome, and I’m just kidding. Whatever the case, the so-called “Twitter War” is real.

Now, when I first heard of hateful backlash I wondered what had caused this. Was it the lack of Hank Pym in the origin of Ultron? Was it the alteration of Scarlet Witch‘s power set? Was it the somewhat similar third acts of both Avenger films? Was it that the general plot structure of Age of Ultron was basically the same plot from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (the team is happy, they then encounter a harsh defeat and retreat to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, they recuperate, and then they defeat a giant metal man and his minions)? No, it was cries of misogyny, racism, and transphobia. – Huh?

*Spoilers Incoming – Don’t Want Them? Don’t Keep Reading This*

Okay, so the more I read the comments tended to stem from the second act’s conclusion where Black Widow was kidnapped by Ultron. She ends up being saved after sending a Morse code message to the other Avengers telling them where Ultron is. In fairness, maybe this is a bit of a trope storytelling. Is it necessarily a “damsel in distress” sexist metaphor? In a way it is, but she’s already proven she’s a badass and anybody but Thor would be crapping themselves when kidnapped by Ultron. (and as you know, no female heroine is ever allowed to be in danger: see that Batgirl cover) So, in order to move forward, let’s define sexism. According to online dictionaries, “sexism is the belief that one sex is naturally superior to the other and should dominate most important areas of political, economic, and social life.” Now a trope is defined as a common or overused device or theme. So a trope could be sexist, but isn’t always sexist.

Now, if we follow the plot and logic of the story, Hawkeye has to fly the plan because he’s a good pilot (established in comics and independent of his sex). Captain America and Iron Man must make it to the next scene where Vision is awakening to create tension and build the groundwork for Captain America: Civil War movie (again independent of their sex). Thor and Hulk could never be captured by Ultron because they’re too strong (once more independent of their sex because Captain Marvel would’ve been too). The Twins are too unimportant to the team to be a motivating factor. Also whoever is kidnapped has to be able to let the team know where Ultron is using archaic means which Ultron wouldn’t necessarily be looking for (Cap, Hawkeye, and Widow are established at knowing Morse Code). By design of the story Black Widow is kidnapped. And, sure it is a bit of a cliché, but directly after she is rescued by her knight-in-green-armor another trope is developed. This is the “going-to-war romance” trope. The man has a sense of duty and his feeble woman wants him to ignore honor and run away with her to somewhere quiet. But, and this is important and I think purposeful due to the “damsel-in-distress” device, Whedon actually makes Natasha the honorable soldier who has to go to war and Banner the weak lover who just wants them to run away. So if you scream “sexism” for a second you have to retract it a moment later once Whedon flips convention on its head. Whedon does this sort of trope flip throughout the film.

A perfect example is Hawkeye only has one room left to finish remodeling and a pregnant wife. Who didn’t think he was a dead man going to face Ultron in the finale? But Whedon twisted your expectations and has his saved by the young gun who you’re sure is going to survive because he was just introduced. There are those who are also claiming that Age of Ultron had a rape joke in it. This was apparently the line where Tony Stark says he’d reinstitute Prima Nocturne if he was able to lift Thor’s hammer. Now, let’s understand “a joke” for a second. In no way did this movie or the writer say that Prima Nocturne was a thing we should actually bring back. And in no way did this movie or the writer say that such practices were funny. But the character of Tony Stark, who is a boozer and womanizer, thinks it is a funny joke to say. So let’s ignore whether the joke is actually funny and say that the joke shows more about Tony Stark’s character than anyone else’s. And in fairness, it sounds exactly like something Tony Stark would say, just like how he made fun of Captain America for telling him to watch his language.

So the “misogyny” sounds more like YOUR issue than Whedon’s, which is typical from armchair slacktivist social justice warriors. It legitimately sounds nitpicky, like you’re looking for issues where there aren’t any.

U.S. director Joss Whedon waves during a press conference to promote his latest film "Avengers: Age of Ultron" in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 17, 2015. The movie will open on April 23 in South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Joss Whedon during a press conference to promote “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The second call is his racism. So again let’s define that term. According to online dictionaries “racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” In no way shape or form was this represented in Age of Ultron. It is a stretch only possible by Reed Richards to call this movie or Joss Whedon a racist. There is no evidence to support that. What your argument could be and might have legitimacy with the lack of diversity in the characters. But, and this is an important distinction people miss, lack of diversity doesn’t mean racism. It just means lack of diversity. Now in fairness, sure lack of diversity could exist because of because of racism, but there is zero evidence for that. Whedon actually sets up the next Avengers roster at the end of movie with a diverse squadron. He finishes out the story with the characters he was given at the beginning of the first Avengers and sets up future installments to have greater diversity. That doesn’t sound racist. That sounds like a storyteller working in the confines of the studio’s vision.

As a final thought, I am a guy. So maybe, probably, what do I know? Well, I do know that words have meaning, and when used irresponsibly and cavalier they lose their power. The internet is becoming “the child who cried sexist/racist.” And the worst part is there is real racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia out in the world. And you’re taking attention away from that to get mad about a superhero movie. Do you honestly think anyone left the theater thinking “Black Widow got kidnapped ’cause she’s a worthless girl”? Only if they came in thinking that.

Is Joss Whedon the next Gloria Feinstein or Martin Luther King Jr? In no way. But he isn’t Archie Bunker, either. So pick your battles before you embitter those who might usually agree with you. And for the love of god, stop making every little thing a “social justice” issue. You’re not making the world better, you’re just making fandom worse.

-Kevin McVicker
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

Please Note: The views and opinions presented by Mr. McVicker are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Nerd Nation Magazine, our sponsors, or anyone else for that matter. Please don’t be a d-bag and try to sue/protest/boycott anyone over the stuff he writes. It’s called an opinion, folks. Don’t like it? The internet is a big place, just go read something else… preferably right here at Nerd Nation! =)



  1. the only thing that gets me about Whedon is that he totally buys the bullcrap Sarkeesian says about videogames. You can flip her arguments to be about MEN and they would still be true..



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