Remember when I was all, “Hey look! Scarlett Johansson is the only woman in this movie and it’s a problem!”? Turns out, the director and the cast of The Avengers agree with me.
This week’s Entertainment Weekly features an interview with the biggest names in the Avenger’s cast. From the outset, we get the sense that Johansson’s lady status makes people treat her differently from her castmates.
Interviewer Anthony Breznican opens with a meta approach and asks about the star’s other interviews for the film: “What kinds of questions have you been getting the most?”
We learn that while doing publicity for the movie, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans are asked about their biceps and workout regimens, while Johansson is asked about her underwear.
She is more explicitly sexualized than her male costars, and she is the only woman on the Avengers team. Eventually, the interview tackles the Smurfette problem head on:
Since we talked about studying up on Marvel history, which character would you add to an Avengers sequel?
Joss Whedon: [Sarcastically] I think we need to get some more men on the team.
Hemsworth: [Laughs] Yes, there are too few of us.
There are a lot of female superheroes in comics, but why so few on film? Joss, you tried to make a Wonder Woman movie for several years, right?
Whedon: Studios will tell you: A woman cannot headline an action movie. After The Hunger Games they might stop telling you that a little bit. Whatever you think of the movie, it’s done a great service.
The interview then delves into the problem that traditionally plagues female-driven action films: an overemphasis on sexy sexitude.
Johansson: A lot of the female-superhero movies just suck really badly.
Whedon: The suck factor is not small.
Johansson: There are a couple that have worked-ish, don’t you think?
Hemsworth: Angelina Jolie tends to do it pretty well, as a dominant female.
Samuel L. Jackson: They got to get The Pro to the screen! I love that book!
Johansson: What’s The Pro?
Jackson: It’s [a comic book] about a hooker who gets superpowers!
Johansson: That is exactly the problem right there!
Jackson: It’s a totally dope book, though.
Johansson: I’d have to wear pasties to greenlight any of these movies.
So do you think the problem is female-superhero films have just focused too much on sexuality?
Johansson: They’re always fighting in a bra, so while it might be exciting for a still photo, it’s ridiculous. I do think superheroine movies are normally really corny and bad. They’re always, like, fighting in four-inch heels with their [thrusting out her chest] like a two-gun salute.
Sure, the interview doesn’t change Johansson’s Smurfette status in the film, but it does two good things: it challenges readers to be cognizant of the dearth of women in action roles, and it criticizes Hollywood for prioritizing a female character’s sex appeal above all else.
I’ll take that over reports on Johansson’s undergarments any day.