Hulk Smash Systemic Sexism!

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.

4 thoughts on “Hulk Smash Systemic Sexism!

  1. While I don’t necessarily think it’s sexist that there is only one female hero in the movie, I agree with the feelings of sexism surrounding her…while the character is designed to be highly sexualized (“Exotic Russian beauty who can kill you six different ways while you’re still gawking at her chest!”), the actress…Ms. Johannson herself…is not. I haven’t seen the articles where she gets asked about her underwear or the tight-fitting costume, but I have no doubt they exist…personally, if it was ME asking her a quetion, it’d be something more reasonable like, say, “How does it feel to be the only female in a movie and actually UPSTAGE all your buff male co-stars? To playone of the two characters that don’t have magic powers, a fancy robot suit, or were the victims of lab accidents gone awry, but by your character’s own training and determination? How does it feel to be in some way almost as good a role-model for women as Katniss Everdeen (who broke her foot off in many an ass while rockin’ a Nomex hoodie)?” Instead the press surrounding the film takes any strength or empowerment women might’ve been able to take from her role in an otherwise male-dominated genre and makes her more of a “chick mascot” than a woman able to hold her own. I wonder what they’d say of our fighting women in the military…

    On one hand I’ll give them credit for actually giving her a semi-realistic fighting-suit…it heeds a bit more padding in vital areas or at least some armor plating for my tastes, but it looks reasonable for movement and comfort while sneaking around (as opposed to the baggy BDUs I used to wear while I was enlisted, which made extra noise at inopportune moments…which we later solved by using electrical tape and dark thermal shirts), however…does her suit really need to ride into her, um, “posterior cleavage” like that? At the risk of being smacked by every guy on Earth, it just strikes me as silly…okay, we knew the front zipper was going to be at half-mast to draw the eye to her ta-tas, likewise the underscooped seam which probably doubles as an underwire, but it does seem a bit immature to make a young lady wear an otherwise comfy-looking bodysuit and shape the butt-area so it’ll make her look as naked as possible…the Avengers are supposed to venture into the unknown, not her suit!

    Still, for female role-models, between “Hunger Games” and “The Avengers” I am starting to see an up-swing. Sure, superheroes will always have that shortage because comics are still, for the most part, an industry with a male clientelle and geared towards “traditionally male” senses of heroism (big, strong guys saving damsels in distress), but young women are changing that…and noticeably. The “hot chick” at the International Comic-Con isn’t simply being dragged there by her comic-geek boyfriend…now SHE’s the comic-geek and he’s along for the ride. But now girls have a new style of female hero (yes, I’ve used the word “hero”…not “heroine”…intentionally) in Katniss Everdeen…baggy clothes, minimal makeup, too busy worrying about her family’s welfare to give a crap about boys…who is still beautiful, but beautiful in her determination and self-motivation than for trying to get a rise out of guys.

    I’m still going to see the movie, and yeah, I think Scarlet looks cute as a button (I’ve never really been able to think of her as “hot”…she’s more “adorable” to me), but I for one will be more interested in watching her break her foot off in Loki’s ass than how her suit shows off hers.

  2. So I honestly can’t say as I’ve EVER given Scarlett Johansson a thought (I mean… her name is Scarlett Johansson), but this almost makes me think about thinking about her.

    Huh.

    Though I am not even going to deny even a little bit that I am totally checking Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans’ muscley muscles out. Because, yeah. HELLO. *fans self*

    • By all means, check them out and up and down :)

      It’s an action movie; every body is on display. It just seems as though S. J. is, compared to her male cohorts, disproportionately sexualized in the media’s treatment of this film.

      I agree with her that female-driven action films often suffer from SEXXXY syndrome (it’s reductive), and it’s weird to hear that perspective from a woman being interviewed because she plays yet another lady character who embodies SEXY.

      Yeah, Scarlett Johansson/Huh — I know.

      • Oh, no no — I agree COMPLETELY that while Thor and Iron Man and Captain America and Hawkeye and even Nick Fury get to march onto the screen all bad assy we’re here to save all ya’ll USA!, Black Widow slinks in all slinky in a cat suit. Every promo shot has her with chin tilted down and eyes looking up vixen kitten beeseachingly. Cause, you know, SHE’S THE GIRL.

        I’m just saying that everyone named Chris acting as a super hero is hot as hells.

        I acknowledge the problem while being a lech. ;)

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