Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner Call Black Widow a “Slut” and “Whore”; New Age of Ultron Clip Features Rape Joke
THIS. LOOKS. BAD.
We here at The Mary Sue spend a lot of time analyzing some of the less blatant ways sexism manifests in the Marvel Universe (lack of Black Widow merch, for example), but it’s one thing for Marvel and Disney to exclude female fans for frustrating financial reasons and another for the films’ actors and writer to elect to use sexist and ableist language. How about not, dudes? How about not?
Some of the asshattery in question occurred during a recent Digital Spy interview with Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans in which the two were asked how they felt about Black Widow pairing up with Bruce instead of Hawkeye or Cap (as many fans had hoped), and replied by calling her a “slut” and a “whore”:
In addition to reducing Natasha Romanoff to a set of sexual slurs and laughing uproariously at the thought that someone with a prosthetic leg might be romantically desirable, the two also agree with the interviewer’s assessment that “whatever movie it is, she [Black Widow] is on the side, just flirting with everybody.” Although I think the interviewer is actually making a very valid criticism of the franchises’ writing, I would have expected the two to defend one of their films’ few female characters from such an unflattering assessment. Nah, though:
Yuk Yuk city, population two!
Obviously Evans and Renner are fallible humans who can’t be expected to live up to the standards set by their characters, everyone’s fave is problematic, there but for the Grace of God go I, etc., but this interview is bad, bro. It’s Anthony Mackie “Make Daddy a Sandwich” bad. It’s “time for a public apology” bad, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, either–the Marvel Universe has a lot of representation going for it, but it’s also got a history of turning women (specifically Nat and Gamora) into fuckable punchlines.
Unfortunately, MCU fans don’t need to look far for another example of fratty nonsense; a recently-released Age of Ultron clip is also drawing fire for making a gross Prima Nocta joke:
Ahh, Prima Nocta, the ancient practice that granted nobles sexual rights to a man’s wife on the wedding night! What superhero movie would be complete without wistful longing for a time when rape was customary?
I’m sure countless fans will rush to Whedon’s defense, so let me say this out of the gate: yes, this is a joke. Clearly. But there’s no such thing as ‘just’ a joke; and when you’re a creator with a history of being hilarious without relying on rape culture, it’s time to admit witty banter that punches down at approximately half one’s audience really isn’t that witty at all. “Mewling quim” wasn’t worth it, and “Prima Nocta” isn’t either.
Unfortunately, “Prima Nocta” doesn’t exist in a vacuum anymore than Evans and Renner’s comments; both jokes show that the boy’s club atmosphere of geekdom is alive and well and ready to remind women we don’t belong unless we’re eye candy on the sidelines. Obviously I don’t think for a second that was the intention of anyone involved, but unfortunately intention doesn’t negate effect, and it’s very telling of how ingrained sexism can be that Evans and Renner were comfortable using gendered slurs in front of a female interviewer.
How about no more punching down, MCU dudes? You guys hit harder than you might think.
[UPDATE: Renner and Evans have both issued statements regarding the controversy.]
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