Posted by : Wendy B Saturday, 30 March 2013

We watched The Avengers last night and I was reminded of the Black Widow praise that keeps popping up. It speaks about how awesome Joss Whedon, the mighty feminist, is for single-handedly ending sexism by having Black Widow be so awesomely awesome in the movie.

Not that she wasn't awesome, even when tricking us with her tropes, but the thing is, she was not the only woman in that movie.

How is it, that when praising how The Avengers featured a Strong Female Character, no one is talking about Maria Hill?

So I'm going to give Maria some love.

Let's remember for a moment which woman was introduced in the film first. Remember that time she jumped into a jeep and faced down Loki, Hawkeye and others as the base crumbled behind her? Let's take into consideration that she is S.H.I.E.L.D.'s commander, second only to Nick Fury. When he's not around, she is in charge and that's every bit clear in the movie. Thankfully, someone else noticed Maria's awesomeness and put together this nice video:

2 Responses so far.

  1. Just speaking as someone outside the Avengers comic book fandom, I think maybe the reason you see a lot of this is because you knew who she was before? It wasn't as obvious to some of us. In fact, I could tell that there was supposed to be more to her character and I wanted to like her and see her as being awesome, but I just felt like nothing about her was explained well.

    I thought she fell into the same trap as Hawkeye, that Joss forgot that ensemble pieces take work and time and don't work well as movies. (He mentions in the commentary that he had promised himself never to attempt an ensemble film and didn't realize until about halfway through writing Avengers that that was exactly what he was doing.) The already-popular characters who had already gotten their own movies and who the audience wanted to see got the most attention, Black Widow next because she'd been seen in Iron-Man 2 and people liked her (or at least, looking at her) from that. And everyone else just sort of got pushed aside and we got glimpses of their personality rather than a full story.

    I did not know that she was second-in-command. I kept wondering who she was, what she was doing there, why she keeps acting like she's so important when I don't even know her name. I found her unbelievably annoying and wished she hadn't been included in the movie if they weren't going to make a point to introduce her and let me know why she's there.

    Basically, there's a lot about SHIELD that the films don't do a good job of explaining. It's not really clear how it works, how the Avengers are related to it and work within that hierarchy, what SHIELD actually does when it's not babysitting superheroes. I assumed everyone you see there is below Coulson and the Avengers, because they get more screentime and we kind of know what they do, while as far as I can tell Maria stands around criticizing Fury and providing exposition for the viewer. It's easy to forget that yes, this was an organization that was introduced earlier and exists for other purposes, whatever those might be.

    I believe you that she's awesome, and now that I know more of what she does that makes sense. But it really wasn't communicated well in the film. I wish they'd given her more of a role and that Whedon had ignored length limits and just given every major character the attention they deserved. Heck, at the very least it might have been cool to see her in one of the shorts, since I feel like that's where a lot of Coulson's awesomeness came through and where he became so popular. They didn't have to limit themselves to what could be shown in a single film.

  2. Good point about her not being officially introduced as Fury's second in command. I can see your point on how she would appear as an annoyance, rather than someone with very specific purpose if you don't know who she is and what her purpose is, though I felt her role should have been assumed because of what she was doing in the movie with Fury. His commands went to her and when he wasn't there, they came from her. When the ship was under attack, she was the one giving commands if not Fury. I am assuming, but to me, it ought to have been obvious that she held a very senior position.

    I decided to keep this post to her movie appearance, even though when I first met her, she was under fire for her role during Marvel Civil War where she was the Director of SHIELD in Fury's absence and had to make some tough calls that made her look like the bad guy when she was doing her job and Fury was hiding out.

    It's not that I disagree with the attention given to Black Widow. She was a lead character, so I expect it. But the praise coming from people makes it sound like she is the ONLY female in the movie. I didn't even talk about Pepper Potts, CEO of Stark Industries. This wasn't her place to shine, but she could easily have not been in the film at all, yet she was, and she was there as more than Tony's girlfriend. Joss did at least make it clear how much she does with and for Stark Industries and Tony.

    Ultimately, my issue is with the whole idea that Black Widow serves as the feminist example for the film, as if she were the token woman there.

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This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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