How Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” sparked a newfound desire for change

Alia Carlton

Guardians of the Galaxy. Iron Man. Avengers. The people of Marvel Entertainment have a knack for churning out movies that deliver just the right amounts of action-packed sequences and sarcastic punch lines.

The Avengers franchise, specifically, continues to interest longtime fans and bring in new superhero enthusiasts with each movie release. Avengers: Age of Ultron, the newest cinematic release from Marvel, recently garnered over $1 billion at box offices worldwide making it the highest-earning film of 2015 so far.

Unfortunately for Marvel, the large turnout at the movie theaters didn’t stop the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron from being clouded with controversy. Perceived evidence of sexism from the writers, director, cast members and CEO of Marvel had many people up in arms and sparked many complaints over social media.

Email exchanges between the CEO of Marvel, Ike Perlmutter, and a Sony Executive featured a long list of female superhero movies that flopped, showing supposed evidence that attempting films driven by female superheroes would never turn out well.

The exchanges failed to mention male-driven films such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which not only went into the production stage with an unfinished screenplay, but also evoked scathing reviews from critics.

These reviewers included Joe Morgenstern from the Wall Street Journal, who called the film’s direction “mismanagement of anger, rage and demonic howls.”

Marvel films starring women aren’t the only ones that flop. It’s just that often, women aren’t given a chance to be in a movie that actually does well.

The Avengers films already feature a strong female character who, despite outcries from fans, has not yet been given her own film.

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is known by fans for her flaming red hair and tight black bodysuit, along with her ability to take out an entire hallway of guards as she did in the first Avengers film.

Action figures were produced for the characters in Avengers: Age of Ultron, including one for the character of Hawkeye, who is considered by some to be Black Widow’s male counterpart in the films.

The only main character not given an action figure in the line was Black Widow.

Mark Ruffalo, who portrays The Hulk, expressed his dissatisfaction of the action figures over Twitter.

“@Marvel we need more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces,” he said. “Pretty please.”

Preceding Ruffalo’s tweet was an interview with Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, and Jeremy Renner who plays Hawkeye.

They were quoted calling the character of Black Widow a “slut” and “a complete whore” during an interview with UK entertainment news source Digital Spy. This lead to angry backlash from male and female fans alike.

Renner and Evans both promptly apologized for what they said; however, Evans’ apology actually stuck.

Renner later said to talk show host Conan O’Brien that he was “unapologetic” about his remarks, following what People magazine referred to as a “not-really-an-apology” from Renner.

The fact is, women are intentionally and unintentionally underrepresented in the Marvel universe.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that 40 percent of viewers who saw The Avengers in theaters were women.

So far, various people attached to Marvel have seemingly implied that they not care about the female characters in the films, or the opinions of many female viewers. They have also implied that they do not trust women to bring them any box office hits anytime soon.

The establishment of this philosophy is dangerous to the mindset of young girls who actually want to make a difference.

We must enforce the fact that women are powerful too, and that they deserve just as much attention for being powerful as men do. We must enforce the fact that women are capable of starring in superhero films. We must make clear that they’re capable of not just standing by while men save the world around them, but that they can save the world too. And while that won’t exactly solve the issue of sexism in the media, it’s a start.