Marvel's #Avengers, Religion and Gender #whedony

Maria Hill

“You have the Blue Stick of Destiny.”

The world of comic books and the world of religion, which in my own personal context, is Christianity, have a lot of similarities. You have your political ideologues: Hawkman, he’s a conservative, and Green Arrow (yuck!) he’s a progressive liberal; Superman, according to The Optymyst, he’s moderate (I think that’s b.s., but I digress). In “The Church,” we have our conservative Bibles and books (the English Standard Version and almost every book sold at LifeWay Christian stores) as well as our “liberal” Bibles: the highly accurate 😉 New Revised Standard Version that’s seen as more gender-inclusive, and most books sold at Cokesbury stores.

When it comes to comic book movies, this gender bias is even more apparent. Last year, as we all know from the Optymyst’s review of it, DC Comics rebooted its comic book universe with the new 52, but working with Nielson, they acknowledged that this reboot ignored women comic book fans (see the post linked) for more details. AMC has even started a t.v. series, Comic Book Men, but it should really be titled Comic Book White Men.

One of things I was well aware of with Joss Whedon writing the story for Marvel’s The Avengers movie was the manly man image of the four characters, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. In all five of the previous Avengers’ movies leading up to this one where they are actually a team, women are nothing more than mascots, serving as the girlfriends or damsels in distress (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger). Both times as I watched Avengers in theatres, it was fun to see how Whedon negotiated his preference for strong female kick-a$% protagonists (ala Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as River Tam of Firefly). Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Scarlett Johanson as Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow) were the typical Whedonesque strong women fighters I expected them to be. However, also Joss Whedon’s interpretation of Iron Man/Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr., as well as Captain America/Steve Rogers, portrayed by Chris Evans were equally provocative gender-wise, especially as it pertains to humor.  Tony Stark mocks Loki when L tries to use the alien scythe to make Stark into his personal zombie with the comment, “Performance issues are natural,” as a way of demasculinizing our foe.

The most powerful image in favor of gender equality were the screen shots of the general population of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents; in order to compensate for the four super manly men soldiers on the big screen, Joss went in the direction of representation wherever he could, and I think it works.  Unlike the comic book industry or the church, Joss knows that most of the most active participants in the Whedonite community are women.

Perhaps DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Christianity, and other religions would do well to follow Whedon’s lead and see to it that more women are placed in leadership positions.

“Ma’am. There’s only One God, and he does not dress like that!”


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4 thoughts on “Marvel's #Avengers, Religion and Gender #whedony

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