I’m not calling this a full review of The Avengers, because I started celebrating its release early by getting sick so I’m kind of a mess. Also, I’m coming from a place of love for comics, and Marvel specifically, and I know previously my familiarity with source material has blinded me in some ways. (For example, not mentioning the sexy dancing girls in Iron Man 2 because I just expected it from Tony Stark.) But I did see it, and I’m curious to know what y’all think.
The things that struck me on first viewing, from a Heroine Content perspective:
Just because we’re used to Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that the folks planning out the Avengers films chose to use this African-American version of Fury instead of the white guy version.
That said, it would be nice if there were any other people of color with speaking roles. At the very least, if a major city is being attacked, what are the chances that War Machine would not show up to help? Even if the choice of all white folks for the core team was set in stone, which obviously it was not given that human beings were involved and making decisions, there were ways to incorporate some of the other heroes in the plot without overcrowding it, and those opportunities were not taken.
I did miss Maximiliano Hernández portraying Agent Sitwell who is white in the regular Marvel continuity, so I’m not sure if he just didn’t get a mention by name or it slipped by me – so if there’s something else here that escaping me, please let me know.
[To be clear, I am well aware that when working with a franchise like this, with popular established characters who have a long history and fan base, you do not just throw them all out the window for other characters or recast them all as people of color. That is not what I’m proposing.]
What I think I saw, but can only confirm by re-watching later, is that the “enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D” working with Loki had a lot more background people of color than did the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew on the helicarrier.
In between Iron Man 2 and now, someone sat Gwyneth Paltrow down and taught her how to be Pepper. Someone also sat Scarlett Johansson down and taught her how to be Natasha. Thank goodness. Maria Hill, portrayed by Cobie Smulders, doesn’t quite have enough presence for me. I was unconvinced that she could have been Madipoor’s top cop, and that’s the personality they needed to hit even if that’s not part of her backstory in this universe. And by “need” I mean “in order to make me happy.” But she was quite competent, as was Natasha, and I felt good about these being the first two ass-kicking women in the franchise. (Too bad that much of the merchandise, including a lot of the fan-made stuff, completely ignores Natasha’s existence.)
Would it have been so much to ask, though, if any two of these women could have talked to each other? If I missed it, let me know.
The real sore point, for me, was the horrible joke that Thor made about Loki being adopted. Really?! It’s 2012, and we’re still using children who are adopted as a punchline? Whoever wrote that joke should be ashamed of themselves.
From an entertainment perspective, aside from that one cringeworthy moment, I really enjoyed the movie. The pacing was great, and the ensemble cast was well balanced. (I missed Edward Norton as Bruce Banner terribly, though, and would have loved to see Liv Tyler‘s Betty Ross again.)
That’s what I have for now. It was whiter than I was hoping, and the women kicked more ass than I was expecting. I never know what to do with rating films like this. “Yay for white women” impressed me a lot more several years ago; my standards have risen. And since I’m pretty sure I missed some stuff, I’m not going to rate it now. Those who have seen it, let me know what you thought if you’re so inclined.
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.