It’s disheartening, isn’t it, to see those you admire on screen become distasteful off it? The entire debacle surrounding the name-calling, sexist, and ableist slurs about Black Widow is more than disappointing – it hurts. It hurts because we’ve looked up to these actors and their characters, and we’ve been let down.
The female fans and fans with disabilities who watch these movies have been attacked by these words, and it calls into question the true beliefs held by the actors. If, as they say, they were “just joking” and were doing so because they were tired of the press junkets, does it matter?
It does. Because what you say when you’re tired or joking is often more honest than when you’re well-rested and putting on a game face. This is what hurts so deeply, to see that these men have internalized misogyny and can’t recognize that speaking about a fictional character in such a way is how they speak about real people, or would if they knew they weren’t being watched.
However, there is some good news (I’m not talking about the apologies, only one of which seemed to be heartfelt) that people have missed amidst the fan fury and the attempted peace offering of a retraction of words (which didn’t even address the ableist slur made about a prosthetic leg): the real heroes of the Age of Ultron, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson.
Both Scarlett and Mark have been shown to be intelligent, kind, and thoughtful people. Mark Ruffalo is active on various social media platforms, including Tumblr, and there are fans who have asked if he would field the sexist questions Scarlett receives during interviews. He finally got the opportunity to do so during an interview with UK’s Cosmopolitan.
You can see the interview here, which is both encouraging and fascinating, as Mark takes the questions seriously even though they are quite silly, Scarlett is given questions which open up her thoughts on The Black Widow (a complicated character who is more than her costume, weight, or supposed romantic entanglements, which do not a character make), and the two play off each other to make the interview whimsical and light.
Mark Ruffalo has long been a hero of mind for his gentle approach and his deep concern over the environment, and this made it more clear that he isn’t just concerned about the planet, he’s concerned about people. I’m thrilled Scarlett finally got a chance to show her take on her character (a really interesting perspective, and one I hadn’t considered before) and to talk about her co-worker, stuntwoman Heidi Moneymaker, which just goes to show that Johansson gives credit where it’s due and really embodies team spirit.
It’s sad that she’s had to deal with so much filth while filming (she said at one point while she was pregnant, she wanted to cover her unborn child’s ears because of her co-stars’ conversations), sexist questions and comments from press and her co-stars, and be in a tough spot as the only main female character in most of the Marvel films, and I hope things change for her. She has brought a complex, unique character to screen and she deserves better. With co-stars like Mark Ruffalo, and Johansson’s own indomitable spirit, it might just happen.
Of course, no one is perfect and I’m not saying we should support or drop people because of a comment they’ve made, but we should all learn to be more careful about what we say, to eradicate any internalized wrongness in thinking, and that we should be prompt to sincerely apologize when someone calls us out for something we’ve said, hopefully taking it to heart and acknowledging that we are not perfect, but that we are capable of change.