Joss Whedon may have given Black Widow and Maria Hill decent roles in The Avengers, but the movie still failed the Bechdel Test, all while making time for crowds of male footsoldiers and sidekicks. As for Age of Ultron, some fans are already concerned that Scarlet Witch is destined to become yet another of Whedon’s troubled-but-dangerous waifs, a staple of all his creative endeavors to date.
Instead of praising Whedon for the millionth time, it may be a better idea to focus on women in the industry, such as comic book creators Kelly Sue DeConnick and Gail Simone, or the female showrunners of Marvel’s Agent Carter and A.K.A. Jessica Jones. If fans continue to hold up Joss Whedon as the voice of authority for feminism and diversity in superhero entertainment, then we’re not setting a very high standard for ourselves.
Here is the thing. The old guard in comics are comfortable with feminism mostly under very strict guidelines. It has to be palatable to them. They are VERY comfortable with characters who spout faux female empowerment slogans while wearing skin-tight rubber bands or whatever. They are comfortable with characters who say GIRL POWER loudly, as long as they don’t actually accomplish anything or overshadow the hero. And now they are comfortable with super adorable little pixie heroines, because they wrongly believe they pose no threat to the status quo. But when female characters actually act with agency and are immune to being tut-tutted, there is still a lot of pushback. HOWEVER! I think the audience has moved past this, mostly. I think the audience is ahead of the industry.