The Most Important Dialogue in Age of Ultron
It would be futile for me to list a bunch of reasons for you to go see Age of Ultron if you haven’t already. You already have all the reasons you need and it’s clearly the blockbuster movie of 2015 so far. It would, however, be irresponsible of me not to point out the most important part of the entire film.
Here’s the basic description: Early in the film, Thor and Tony Stark are standing at the bar when Maria asks: “Where’s Pepper?” Simple question. Simple response: She has a company to run. Could be the end of the conversation and move along, but critically it is not. Joss Whedon instead uses it as a moment to establish that these men have chosen REMARKABLE women as partners. Thor goes on to brag about Jane’s consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize and Tony postures additionally about Pepper’s girl boss status.
These men are not intimidated by brilliant, powerful and successful women. These men didn’t choose damsels in distress. These men chose women who were so badass, they were probably too busy to hang out with their boyfriends at some random party anyway.
Why is this important? Imagine the millions of little boys who want to be Iron Man or Captain America or Thor. There are plenty of non-realistic, totally fantastical reasons to aspire to superheroics: flying, fighting bad guys, awesome outfits and powers from beyond human understanding. But then there are qualities that are real. Qualities that are actually translatable to the futures they are envisioning and actively creating. Imagine planting the idea that men should strive for not the hottest woman, but the most brilliant. The CEO status-caliber woman. The Nobel Prize-winning woman. The Feminist Anarchist Federal Agent woman.
The scene is used to establish that it’s not just Hawkeye and Bruce and Natasha who have relationships in their interpersonal lives. But more than that, it also serves to display the constant sense of competition amongst each of our respective heroes. This could be done in a lot of ways: see the “let’s watch everyone try to pick up Thor’s hammer” scene, for example. We’ve all seen movies and media that show men competing with their respective partners for the appreciation of their male friends. Most media literally shows off two women alongside each other in a scene without listing her accomplishments or even mentioning a single thing about her. In fact, at best, it’s a bikini scene where she gets one small line of dialogue.
The Marvel universe may not always get women right. And they certainly don’t deserve credit for being feminist friendly, but they do deserve credit for this. Specifically, I would guess that Joss Whedon deserves credit for this moment in the film.
If more little boys growing up thinking: I want to be seen with/connected to/married to a bad ass woman, then maybe we will have achieved a certain kind of global peace after all.