You are here
Home > Featured > Commentary: Cap and Hawkeye call Black Widow a "Slut"

Commentary: Cap and Hawkeye call Black Widow a "Slut"

Well, specifically Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans made some comments when they were asked about the fact that the character, Black Widow, has been “shipped” with their characters and may now be moving on to Bruce Banner. Renner responded by saying, “She’s a slut”, causing Evans to burst out laughing and respond with, “I was going to say something along that line”. These remarks caused a social media backlash, prompting both actors to issue apologies. Frankly, I think this entire thing is ridiculous and here are some reasons why.

1. The terms they used are descriptors and not slurs, when used accurately.

If you listen to their interview, they use several terms to describe Black Widow and all of them are terms used to describe a woman who has frequent sexual encounters with different men. If you look at Black Widow as a character, that is an accurate description. I mean even her name implies that she’s a “love ’em and leave ’em” (if not kill them) type. One of the points about the character is that she owns her sexual behavior even though it is still “slutty” behavior. So, I would go out on a limb and say that you should be able to use the term “slut” if you’re describing someone who is, by definition, behaving like a slut. Keep in mind, that there are very few “pure” relationships in the medium of comics, if you’re “with” someone then you’re usually sleeping with them.

Now, I’m sure some people reading this will think, “But there are other sexist and racial slurs that you could argue are just descriptors as well”. That is very much true but, I think we can differentiate between terms that are sexist or racist because they are meant to negatively describe a gender or race. This term describes a person (traditionally a woman) that exhibits a certain behavior. This isn’t just “slutshamming” either. This isn’t a character who’s had a “few casual partners”, she literally uses sex as a weapon. In the case of the movies she’s just being bounced around from man-to-man for script purposes. Even Scarlett Johansson, the actress who plays Black Widow, says she doesn’t always understand why she moves from one relationship to another.

2. Black Widow is a fictional character

I understand the concept of not wanting to judge a person too harshly or about making rude jokes but, not in this case. The Black Widow is not a real person. She’s a character that was constructed on a page. Now I’m sure that there are people who have it in their minds that, because she’s a woman, comments made about her reflect men’s opinions about all women. In some cases that would be true, but not in this instance. The comments that were made about her were specifically about her, not about all women. As an analog look at a character like the Red Skull. You could argue that it’s wrong to call him a Nazi because he’s German and that’s an unfair stigma given to German characters. However, the fact remains that he was literally a member of the Nazi party.

3. It’s a juvenile answer to a juvenile question

The question was about her character jumping from man-to-man in fictional stories and in fan-fiction. The whole concept of “shipping” characters, or placing them into a theoretical relationship is juvenile to begin with. On top of that, you know that these actors are being asked to answer the question as a kind of avatar for their respective characters. You know, the one’s that have been left for another guy. So, they give a stereotypical answer based on a stereotypical scenario. Renner even goes so far as to relate it to the ludicrous example of the wooden-legged prostitute. The point is that if you’re going to ask them a question where they’re reacting to a sophomoric idea, maybe grant them a little leeway when they give a sophomoric answer for the sake of levity.

4. You’re not mad at them, you’re mad at Comic books

A lot of the response to their comments refers to the endemic problem of women’s portrayal in comic books and comic book movies. These guys didn’t write the comic books, they didn’t write the characters or make the decisions about what they would do. They’re just a part of a fictional world that was crated decades ago. Comic books and comic book movies are sexist and racist, that’s just an unfortunate result of the time in which they were created. As long as properties from that time period are being rehashed into modern media, they’re going to feel behind the times. There are some issues in the modern comic book world as well, and those deserve their own discussion. In trying to crusade against a  problem, don’t make people a representative for a problem that they didn’t cause and really have no control over. If anything, maybe get mad at Joss Whedon for writing Blback Widow into a new relationship to begin with.

Top