'Avengers' Stars' Sexist Jokes Illustrate a Major Problem With the Comic Book Industry

AP

Avengers: Age of Ultron co-stars Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans came under fire Thursday for sexist comments they made about the film's Black Widow character, played by Scarlett Johansson.

In a videotaped interview with Digital Spy, Renner responds to a question about the character appearing in films with multiple male co-stars by joking, "She's a slut." Evans laughs and adds, "She's a complete whore," before Renner goes on to dismiss her "prosthetic leg" as something that "makes her undesirable," according to BuzzFeed.

Source: YouTube

Expectedly, Twitter users were not happy.

Others have called for critics not to take Renner and Evans' comments so seriously. But in the context of the notoriously male-dominated comic book industry, it's hard to dismiss them merely as jokes. 

Female superheroes and comic book characters are routinely subject to hyper-sexualization in books and film, rendered in objectifying poses and outfits that wouldn't be out of place in illustrated erotica. In a majority of cases, female characters are represented in ways that seem specifically geared toward titillating straight men, as Mic has reported previously. This pattern is augmented by real-life behavior, as fan events like Comic-Con face heightened criticism for the prevalence of "groping, stalking and unwanted photographing" of female fans, according to the Washington Post.

Sexism is a real problem in the comic industry — from books, to fan events and now movies. Marvel has not produced a film built around a female main character since Elektra 10 years ago. So until these trends are completely reversed and a systematic upheaval defines these spaces, criticisms of sexism in the industry need to be treated seriously.

Update, April 23, 3:40 p.m. EST: Evans and Renner apologized Thursday for their comments.

"Yesterday we were asked about the rumors that Black Widow wanted to be in a relationship with both Hawkeye and Captain America," Evans said, according to People. "We answered in a very juvenile and offensive way that rightfully angered some fans. I regret it and sincerely apologize." 

Renner said, "I am sorry that this tasteless joke about a fictional character offended anyone. It was not meant to be serious in any way. Just poking fun during an exhausting and tedious press tour."

h/t BuzzFeed