Avengers joke that Black Widow is a 'slut' [Update: they apologized]

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Digital Spy

Hot on the heels of Robert Downey, Jr. leaving an interview to avoid answering questions about his past, the hearts of a million Avengers fans slammed shut yesterday when a Digital Spy interview with Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner took a turn for the misogynistic.

When the interviewer brought up the concept of "shipping" and mentioned that fans have previously put Black Widow in relationships with both Hawkeye and Captain America, Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) immediately joked that she was a slut, while Chris Evans (Captain America) laughed so hard at the statement he had to clutch his own beautifully well-defined chest.

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But Renner wasn't done! He went on to say that Black Widow was a "trick," and, in a supremely ableist move, said "she has a prosthetic leg, anyway" as a reason to avoid sleeping with her. Gross. Black Widow is the only female superhero in this franchise, so it matters that she's being thoroughly denigrated by her co-stars, all of whom are getting successful spinoff movies of their own. It's almost like these stars forget that women make up 50% of the moviegoing audience.

In context and with tone, you can tell that the comments were meant as jokes… but they didn't land well. Misogynist jokes are never funny, and even less so when they're springing out of the mouths of puffed up, aggressively heterosexual superhero types.

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But can we also talk about what wasn't said? It's hard to change the tone of a press junket — interviewers often only get five minutes with each star — but why did the interviewer immediately say "Whatever movie she's in she'll just be the sidekick, flirting away," and help Evans and Jenner relegate her to a low-level status? Black Widow is the only member of the current Avengers franchise who doesn't have her own movie, even though both Nicole Perlman and David Hayter have penned treatments and scripts in the past 4 years. Black Widow doesn't even get an action figure, so this "joke" becomes far less funny when you realize how systemically she's being marginalized.

Maybe Marvel can space out their frantic production schedule and give everyone time to take a mandatory women's studies class in the interim.

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UPDATE: Both Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans have apologized, with both issuing individual statements about their behavior in the interview. Chris Evans said:

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

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Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.

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