'Avengers: Age of Ultron': Why Joss Whedon quit Twitter and Black Widow backlash

The movie's director said he did not leave Twitter because of feminists' complaints over the role of Black Widow in the latest superhero adventure.

Jay Maidment/Marvel/AP
The 'Avengers' films star Scarlett Johansson.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” director Joss Whedon recently deleted his Twitter account and observers quickly wondered what caused the director to leave the social media website.

Whedon said in an interview with BuzzFeed that he felt he was spending too much time on it.

“The real issue is me,” the director said. “Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it's there, I gotta check it. When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that's kind of rock bottom for an addict. … I just had a little moment of clarity where I'm like, You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there's hate and then hate and then hate.” 

What isn’t behind Whedon departing Twitter? According to the director, the cause is not criticism of the character of Black Widow, portrayed by actress Scarlett Johansson in Whedon’s new superhero movie, which he wrote and directed. 

“That’s horse [expletive],” the director said. “Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That’s something I’m used to… I just thought, ‘Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place.’”

Here’s some context. People have discussed before how Black Widow is one of the only members of the Avengers superhero team not to get her own spin-off movie. Her compatriots Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk have starred in their own films (though Hawkeye, portrayed by Jeremy Renner, has also not starred in his own movie). And recently, “Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo, who portrays the Hulk, said he wasn’t seeing a lot of merchandise centered around Black Widow.

In addition, when asked during an interview with Digital Spy about fans wanting Black Widow to be paired romantically with various members of the Avengers, “Avengers” actors Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) and Renner also offended some viewers when Renner called her a “slut” and Evans said she is “a complete whore.” Evans later called the remarks “juvenile and offensive” in a statement and Renner said the comments had been “tasteless,” though in an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show, he said that if a person was together romantically with several Avengers, “you’d be a slut, I’d be a slut.” 

Why would fans be angry with Whedon? (Spoilers follow for “Ultron”…) 

With the release of the new movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” some viewers were incensed over plot points involving Black Widow. In the film, she and the Hulk explore the possibility of a romantic relationship and she also reveals that she is unable to biologically have children. 

Some fans disliked these storylines while others defended the film. Entertainment Weekly writer Darren Franich wrote:

“[In 'Ultron,' isn’t] Black Widow’s main role is the same role as Pepper Potts in 'Iron Man,' or Jane Foster in 'Thor': The lady who helps her man become a hero? ‘I adore you,” she tells Bruce Banner, right before she forces him to Hulk out and save the day. He also saves her life, and then makes the executive decision to disappear – To protect her, I guess? Even though the last time they talked, she made it pretty clear that she didn’t need to be protected? Marvel clearly doesn’t really know what to do with Black Widow."

io9 writers Meredith Woerner and Katharine Trendacosta said about Black Widow:

“She does have some great moments in ‘Age of Ultron’… But instead, all of that was aggressively pushed aside for a new phenomenon: Mommy Widow … Instead of an assassin constantly struggling with finding moral lines she didn’t know existed, we got a woman who feels incomplete because she cannot have babies … She can’t just be the coolest aunt, or have made the valid choice that, as an assassin and spy, maybe kids are not in the cards for her. Or even the more radical choice that she just doesn’t want them. No, she can’t ever have babies, so her life is ruined. She is an incomplete woman.”

Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post wrote that she “find[s] the criticisms of Natasha’s storylines baffling.” 

“Natasha's not a super-powerful woman suddenly brought low by a reckoning with her biological clock or the fact that putting the hurt on intergalactic baddies led her to put off developing a personal life. She's a hero reckoning with what it means to be both female and merely human in a testosterone-heavy, super-powered environment … her mentor (Julie Delpy) took something away from Natasha that didn't have to be removed for her to be a hero. She could have been a lover and mother and friend and fighter all at once. That Natasha's male compatriots aren't asked to reconcile supposedly disparate parts of their personalities is their good fortune. That Natasha works so hard to do so is the measure of her heroism.” 

As “Ultron” continues to top the box office, the debate won’t be going away anytime soon. But it won’t be taking place on Twitter with Joss Whedon.

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