Where’s our Avenger?

I haven’t seen Avengers Assemble yet, but when I saw the trailer, I thought, ‘Hmm. Just the one female character…’ Then I saw this. And then I saw someone on Twitter saying it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, which I can’t say I’m that surprised about, apart from the fact that it’s a Joss Whedon film and Joss is usually down with that sort of thing. (When asked in an interview years ago why he writes strong female characters, he responded “Because you’re still asking me that question.”) But this post isn’t really about that – if you’re interested in Avengers Assemble read this post instead. Or, you know, as well.

No, it was when I saw this UK Avengers poster – via Inside a Story on Tumblr – which has no female characters at all. I probably would have just huffed, but moments earlier I’d been looking at these really cute bookmarks by Bethy Designs on Etsy and I’d noticed that there was only one female character (Gwen from Merlin) there too.

I think there are probably a few female characters that could have a bookmark, if not make it onto that poster – I’m mainly thinking Amy Pond, I’ll be honest – but I can’t think of any more. Now this may just be that I’m not watching the right TV shows. Who am I missing? Or do we need Joss Whedon to come and write us a British Buffy?


13 thoughts on “Where’s our Avenger?

  1. Avengers was such a boring film…

    OK,obvs a UK female Avengers team would include Maid Marian, Queen Boudicca, Margaret Thatcher (swinging her handbag), Cilla Black and Hermione Granger.

    1. That made me laugh. Hermione is an obvious omission from the bookmarks, I thought. Cilla Black?! 😉

      I still haven’t decided whether or not to see The Avengers. Harry wants to, so…

  2. Right, I’m going to ramble.

    As I’m sure you know (I haven’t exactly been quiet about it) I absolutely loved The Avengers, loved the Black Widow and loved Maria Hill, Nick Fury’s right hand agent who got the best non-Avenger action sequence near the beginning of the film.Now that I’m learning more about the Avengers I’ve got to know The Wasp and I really hope she makes her way into the franchise sooner rather than later.

    The poster is indeed a sad state of affairs, and just goes to show how we still lack series with great (or indeed any) female leads, where those series do have females they’re all playing second fiddle. Thinking tv-wise I can’t think of any show at the moment that has strong, brilliant female roles with the exception of Leverage which has two awesome women. There are certainly female led shows, but try as I might I haven’t found one to love, and get frustrated when e.g. they’re a police drama but spend as much time round the kitchen table as they do being police – you surely wouldn’t get that in a show about two male detectives?

    I’ll admit I hadn’t really thought about it with the bookmark site, other than to think it was odd to include Gwen and not Morgana for the Merlin selection. When it comes to the Doctors it would have been nice to see all of the modern companions (and for that matter Nine, though that doesn’t really fit in with this argument). I don’t know how long she’s been doing this, I hope she’ll carry on and expand the range.

    1. Thanks, Jenni. I was kind of hoping someone would come along and say “What about _____, you numpty?!” but apparently there really aren’t any strong female leads at all. No wonder people keep asking JW that question. (And, as usual, shocked that I hadn’t even noticed until I saw that UK Avengers poster.) (Also, did you see Diane’s tweet about Scandal? First network drama with a black female lead in 30+ years. Shocking.)

  3. Well, I’ve just watched the end of Lip Service S2, and with it being the Scottish L Word, it’s a female ensemble. Yay for ladybusiness television! Watching things made for/by lesbians is actually a really good way to circumvent all the Bechdel fail – though of course that’s not a solution… And of course it’s not genre tv , so not the kind people tend to make bookmarks of – which I suppose is a separate question…

    I’d say Sarah Jane Adventures was our Buffy, with added older-woman-and-non-traditional-families props. Sarah, Maria and Rani are all so entirely awesome that I’m going to have to go off for another cry about how there won’t be any more, and it’s been a whole year and everything.

    I’d recommend Farscape heartily for lots of reasons, female characters included: Aeryn and Zhaan start out as ‘fiesty chick with gun’ and ‘healing maiden’ but the male chars start with equally broad strokes, and pretty soon it gets amazing, and then there’s Chiana and Jool and Noranti and I love it so. Also there are muppets. Did I mention the muppets? MUPPETS. (Lead is male, however. And it is nuts.)

    Doctor Who, you’ve mentioned – and obviously there is a stack more awesome beyond wondrous Amy Pond. People have silly ideas about 1960s/70s Who being full of ankle-twisting screamers in miniskirts, but they’re just parroting received wisdom without watching. The nature of the show means a single kickarse woman (Sarah Jane again, Liz Shaw, Leela, Zoe, Polly, Ace, I could be here for a long time) is the only female regular – but during the First Doctor’s tenure, Barbara (an awesome 1960s History teacher with the Best Hair Ever) travelled with first Susan then Vicki, and they hang out and do cool adventuring together. In the 80s you get Nyssa and Tegan making Peter Davison frown huffily a lot and, erm, build giant space vibrators in their bedroom. Who wouldn’t want a bookmark of that?

    There’s a US detective show called Rizzoli & Isles, which is billed as a contemporary Cagney & Lacey (and which I really really want to watch). I’m depressed looking back at how Cagney & Lacey had to fight really hard to stay on air, and that would be exactly the same today. I enjoyed the Avengers, but I’m infuriated by the lack of female characters, and the crappy marketing/publicity – as apparently is Scarlett Johansson, who I now like even more. I think it’s getting worse, not better.

    1. Like I haven’t gone on enough… Fringe is awesome sci-fi with a female lead. I’ve been rewatching S1 and the first episode really surprised me; in the opener they obviously felt the need to have every other (male) character make some comment about how she was a women in a position of power, which jarred hugely and made them look like berks. As it goes on it returns to what I remember, which is her being capable and brilliant and no one remarking on her sex at all, because it’s the 21st century and a woman having a job and being good at it is NOT ACTUALLY ODD. (You wouldn’t like it, though: far too much body horror, much stronger than Supernatural.)

      I keep thinking about Roseanne and how we need a new one. We’ve got Miranda? I love Miranda, but I know it’s a bit polarising.

    2. Thank you. Agree with you re Sarah Jane Adventures. I keep looking forward to watching more and remembering. 😦

      Have never seen any Farscape, but the house we stayed in in Northumberland had a box set about 3 feet long. If only I’d known…

      Have you watched any Cagney & Lacey lately? I haven’t for ages, but I last time I saw one I thought it was totally ahead of its time. Would still be now. Like Roseanne.

      I think it’s getting worse too. Obviously we need to write something… 🙂

  4. i am here to jump on the wagon, lol dont worry i’ll only be short and all i have to add is..

    when i left the avengers (which i loved cos i loooove marvel films) i turned to pete and said “you know what i loved about that? the fact that although its pretty lame that theres only 1 female lead (black widow who in the original series actual defects for a large portion of time at the beginning) its really good that she has no super-powers/advanced technology to put her on a level with the other members of the team. theres been no serum or iron man suit, shes not a god or a radioactive accident. Her superior skills merely come from damn hard work.
    she holds her own with the other avengers, fighting side by side with each other member and contributing as much or more.
    so yes its sad there is only one of her (maria hill is cool and i’d want to be her if i could) but as a sole female goes shes damn kick arse!!!

    ok so it wasn’t that short…


  5. hmm now where to start on this…aside from the poster I thought that the Avengers (and the films leading up to it) actually had quite a few strong women. I’m useless with character names so apologies if this makes no sense but my rough thoughts are:
    – In Captain America there were two main army people, one of which is a strong female
    – Thor had a female scientist (I thought she was annoying, going all weak at the knees for Thor), and her female student, as well as Thor’s mum and friend who’s a warrior who weren’t really main characters but in the main supporting cast (if that makes sense)
    – Ironman had Pepper Potts, who was ‘just’ his assistant but actually was a stronger character than Tony Stark, telling him what to do, running his business and eventually taking over it.
    – Incredible Hulk had another scientist as a main character, along with her Dad.
    – The Avengers itself had a relatively big central cast so I wouldn’t read too much into Black Widow being the only one in the promotion. Apparently the picture that spawned the sticky out bum cartoon isn’t the actual poster (but that’s just what my other half said, I’ve haven’t actually seen the real ones). As mentioned by Jenni above, Nick Fury’s right hand girl was brilliant, and Potts came back. I didn’t feel it was unbalanced given that there was Fury, another agent, a scientist and a baddy that I also considered to be main characters. There was a woman in the board of directors who called all the shots and the general crew flying the main ship in the film also had women in it.

    So although there’s only one female of five or six Avengers, about half of the other main characters were female (by my rough reckoning, counting on my fingers at this time of night!).

    Anyway, I thought I would hate these films as I’m not into cartoons and avoided them until the past month when we started watching them so I could go see Avengers and keep up (which I don’t think is actually necessary, it works well as a stand alone film, it’s just nice to know the back stories to the characters) and I absolutely loved them (apart from Thor, I didn’t like that one). As an engineer it was great to see scientists and engineers coming to the fore of action films and ending up as superheroes, and it was great to see women involved like Potts, as there are plenty of films like the Transformers that just have female characters for eye candy.

    Thinking about the Black Widow character, she was introduced into the film with a bit too much emphasis on her feminine charms for me and made me roll my eyes, but then the intelligent, strong, brave side quickly emerged and she had a brilliant fight scene. The only point both myself and my boyfriend felt was a bit too much was a shot of Black Widow talking to Loki from behind, with her bum the focus of the shot. It lingered and went back to that view a couple of times and seemed to be a bit unnecessary really.

    …phew sorry for getting a bit carried away, I’ve lost my train of thought due to Cameron Diaz and David Attenborough on Graham Norton so I can’t remember what else I was going to say, but I think its safe to leave it there!

    1. Thank you for your essay! 😀 (It was 583 words, I checked 🙂 )

      That’s a really good point about women scientists and engineers and, god knows, it should be better than Transformers! 😉

      I had a similar issue in Journey 2 with Vanessa Hudgens being introduced in slow motion, all pouty lips and flicking hair. Plus there’s a shot of her crawling through a tunnel and the camera’s practically up her shorts. And that’s a kids’ film 😦

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