The siren call of Joss Whedon to the feminist movie-goer can not be underestimated. As mentioned here in other posts, all of Whedon’s previous projects have not just had a gender equal cast, but a female lead who both literally and figuratively kicked ass. On top of this, they were most often projects of quality: moving, creative, and excellently written. Some of them were (and I do not use this word lightly) masterpieces. None of them were summer blockbusters. In fact some of his previous television projects survived only one or two seasons like Firefly or Dollhouse. His only other movie credit as a director was Serenity, which struggled to break even at the box office. When you are golden in the eyes of feminists, you can not be box office gold.
Whedon’s most recent project, The Avengers, is a teenage boy’s wet dream of an action adventure story, where white men save the world. It is the summer blockbuster to top all summer blockbusters. Warren Ellis (who is slated to collaborate with Whedon in his next project) “agreed that Whedon should take the job for The Avengers because he would practically be able to ‘print his own money afterwards.’” Josh Wilding of comicbookmovie.com recently wrote, “The fact that The Avengers is a box office hit also means that writer and director Joss Whedon will now be one of THE most in-demand talents in Hollywood.”
Josh Whedon articulated this dilemma in an interview with ign.com in 2003. He said, “you’re talking to somebody who was raised to be a radical feminist.” He also said, “somebody bringing the knee-jerk feminist agenda to a text can be the most aggravating thing in the world. Especially if you’re a feminist, because you’re like, ‘You’re the person that everybody makes fun of. You’re the reason why we’ve got no cred.’”
It is a feminist quandary, that sets feminists apart from radical feminists; do you soft pedal feminist principles in order to make them palatable to a mainstream audience in a bid for potential change, or do you tell the unvarnished truth about feminism and prepare to be almost universally hated? It’s a continuum with a lot of grey area in between, but I think it is safe to say, you can’t call yourself a radical feminist and make a patriarchy propaganda piece like The Avengers.