11:00 am EST, January 29, 2015

An open letter to Joss Whedon: Where’s your female superhero movie?

Breaking news: Powerful man who has never made a female superhero movie complains that there aren’t enough female superhero movies.

Dear Joss,

We were really excited when we saw that you had commented on the lack of female superhero movies. We loved Buffy — although it is far from perfect — and in the past you have spoken out as a valuable feminist ally.

We absolutely agreed when you noted that the film industry includes an aspect of “genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned quiet misogyny.” There is an undeniable bias toward male-centerd storytelling. You don’t have to be a genius (or an award-winning creator and director) to realize that a large part of the problem is that people don’t want to tell stories about women — but we’re always happy for those award-winning creative-types to point it out, anyway.

You said that you frequently hear, “‘Oh, [female superheroes] don’t work because of these two bad ones that were made eight years ago’, there’s always an excuse.”

We assume the two failed superhero films you were referencing are Jennifer Garner’s Elektra and Halle Berry’s Catwoman. You’re wrong to call these films “bad” — they were terrible. And you are right to point out that using two terrible films — films that just happened to be about female superheroes — as an excuse not to make any more is ridiculous.

joss whedon female superhero movies

But then we reached a little snag, Joss. You told us, “Marvel is in a position of making a statement simply by making [a female-led] movie, which I think would be a good thing to do. But it has to be a good movie, it has to be a good character, and most of the best characters in Marvel are owned by Fox, let’s face it!”

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That’s odd. Weren’t you Marvel’s creative consultant for Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? In addition to writing and directing the Avengers films, didn’t you help to shape the direction of much of the MCU across all its other films? Are you saying that Marvel let you have that degree of creative control, but at no point were you in a position to say, “Hey, how about we add in another lady or two?”

The thing is, Joss, if you want to talk the talk, you also have to walk the walk. You have the power — so why haven’t you taken it?

Fans have clamored to see Black Widow in the spotlight for years — why haven’t you joined us in action?

Why haven’t you resurrected Elektra from her unfortunate franchise, and given us a fierce female warrior to be proud of?

Or what about the powerful She-Hulk? The razor-sharp Kate Bishop? Why not sidestep Scott Lang and focus on Cassie, a smart young heroine who could inspire girls around the world?

joss whedon female superhero movies

Because right now, it almost sounds like you know that you’re not doing enough, and you’re trying to excuse your own lack of action by blaming the industry, and Marvel, and the old catch-all of someone else’s sexism.

Scarlett Johansson is a bonafide movie star who is criminally underused in the Marvel films. Black Widow’s comic book origins have barely been discussed so far in the MCU, so there’s no lack of story to draw on. And the character is already established, and very much a fan favorite. Call us crazy, but we can’t seem to find the downside to a Black Widow movie.

Back in 2007, you walked away from a Wonder Woman movie after script difficulties with Warner Bros. You didn’t have a lot of leverage back then, but now you’re a valuable asset. We’re finding it more and more difficult to reconcile your sweeping feminist statements with your lack of any real action.

And frankly, we’re growing bored of celebrating men who point out the obvious sexism in Hollywood, and then do nothing about it.

joss whedon female superhero movies

For now, we’ll have to wait until 2018 to finally see a female superhero take center stage in a Marvel film. (And let’s not get started on Marvel’s self-satisfaction when announcing Captain Marvel, as if waiting an entire decade after Iron Man‘s release is a reasonable thing.)

We know that Marvel’s machinery is dense. We know that their plans are long-ranging and intricate, and probably difficult to change. But if you continue to do nothing but talk, Joss, there is no hope for change at all. No amount of sympathy will put female heroes on our big screens, and no amount of derision will dissolve those obscene executive excuses.

It’s time to act on your convictions, Joss. Don’t tell us what we need. Don’t rail against a system you benefit from. Stop talking.

Start walking.

We know you can – and we hope that you will. Because we are really excited to see what you can do, if you only choose to do so.

By Marama Whyte and Michal Schick

If you too want to see female superheroes on screen (and who doesn’t?), you’ll be waiting a while. Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman movie will premiere on June 23, 2017, and Marvel’s Captain Marvel won’t be here until July 6, 2018.

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