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There’s been some pretty heated controversy lately over the Marvel Comics character Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, but not entirely for the obvious reasons.

Age of Ultron

Real Heroes Wanted -- Kevin Uhrich

First, the obvious: While promoting the film “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Chris Evans, the buffed-out dude playing Captain America, and hyper-macho Jeremy “Hawkeye” Renner both called Johansson’s character (aka Natasha Romanoff), a “slut” during an interview. This is how these A-list actors, as Renner explained in a separate interview, jokingly described their fictional teammate having romantic relations with both of their characters and then going for a third, Bruce Banner, aka Hulk, these days being played by Mark Ruffalo; not as a lover but a pseudo mother to soothe the savage beast that dwells inside.

Possibly even bigger “news” regarding Black Widow is that ScarJo seems to have been aced out of the group of male characters with stand-alone films and likenesses of themselves put on sale in the lucrative Avenger franchise action-figure market. Careful not to tick off his corporate overlords, Ruffalo, sounding decidedly unHulk-like, meekly Tweeted, “@Marvel we need more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please.”

And yet another story, this one by Meredith Woerner and Katharine Trendacosta of i09.com, involves feminism-friendly Joss Whedon, the film’s director, who is said to have quit Twitter after reading too many nasty comments about his rendering of the Black Widow character.

“What was lost in the outrage over their feminist-baiting fratty misogyny is that ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’’s macho twosome [Evans and Renner] hit the nail on the head regarding Marvel’s persistent problem with women,” Jen Yamato writes in her “Glass Ceiling” column for the Daily Beast. “Namely, that even Marvel’s most badass female characters keep getting exploited — and utterly wasted — just to prop up the men around them. And it’s Marvel that keeps fortifying that glass ceiling.”

Curiously, ScarJo has been conspicuously silent about being cut out of the total haul and the unapologetic misogyny, apparently content to take her money and just let it go away. That being the case, why should anyone complain about any of this if she’s not?

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A better question might be this: Why is the American public still so infatuated with these types of sexist, militaristic, security-state “crime fighters,” created and drawn by a bunch of old, and some young, but mostly old, mostly white men led by Stan Lee, who just celebrated his 92nd birthday? Nothing personal against old Stan, God bless him after all this time, but these ideas of good ol’ American revenge-driven justice, and equal rights that only seem to apply to blue and green (but really white) people and women who actually deserve to be shot at dawn, are becoming a little dated.

Question: Does anyone remember what independently wealthy “playboy” Tony Stark’s dad did for a living, how the philandering yet lovable (but not “slutty”) Iron Man got all his money? Answer: Making war. Ironman’s father was a top American government arms manufacturer at the height of the Cold War. Since when has that been a noble occupation in the modern age? Yet Marvel continues to actively promote male dominance and war as if Lee actually works for the Pentagon and we are still fighting Nazis.

For ScarJo, whose character is an assassin, a former spy for the Soviet Union (remember them?), a woman responsible for many deaths whose big reveal is that she is unable to have children (thus the twisted mothering of Banner’s inner monster), not getting a cut of the backend merchandising is one thing. That any of these maladjusted, homicidal misfits should be marketed at all to young people — kids already prone to picking up a gun or a knife to win arguments — is quite another.

Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in these otherwise enlightened millionaires in this predominantly white male production associating with this type of what amounts to propaganda.

But then, there’s the money, which apparently really does cure everything, doesn’t it? “Avengers: Age of Ultron” took in more than $1 billion.

I imagine that even a modest cut from all that cash would go a long way toward assuaging any anxiety any of these talented people might feel about undermining gender-equality strides made over the past few decades. I know a couple of million dollars would help me forget that I was actually shilling to young people for a government that diligently works at devaluing and exploiting women and minorities, promoting “endless war” and dismantling the Constitution.

It appears that in Hollywood freedom and equal rights have their price, and capitalism its costs — both of which, in this case, per usual, include people’s souls.

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As Stan Lee himself might say, ’nuff said.

Kevin Uhrich
Pasadena Weekly